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Exploring a Water/Energy Trade-off in Regional Sourcing of Livestock Feed Crops

CSS Publication Number
Full Publication Date
December 15, 2011

Feed production constitutes a major portion of the energy and water resource inputs in modern livestock production. Schemes to reduce these inputs may include local sourcing of animal feed. However, in water stressed regions where irrigation of feed crops is necessary, a trade-off between local sourcing (with high water stress) and transport from less water stressed regions can occur. We demonstrate this trade-off in the U.S. by combining state-level irrigation water use and pumping energy demand from USDA surveys with fertilizer and transportation energy demands for producing major feed crops (corn grain, soybean, alfalfa hay, corn silage) in each state and delivering them to two hypothetical dairy farms located in Kersey, CO and Rosendale, WI. A back-up technology approach is employed to express freshwater resource depletion in units of energy, allowing direct comparison with other energy resource demands. Corn grain, soybean, and alfalfa hay delivered toCOdemonstrate a clear trade-off between transportation energy (proportional to the distance between CO and the production state) and water stress. On the other hand, transportation burdens dominate for corn silage, making local production most attractive, even in water stressed regions. All crops delivered to WI (a region of low water stress and minimal irrigation) are dominated by transportation burdens, making local production preferable, but this is clearly not a universal principal, as other cases show. This paper quantitatively elucidates the waterenergy trade-off in sourcing feed for livestock and the method is expected to be applicable in managing supply chain logistics of other farm commodities.

Research Areas
Food & Agriculture
Food Systems and Consumer Products
farm commodities, irrigation, managing supply chain logistics, transportation energy, water stress regions
Publication Type
Journal Article
Digital Object Identifier
DOI: 10.1021/es2016473
Full Citation
Heller, M.C. and G.A. Keoleian. (2011) “Exploring a Water/Energy Trade-off in Regional Sourcing of Livestock Feed Crops.” Environmental Science and Technology. 45(24): 10619-10626.