The Project

The project will develop a template to evaluate the sustainability of dairy farm transitions, applicable to many farm sectors and countries. To achieve this, the team will address the following objectives:

  1. Collate existing data of trends in livestock numbers, sectoral GHG emissions, and other information on energy, water, tree-pasture-animal relations, genetics, and nutrient inputs and outputs, and determine their robustness and suitability for the models the project will develop.
  2. Establish protocols for measuring GHG, gaseous NH3, nitrate and phosphorus soil water fluxes in a cost effective manner, and apply these to three commercial farms of various scales, along an intensification gradient. Train Costa Rican and other Central American researchers in GHG and NH3 emissions, nitrate leaching and other environmental measurements, as well as in C foot-printing, LCA and farm-scale modelling.
  3. Calculate environmental and economic balances for studied dairy farms and their products. Model sensitivity to specific management practices and technologies representing trends in intensification.
  4. Use measured and modelled data to scale up and assess the potential trade-offs and synergies for specific dairy development pathways between environmental goals and productive/economic goals at the national and global (indirect effects) level. Work with key stakeholders in Costa Rica to recommend priority actions to encourage sustainable development.
  5. Work with the Costa Rican dairy sector (CNPL, Dos Pinos) to identify potential business models (reflecting sustainable management practices) with a value chain approach while considering governance and investment security.
  6. Work with researchers and extension officers, training them in environmental measurements and farm-scale modeling (carbon foot-printing and nutrient flows), and key industry and policy stakeholders to plan how this exemplar project could be rolled out to other sectors and other Central American LMICs.