European dairy production systems (DPS) face many challenges across the three pillars (3P) of sustainability. European regions are highly diverse and complex, and region-specific concepts for DPS are required.

The MilKey project will develop a whole system concept (a holistic approach) for achieving 3P sustainability of DPS targeted to key European regions. Greenhouse gases’ (GHG) mitigation is a core aim of Milkey, accompanied by other environmental impacts, and analysis of economic and social factors of functioning of this sector.

MilKey will establish a unified analytical protocol to facilitate comparison and synthesis of GHG emission mitigation and sustainability assessments across the DPS case studies and key European regions.

MilKey will use qualitative methods like document studies and in-depth interviews with farmers as well as various quantitative tools, such as life cycle assessment and economic-biophysical modelling.

MilKey will focus on the 3P sustainability interactions and mitigation potentials assessment for key European areas. It will assess flexible concepts for sustainable milk production in key European regions and identify co-benefits and trade-offs in attempts to deal with individual sustainability parameters, especially with parameters describing different sustainability pillars.

The sustainability assessments in MilKey will be complemented by advances in technology and ICT to improve system performance. An online monitoring tool for barn climate and emissions will be developed and demonstrated using advances in sensors, communication technologies, data analytics, and modelling.

MilKey will assess combined strategies for low emissions, improved barn climate and good animal welfare.

MilKey will develop a platform which will be a decision support system to assist in tailoring DPS towards improved sustainability including information on the potential synergies and trade-offs associated with the proposed options. The platform will host technological information on animal nutrition, livestock husbandry, manure management and utilisation as well as economic and social effects.

MilKey will put focus on the farmer. It will investigate farmers’ habits and motives regarding farming practices, climate change, and GHG emissions mitigation options, and examine their social embeddedness in the farm household and the community.

MilKey will approach the challenge of actual GHG emission reduction measurement and reporting through the development of a biophysical-economic tool at farm level that includes necessary information of the most promising mitigation options for reporting purposes, and makes them directly accountable for the individual farm.