Course Details - Milking to Potential

Designing sustainable and profitable dairy systems

Do you believe that the dairy sector will have high development potential in the near future? With increasing urban population and disposable incomes, milk and dairy products consumption all around the world is growing. The large variety in agroecosystems, socio-economic factors, and policies make it impossible to develop a single model for dairy development that could be adopted everywhere. Therefore it is essential to understand the opportunities for dairy sector development as well as the limiting factors that could harm sustainability and profitability in the long term.

A systems perspective on dairy sector development

During this three weeks course we will analyse the dairy sector at different levels, from animal to farm and up to country level. We will look at the challenges and opportunities the sector faces in your own situation. Different types of farming systems and value chains will be considered, looking at their interaction with different drivers (socio-political, economic and biophysical). This course aims to offer a systems perspective on dairy sector development, along with skills to design innovative and sustainable options. It looks at how to balance sustainable production practices and market demands within a changing policy environment. Moving beyond the technical realm, you will learn how to involve multiple stakeholders for inclusion of social, environmental, economic and political aspects.

A mix of lectures, group work and field trips

Would you like to better understand how to design dairy sector interventions, strategies, or policies in your own context? The course will use a mix of lectures, discussions, group work and field trips to offer background, theoretical insights, as well as practical approaches for production, markets and policies development. Lecturers from different disciplines will expose you to a broad range of domains, with examples mainly referring to the global South. Visits to local farms and interaction with dairy entrepreneurs will give you opportunities for developing new ideas that you can transfer to your own real case during the group work exercise. The participants will exchange their own experiences and learn mutually from working actively together in various study groups. The programme is flexible to suit participants’ needs and the issues they raise. This will include many opportunities to expand networks and access literature.

Dairy opportunities and trade-off issues

During this course we will explore the opportunities and trade-offs of issues like:

  • Investing in the formal or the informal dairy chain?
  • Focus on dairy imports or local milk production?
  • Quickly or steadily increasing milk production?
  • Work with smallholders or with larger farms?
  • Starting from the business environment or from the business itself?
  • Improving the local herd or importing grade cattle?
  • Will intensification be sustainable?
  • Is the nutritional value of dairy under- or overestimated?
  • Can the potential of camels, buffalos, goats and sheep be better exploited?
  • Adding value to the product: Liquid milk or processing? Niche products or conventional?
  • How to create responsible value chains when it comes to milk quality and safety?

Why doing a course on Dairy Development in the Netherlands?

The Netherlands is a leading dairy country where the dairy industry is a key economic sector that is investing heavily in sustainability, quality and innovation. Production and consumption of milk, butter and cheese have a long tradition here. The current business model, with its strong international orientation, has developed over the past 150 years from a situation in which dairy production was mainly a farm activity focusing on local needs. You will be surprised to discover that the variety of the Dutch dairy systems not only include high-tech high-input farms with annual production of over 10 thousand litres of milk per cow, but also farms with local breeds, goats called by name and the only commercial camel dairy farm in Europe.

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