Mitloehner is WDB’s 2011 Outstanding Dairy Industry Educator/Researcher

By Ron Goble

Increasingly stringent environmental regulations have consumed the energy, time, finances, and in some cases the livelihood of dairy producers. All this in spite of the facts that Dr. Frank Mitloehner has reported in his greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions research showing the industry’s carbon footprint has shrunk considerably over the past decades.

Mitloehner is associate professor of animal science and associate air quality Cooperative Extension specialist at University of California, Davis. He is being recognized by Western DairyBusiness as the “2011 Outstanding Dairy Industry Educator/Researcher.” Dr. Mitloehner will be honored at World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., during the Dairy Profit Seminar program, Feb. 8, 2011 at 11:45 a.m. in the new Seminar Center in the southeast corner of the show grounds.

Fighting for dairy industry

Despite of-repeated claims by sources ranging from the United Nations to music star Paul McCartney, it is simply not true that consuming less meat and dairy products will help stop climate change, said the University of California authority on farming and greenhouse gases.

Mitloehner traced much of the public confusion over meat and milk’s role in climate change to two sentences in a 2006 United Nations report, titled “Livestock’s Long Shadow.” Printed only in the report’s executive summary and nowhere in the body of the report, the sentences read: “The livestock sector is a major player, responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalents). This is a higher share than transport.”

These statements in the UN report are not accurate, yet their wide distribution through news media has put us on the wrong path toward solutions, Mitloehner declared.

Mitloehner said leading authorities agree that, in the U.S., raising cattle and pigs for food accounts for about 3% of all greenhouse gas emissions, while transportation creates an estimated 26%.

“In developing countries, we should adopt more efficient, Western-style farming practices, to make more food with less greenhouse gas production,” Mitloehner concluded.

Research expertise

Dr. Mitloehner serves as director for the UC Davis Agricultural Air Quality Center. His current research activities are in the area of air emission estimates from dairies, beef operations and other agricultural sources and emission mitigation focusing on greenhouse gases, volatile organic compounds, ammonia, and particulate matter.

He has expanded his research emphasis to livestock production’s contributions to climate change and the effect of agricultural pollutants on human and animal health.

He currently serves as principal investigator for California on the National Air Emissions Monitoring Study, which will provide benchmark data to set national regulatory policy related to livestock production emissions.

He is also principal investigator for a five-year, National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health funded study, examining the impact of dairy air emissions on agricultural workers in California’s Central Valley.

Primary efforts of his lab center around quantification and mitigation of air emissions from livestock operations. Mitloehner’s Extension efforts are largely related to teaching various regulatory staff, farmers, and environmental groups air quality and climate change related information and assisting them in understanding and meeting air quality compliance regulations.

Mitloehner earned his doctoral degree in animal science from Texas Tech University and his master of science degree in Agricultural Engineering and Animal Science from the University of Leipzig, Germany.

Mitloehner started his current research career at University of California, Davis in 2002, after completing an 18-month post doctorial study under Dr. Mike Galyean at Texas Tech in nutritional management from the environmental perspective. He studied how to use nutrition to manage the environmental impact of dairy cows.

According to Mitloehner, GHGs and VOCs are what will be the most intrusive environmental issues facing the industry going forward. Not only the GHGs from the manure, but the VOCs from fermenting silage piles are things that the industry must address in the near future, he said.

Mitloehner has done extensive research on both issues and is finding that the VOC issue with silage is huge, compared to GHGs.

“As usual, regulatory agencies are quick to place parameters on the amounts of emissions allowed without first developing the science behind them to warrant such regulations,” he declared.

The work Mitloehner is doing is providing benchmark science on those two emissions so that regulations can be set that will best fit the severity of either issue.

The researcher noted that the research process is especially slow because adequate funding is always difficult to obtain. But regardless, there is pressure on regultors to regulate, while at the same time there is often nobody available to fund research required to see that the dairy industry and agriculture in general are not needlessly over-regulated.

Western DairyBusiness is proud to honor Dr. Mitloehner for his commitment to the environment, to agriculture and to the dairy industry.