Environmental Management

, Volume 62, Issue 6, pp 1073–1088 | Cite as

Food Footprint as a Measure of Sustainability for Grazing Dairy Farms

  • M. Melissa Rojas-Downing
  • A. Pouyan NejadhashemiEmail author
  • Behin Elahi
  • Kimberly A. Cassida
  • Fariborz Daneshvar
  • J. Sebastian Hernandez-Suarez
  • Mohammad Abouali
  • Matthew R. Herman
  • Sabah Anwer Dawood Al Masraf
  • Timothy Harrigan


Livestock productions require significant resources allocation in the form of land, water, energy, air, and capital. Meanwhile, owing to increase in the global demand for livestock products, it is wise to consider sustainable livestock practices. In the past few decades, footprints have emerged as indicators for sustainability assessment. In this study, we are introducing a new footprint measure to assess sustainability of a grazing dairy farm while considering carbon, water, energy, and economic impacts of milk production. To achieve this goal, a representative farm was developed based on grazing dairy practices surveys in the State of Michigan, USA. This information was incorporated into the Integrated Farm System Model (IFSM) to estimate the farm carbon, water, energy, and economic impacts and associated footprints for ten different regions in Michigan. A multi-criterion decision-making method called VIKOR was used to determine the overall impacts of the representative farms. This new measure is called the food footprint. Using this new indicator, the most sustainable milk production level (8618 kg/cow/year) was identified that is 19.4% higher than the average milk production (7215 kg/cow/year) in the area of interest. In addition, the most sustainable pasture composition was identified as 90% tall fescue with 10% white clover. The methodology introduced here can be adopted in other regions to improve sustainability by reducing water, energy, and environmental impacts of grazing dairy farms, while maximizing the farm profit and productions.


Grazing dairy farm Sustainable Footprint Multi-criterion decision-making IFSM VIKOR 



This work is supported by the US Department of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch project MICL02359 and the Environmental Science and Policy Program at Michigan State University.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

267_2018_1101_MOESM1_ESM.docx (127 kb)
Supplementary Information


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Melissa Rojas-Downing
    • 1
  • A. Pouyan Nejadhashemi
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Behin Elahi
    • 3
  • Kimberly A. Cassida
    • 2
  • Fariborz Daneshvar
    • 1
  • J. Sebastian Hernandez-Suarez
    • 1
  • Mohammad Abouali
    • 1
  • Matthew R. Herman
    • 1
  • Sabah Anwer Dawood Al Masraf
    • 1
  • Timothy Harrigan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biosystems and Agricultural EngineeringMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial SciencesMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  3. 3.Department of Manufacturing and Construction Engineering TechnologyPurdue University at Fort WayneFort WayneUSA

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