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Dernière mise à jour : Mai 2018

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Environmental impact of French dairy cattle livestock farming systems

INRA Prod Anim 26(2) 207-220


1 Institut de l’Elevage, BP 80039, F-62051 Saint-Laurent-Blangy, France

2 INRA UMR1348 PEGASE, F-35590 Saint-Gilles, France

3 Agrocampus Ouest, UMR1348 PEGASE, F-35000 Rennes, France

4 Université de Lorraine, UMR1121 LAE, F-54505 Vandoeuvre-lès-Nancy, France

5 INRA, UMR1121 LAE, F-54505 Vandoeuvre-lès-Nancy, France

6 Institut de l’Elevage, F-69364 Lyon, France

7 Institut de l’Elevage, BP 85225, F-35652 Le Rheu, France

8 Institut de l’Elevage, F-63170 Aubière, France

9 Institut de l’Elevage, BP 70510, F-49105 Angers, France

10 INRA, UMR1137 EEF, F-54280 Champenoux, France

11 Université de Lorraine, UMR1137 EEF, F- 54506 Vandoeuvre-lès-Nancy, France


Environmental issues are now at the heart of the debates concerning the evolution of dairy production systems. The challenge of the next few years lies in supplying dairy products while insuring social, economic and environmental performances, to improve sustainability of production systems. Regarding the environment, particular attention must be paid to limiting the risks of pollution towards water, air and the conservation of biodiversity. The French ruminant breeding system, widely based on grasslands, presents a real asset due to the link to the soil and from the large part of forage in the herd’s diet. The environmental efficiency, which is not directly connected to the structural characteristics, occurs in particular by the optimization of carbon and nitrogen recycling within the production systems. While the variability of the environmental burdens between farms of different systems (plain vs mountain) is low, a strong variability is observed between farms of the same system. This demonstrates that the practices, which are efficient in terms of optimising animal management and low energy consumption..., have positive environmental and economic impacts. Therefore, a significant part of the French ruminant farms should be considered as having high environmental and economic performance without disrupting the current production systems. Finally dairy farming, which acts to reduce the carbon and nitrogen losses to the air and water, promotes carbon storage and biodiversity. Beyond the production of milk and meat, dairy farming therefore plays a major role in the preservation of the environment.

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