Amazing grazing: A public and private partnership to stimulate grazing practices in intensive dairy systems

Schils, René; Philipsen, Bert; Hoekstra, Nyncke; Holshof, Gertjan; Zom, Ronald; Hoving, Idse; Reenen, Kees van; Stienezen, Marcia; Klootwijk, Cindy; Werf, Joop van der; Sebek, Léon; Eekeren, Nick van; Dixhoorn, Ingrid van; Pol-van Dasselaar, Agnes van den


In many intensive dairy regions in northwest Europe, a decline in grazing is observed. In the Netherlands, the proportion of dairy cows with access to pasture is declining, as well as the time spent grazing per cow. The decline in grazing is seen as an unwanted trend by many stakeholders and is, thus, under debate amongst dairy farmers, the dairy chain, and society. Therefore, a public-private partnership was initiated to encourage grazing by providing farmers with usable means of improving their grazing systems. The partnership involved stakeholders from the dairy farming community, dairy and feed industry, agrotechnical industries, advisory services, and research. The objective of this partnership was to develop and stimulate technological innovations and management measures that increase fresh grass intake at pasture. The innovation network combined an integrated research approach with farmer working groups and broader stakeholder interactive meetings. The project started with a comprehensive grass intake framework, which was the foundation for exploration of innovations. The framework consisted of six interlinked components: soil, grass growth, grass supply, grass intake, feed supplementation, and cow behavior. In a continuous interactive cycle, strategic choices were made to focus on potentially effective innovations. The use of a public-private partnership to develop usable innovations that encourage grazing practices proven to be a good approach to develop a shared vision among stakeholders. It provided a basis to work together toward innovative practices and to disseminate the outcomes to the foreseen users. The approach succeeded in design concepts for two specific innovations, i.e., weekly grass growth predictions and daily fresh grass intake tracking. We demonstrated that meaningful grazing and fresh grass intake are possible in intensive dairy systems with high stocking rates and high levels of supplementary feeding.