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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2017

Protein efficiency in intensive dairy production: a Swedish example

Swensson, Christian; Lindmark-Mansson, Helena; Smedman, Annika; Henriksson, Maria; Edman, Anna-Karin Modin


BACKGROUNDAnimal agriculture has been criticised in terms of its sustainability from several perspectives. Ruminants such as dairy cows can transform inedible, low-quality protein in roughage and by-products from the food industry into the high-quality protein found in milk and meat. Evaluation of the protein conversion efficiency of dairy production from a sustainability and resource perspective must be based on the proportion of the animal feed edible to humans. A relevant metric is thus edible feed protein conversion ratio (eFPCR), i.e. human-edible protein output in cow's milk per unit human-edible protein input in feed. In this study, eFPCR was calculated for five regionally adapted and realistic feed rations fed to Swedish dairy cows producing different annual milk yields typical for high-yielding, intensive dairy production.RESULTSAll scenarios except one showed a protein efficiency ratio of >1 for human-edible protein. Thus, depending on the composition of their diet, most Swedish dairy cows can convert human-inedible protein into edible, high-value protein. However, higher milk yield led to a decrease in eFPCR, regardless of diet.CONCLUSIONDairy cows in high-yielding, intensive production systems such as those used in Sweden have the capacity to convert low-value inedible protein into high-value edible protein. However, a minor part of the dairy cow diet is edible for humans and this fraction must be minimised to justify dairy production. These results are in line with previous findings on protein conversion efficiency and add scientific input to the debate on sustainable food systems and sustainable diets. (c) 2017 Society of Chemical Industry


milk production; protein efficiency; dairy cow rations; feed efficiency

Published in

Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture
2017, Volume: 97, number: 14, pages: 4890-4897
Publisher: WILEY

      SLU Authors

      Sustainable Development Goals

      SDG2 Zero hunger
      SDG12 Responsible consumption and production

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Animal and Dairy Science

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