Intensification to reduce the carbon footprint of smallholder milk production: Fact or fiction?

Henk Udo*, Viola Weiler, Ogun Modupeore, Theo Viets, Simon Oosting

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Will the intensification of cattle-keeping lower the carbon footprint of milk production in resource-poor environments? The authors included the multiple functions of cattle in carbon footprint estimates of milk production in farming systems with different degrees of intensification in Kenya. The carbon footprints (measured in kg CO2 equivalents per kg of milk) of free-grazing with 2.6 cows (1.8 kg) and zero-grazing with 1.5 cows (1.3 kg) on smallholder farms were only slightly higher or at the same level as on large farms with 13.6 cows (1.1 kg) and on a very large farm with 107 cows (1.3 kg). These carbon footprints were comparable with those of milk producers in developed regions. Better feeding is often suggested as a climate change mitigation option; however, only small-step feed improvements can be made. In the debate on intensification as a major strategy to reduce the carbon footprint of milk production, the opportunities are overestimated and constraints for changes in smallholder farming are underestimated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-38
JournalOutlook on Agriculture
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Climate impact
  • Kenya
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Mitigation
  • Smallholder dairying


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