Potentially beneficial traits of Dutch rare breeds for agro-ecological farming.

Published on
April 12, 2021

Focus on biodiversity in agriculture in the Netherlands is increasing. At the request of The Dutch Rare Breed Society (SZH) a study on traits of Dutch rare and local livestock breeds that may be of added value in agro-ecological agriculture for cattle, sheep, goats and horses was performed.

A variety of interviews with experts and farmers of rare breeds was used to identify impacts of these breeds on agricultural ecology, and ways in which these breeds can be used in agroecological farming systems.

Animal owners of six Dutch cattle breeds, twelve Dutch sheep breeds, four Dutch goat breeds and four Dutch horse breeds were interviewed by students. They mentioned specific characteristics of these breeds which suggests it makes them suitable for nature-friendly agriculture. Traits such as robustness, better health and being able to cope with changing circumstances, such as variations in diet were mentioned for cattle, some sheep and goat breeds. Horse breeds are not used in food production. The local horse breeds are mainly characterized by a calmer character. These differences were confirmed by experts. Regarding those results, there might be opportunities for the use of rare Dutch livestock breeds in agro-ecological agriculture. Knowledge gaps are identified and scientific evidence is needed to support those suggested benefits of the Dutch native cattle, goat, horse and sheep breeds.