With increasing concerns surrounding the causes and consequences of climate change, the impact of agriculture on the environment has come under intense scrutiny. For example, it is claimed that the livestock sector produces 18 per cent of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions (measured in carbon dioxide equivalents), which, on a global basis, equates to more than all means of transport. It is therefore important to consider changes to farming systems and management methods that could reduce negative environmental effects. It is likely that pressure will mount on agriculture to proportionally reduce its emissions in line with other industries in order to meet government targets on greenhouse gas emissions. However, controversy remains over which farming methods result in the best environmental outcomes and there are also potential areas of conflict between environmental issues and animal health/welfare considerations or perceptions. This article considers the role of the veterinary surgeon in mitigating some of the potentially harmful effects of dairy farming on the environment.
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■ Livestock's Long Shadow – A United Nations Report. www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM
■ Guidance on how to manage land in nitrogen vulnerable zones. http://archive.defra.gov.uk/environment/quality/water/waterquality/diffuse/nitrate/help-for-farmers.htm
■ DairyCo Environment Factsheets. www.dairyco.org.uk/library/research-development/climate-change.aspx
■ Greenhouse gas emissions from the dairy sector. A life cycle assessment. www.fao.org/docrep/012/k7930e/k7930e00.pdf
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