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The relationship of dairy farm eco-efficiency with intensification and self-sufficiency. Evidence from the French dairy sector using life cycle analysis, data envelopment analysis and partial least squares structural equation modelling

Soteriades A.D., Stott A.W., Moreau S., Charroin T., Blanchard M., Liu J., Faverdin P.. 2016. PloS One, 11 (11) : 21 p..

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0166445

We aimed at quantifying the extent to which agricultural management practices linked to animal production and land use affect environmental outcomes at a larger scale. Two practices closely linked to farm environmental performance at a larger scale are farming intensity, often resulting in greater off-farm environmental impacts (land, non-renewable energy use etc.) associated with the production of imported inputs (e.g. concentrates, fertilizer); and the degree of self-sufficiency, i.e. the farm's capacity to produce goods from its own resources, with higher control over nutrient recycling and thus minimization of losses to the environment, often resulting in greater on-farm impacts (eutrophication, acidification etc.). We explored the relationship of these practices with farm environmental performance for 185 French specialized dairy farms. We used Partial Least Squares Structural Equation Modelling to build, and relate, latent variables of environmental performance, intensification and self-sufficiency. Proxy indicators reflected the latent variables for intensification (milk yield/cow, use of maize silage etc.) and self-sufficiency (home-grown feed/total feed use, on-farm energy/total energy use etc.). Environmental performance was represented by an aggregate 'eco-efficiency' score per farm derived from a Data Envelopment Analysis model fed with LCA and farm output data. The dataset was split into two spatially heterogeneous (bio-physical conditions, production patterns) regions. For both regions, eco-efficiency was significantly negatively related with milk yield/cow and the use of maize silage and imported concentrates. However, these results might not necessarily hold for intensive yet more self-sufficient farms. This requires further investigation with latent variables for intensification and self-sufficiency that do not largely overlap- a modelling challenge that occurred here. We conclude that the environmental 'sustainability' of intensive dairy farming depends on particular farming systems and circumstances, although we note that more self-sufficient farms may be preferable when they may benefit from relatively low land prices and agri-environment schemes aimed at maintaining grasslands.

Mots-clés : exploitation laitière; pratique agricole; analyse du cycle de vie; gestion de l'exploitation agricole; autosuffisance; intensification; impact sur l'environnement; france

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