Sustainable Dairy Chain 2030

The Sustainable Dairy Chain is the dairy sector and agricultural organisations’ pre-competitive programme to make dairy farming more sustainable. In close consultation with stakeholders and the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (Dutch acronym: LNV), sustainability goals for 2030 were established in 2019 on the issues of improving animal well-being, preservation of outdoor grazing, biodiversity, revenue models and farm safety.

The Sustainable Dairy Chain (SDC) targets for 2020 were mostly met, with the help of (among others) the Public Private Partnership Sustainable Dairy Chain 2.0 in the period 2016-2019. The challenge for 2030 lies in the new ambitions and their realisation in its entirety, as they converge on the dairy farm.


In this project, we work on four research goals:

  • Creating sets of development possibilities for dairy farms, that fit specific business types, and in which the SDC goals are met at the sector level.
  • New business models to sufficiently stimulate livestock farmers to take steps towards meeting the sustainability goals.
  • An intervention approach to make development options viable at a business level that is motivating for the livestock farmers and practicable for those on the farm.
  • Monitoring, evaluation and insight into the latest policy developments.

Integral measures

The purpose of the working package Integral Measures is to merge the existing expertise on sustainability on dairy farms. In research, often just the effect of a single measure on one sustainability issue is considered. In practice, however, all the different aspects and issues are present on the dairy farm, and a measure that benefits one aspect (climate, for example) may negatively impact another aspect (nitrogen emissions, for example). A solid merging of expertise and an approach that avoids perverse stimuli to reach an optimal sustainability approach is lacking. Moreover, there are significant differences between businesses and entrepreneurs.

This package shows the effect of measures on the total of sustainability goals on the dairy farm, including the farmer’s revenues model. For different types of businesses, it shows what measures may be taken to contribute to the SDC goals, what effect they may have and how they impact the financial results. The impact at a national level is shown, as well as how the ambitions for integral sustainability of the dairy sector may be achieved.

Change and earnings model

In this working package, we explore the options dairy farmers have to motivate their workers to work on the integral sustainability of the business, for example by collaborating with regional governments to investigate what options there are, and how barriers hampering implementation may be removed.

To this end, current knowledge about potential interventions from the field of behavioural sciences is used an translated to the agricultural practice. Possible barriers preventing behavioural change are mapped and solutions sought. The approach we develop aims at intrinsically motivating and fostering understanding, in the entrepreneur, suppliers and advisors. This requires a business model that fosters sustainability. Options for collaboration that could yield better revenue models are investigated.

Living Labs

In de Living Labs, we apply the fundamental expertise from the abovementioned working packages and develop this further into practical cases. Three Living Labs have been launched:

  1. Home Made proteins: this Living Lab aims to improve protein management in dairy farms, striving for a 65% production of the required proteins on the farm itself. This means good feed and good cultivation. See project page (in Dutch) for more information.
  2. Species-rich grassland: There are two main types of species-rich grasslands. Extensive and productive. In this Living Lab, these two types are compared to standard production grasslands in collaboration with the Louis Bolk Institute, to assess their contribution to biodiversity and ecosystem services. We also aim to discover what factors are vital to agricultural production and what possible risks and opportunities they offer for animal health and milk quality. For more information: Nick van Eekeren.
  3. Increased life expectancy: Increasing the lifespan of dairy cattle benefits all the sustainability issues in the SDC. Much is already known, but not much progress has been made in practice with regards to the average cow’s life expectancy. In part, this is due to external factors such as the introduction of phosphate rights. Still, other factors contribute as well—for example, the lack of a shared perspective among farmers, suppliers and advisors. This Living Lab focuses on the role of the entrepreneur and suppliers/advisors and their interaction that could lead to an increased life expectancy. It is not so much about technical improvements, but about better collaboration towards reaching the goal.

Monitoring progress

In a peer-reviewed sector report, we monitor what sustainability goals are met and how adjustments may be made, for the benefit of society and the PPS partners. These adjustments may relate both to the Sustainable Dairy Sector initiative and the PPS research. This sector report was published annually on the Sustainable Dairy Sector website. This working package is currently being revised in terms of form, content, frequency of publications and communication channels, to provide an up-to-date overview of the improved sustainability issues and allow rapid interventions.

The PPS “Future-proof and responsible dairy sector: The integral realisation of the 2030 Sustainable Dairy Chain sustainability goals” is a public-private collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) and a consortium consisting of ZuivelNL, Louis Bolk Institute, Royal Bel Leerdammer, WWF and the Rabobank, and is managed by the Sustainable Dairy Chain. The PPS is part of the government top sector policy and the Top sector Agri & Food.