Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Dairy Sustainability Key Performance Indicators

Improving the economic and environmental sustainability of dairy farms requires development of practical management tools that help farmers with decisions about forage and grain production, animal nutrition, manure handling, feed storage, and animal care, among others. The South-Central NY Dairy and Field Crops Team is working with the Nutrient Management Spear Program (NMSP) and PRODAIRY at Cornell University to evaluate sustainability key performance indicators (KPIs; software-based greenhouse gas emission estimates, Cool Farm Tool, FARM-ES, animal and plant production efficiency and economic measurements, field nutrient balances, etc.) for 15 case-study farms statewide, of which four are in the South-Central area. The CCE intern will help collect farm information, analyze data, run management scenarios using software evaluation tools to determine their impact on greenhouse gas emission and carbon sequestration, and produce summary reports for the participating farmers, in collaboration with the campus and CCE teams. The overarching aim is to provide dairy farmers with practical, whole-farm solutions that help to reduce their environmental footprint while improving farm efficiency and economics.

Roles and responsibilities 

The intern will work with CCE and NMSP supervisors, the farms and their staff/consultants on data collection and analyses and communication of findings. In addition to work on the greenhouse gas emission and dairy sustainability project, the intern will have a chance to join various CCE team members to explore roles that CCE extension educators play in their communities and assist with, for example, weed identification and sampling, plant disease sampling, insect scouting/trapping, on-farm research, herd management, farm business management, and 4H. The intern will have the opportunity to write an agronomy fact sheet, and participate in other extension events. The intern will also assist in social media-based extension activities (Twitter, Linked-In, website, etc.). This internship provides a great opportunity to shadow leading extension professionals and faculty, staff and students as they interact with producers, agribusiness, other researchers and the general public. 

Qualifications and previous coursework

This opportunity is available to non-graduating students in Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

A strong interest in production agriculture is essential. Coursework and/or practical experience in field crop production, soil science, nutrient management, integrated pest management, animal nutrition or farm business are preferred. A willingness to work hard, learn quickly, and professionally interact with farmers and other members of the agricultural community are essential for success in this position. 

Learning outcomes 

By working with producers as well as CCE staff and the campus team, the intern will learn about and gain skills in whole-farm evaluation. Specifically, the intern will be involved in a project that analyzes a farm’s environmental footprint using a variety of software tools, with the goal to learn what is and what isn’t useful to determine/measure. The intern will learn first-hand how to design and deliver educational programs that meet the needs of extension clientele pertaining to issues related to crop management and herd management.