The EuroDairy network expands in the Emilia-Romagna Region

The EuroDairy network expands in the Emilia-Romagna Region

In the first call to establish Operational Groups (OG) in Emilia-Romagna Region in 2016, linked to the Rural Development Plan (RDP) resources, out of 160 proposals submitted in 5 different focus areas, 52 operational groups were financed. CRPA is involved in 16 OG, (9 as coordinator and 7 as partners): 6 of them concern the dairy sector. These projects will involve 31 dairy farms located in the region. Some of these farms will be selected to be part of EuroDairy as pilot farms.

CRPA is Operational Group coordinator in the following projects:
1) Compost barn for dairy cows in the Parmigiano-Reggiano area: an innovative and sustainable housing system and an alternative to cubicles. The OG is composed of 6 dairy farms, the Regional Emilia-Romagna Breeder Association and Florence University.

2)  Happy milk: a decision support system to improve the efficiency of dairy farms in the Parmigiano-Reggiano area. The OG is composed of 10 dairy farms and the feeding cooperative PROGEO.

3)  Metabolic model: an economic and environmental metabolic model as a tool for future sustainable dairy farms for Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese production. The OG is composed of 3 dairy farms and CREA (National Research Council for Agriculture).

4)  Stabilised litter for dairy cows: optimization of litter use derived from the solid fraction separated from manure, subjected to a treatment of sanitation and stabilisation. The OG is composed of 3 dairy farms and Parma University.
CRPA is Operational Group partner in the following projects:

  • Improvement of forage systems, in support of the production of PDO Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese in the Apennine area of the Tassobio river. The OG is composed of 4 dairy farms, 1 Dairy Cooperative.
  • Dairy cow farming in Parmigiano Reggiano cheese area: innovation and tradition for a sustainable farming and for high-quality products. The OG is composed of 5 dairy farms, 3 Dairy Cooperatives, Parma University, Bologna University, CREA (National Research Council for Agriculture).

Short description of the main objectives of the OGs:
1) Compost barn for dairy cows
The objective of the OG is to evaluate the impact of the application of the compost barn on the dairy farms in the Parmigiano-Reggiano area. The assessment will interest the construction and management aspects, animal welfare and animal health, the environmental impact, such as the effects on climate change, the quality of the products and the economic impact. Unlike its broad diffusion and it undoubtedly advantages over the tied up barns, the cubicle housing systems are under discussion, because of feet trauma and the low level of cleanliness of the udders. The litter barn with aerobic fermentation, better known as the compost barn, can be considered an interesting solution. This project will provide possible typologies of compost barns, already adopted in other countries, which are compatible with the climate of the Po Valley and with the predominant housing systems in the Parmigiano-Reggiano area. The benefits for the dairy farms are related to the defence of their income due to the relatively low investment costs and the reduction of operating costs because of better animal welfare and health.

2) Happy milk
The objective of the Operational Group Happy Milk is the development of a decision support system, based on the modernisation of dairy farms, the improvement of animal welfare and of the management, hygienic and sanitary parameters in order to improve the efficiency and profitability of dairy farms in the Parmigiano-Reggiano area. The high volatile market of Parmigiano-Reggiano and of the raw materials for feed and the concerns about the future scenarios are transmitting a strong uncertainty among the farmers, who have problems to identify clear and certain critical points to focus their decisions on concerning the reduction of production costs and the increase of farm income. The main results of this program are (1) a decision support system (DSS) able to improve dairy farm efficiency, (2) the definition of threshold and attention values for the main indicators of farm efficiency and the design of a warning system, (3) the improvement of the efficiency of the dairy farms in relation to animal welfare, hygiene, animal health, productive and reproductive performance, milk quality and overall management, (4) an assessment of the carbon footprint of the dairy farms before and after the application of mitigation practices and (5) an evaluation of the percentage share in production costs of the use of the DSS in the dairy farms of Happy Milk.

3)  Metabolic model
The objective of this project is the application of the metabolic model and analysis to a farm conceived as a living being. The approach of the metabolic model is based on the integrated and unique analysis of the balance of greenhouse gases (GHG), energy consumption, water use and economic performance with the objective of assessing the profitability and the environmental impact of the farm. The project provides for the application of the metabolic model to dairy farms for the production of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Economic and environmental sustainability is an essential prerequisite to ensure the stability of a production system. It is therefore important to have a model to quantify the economic/environmental interactions between farm and territory. The project develops a methodology for the calculation of the metabolic model for dairy farms of the Parmigiano-Reggiano area, assesses the economic and environmental performance (carbon footprint, water footprint and energy consumption) and identifies the production phases with the highest cost and environmental impact. Cost-effective practices will be identified to mitigate the environmental impact in terms of GHG emissions, energy consumption and water use.

4)  Stabilised litter for dairy cows
The objective of the OG  is to evaluate the impact of stabilised litter obtained from the solid/liquid separation of slurry subjected to a process of sanitation and stabilisation in dairy farms operating in the Parmigiano-Reggiano area. The spread of the mechanical separation treatment in many dairy farms induced dairy farmers to consider the solid fraction not only as an organic fertiliser but also a litter in cubicles for dairy cows, taking account of the relevant cost of the purchase and stocking of other litter material such as straw, wood chips or sawdust. The substrate on which the dairy cows lay down has an impact on their welfare conditions and their cleanliness, as well as on the hygiene and suitability of milk for cheese making. The main results of the execution of this project are related to the assessment of the efficacy of sanitation and stabilisation of the solid fraction by means of a biocell/aerocell prototype. In practice, this program wants to know how this technology can be applied successfully in Parmigiano-Reggiano dairy farms improving the welfare of the cows and the quality of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and reducing the environmental impact and production costs.

5) Improvement of forage systems
The objective is to improve the feed management of dairy cows for Parmigiano-Reggiano farms associated in the Dairy Coop San Giorgio, especially to get the most nutritional value from the forages included in the ration. This plan aims to support the production of milk for farms that have already started on a path of exploitation of their Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese Mountain product, but need to strengthen the segment upstream of the transformation, ie the agricultural and livestock production. The aim is the improvement of forage production and its good use in rationing of cows, in particular. list of varieties and ecotypes of alfalfa more productive and capable of providing quality forage in the soil and climatic conditions of the Tassobbio area. The aim is to also characterize ecotypes adapted and selected in the same areas. A possible additional result could be a support to the strengthening of the link between fodder and milk, then with the cheese, due to the use of one or more ecotypes of alfalfa "of Tassobbio valley"; information on alternatives to grass ryegrass more productive in the climate of the mountain range, for the establishment of specialised grasslands and/or to enrich the old alfalfa meadows with grass, competitive with spontaneous one improving self-supply of dry matter of the ration from the mountain; the quality of fodder products and programming of their use in order to maximize the digestibility of the ration and its minimum food cost.

6) Dairy cow farming in Parmigiano Reggiano cheese area
The main objective of the project is to re-think the Parmigiano-Reggiano dairy production addressing some important issues such as longevity, fertility, feeding based on higher forage inputs and less concentrates. The final aim is also the creation of new products and packaging related to the production process.


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