Project

Grazing strategies for future dairy farms: an economic and environmental perspective

PhD project by Cindy Klootwijk. Grazing has the potential to increase economic and environmental performances of dairy farms. To maintain grazing, we need detailed insight in the interactions between grazing strategies, technical results and sustainability consequences. A complete overview of these interactions, however, is missing for future farms.

Grazing of dairy cattle is decreasing in the Netherlands, as well as in other European countries. This trend in grazing is associated with trends in farm characteristics towards more intensive dairy farms, i.e. an increase in herd size, stocking rate, milk yield per cow and use of automatic milking systems. These trends are expected to continue due to the abolishment of the milk quota in 2015. Grazing of dairy cattle, however, promotes an animal-friendly image for dairy production, and contributes to landscapes that are highly appreciated by the Dutch public. In addition, grazing has the potential to increase economic and environmental performances of dairy farms. To maintain grazing, we need detailed insight in the interactions between grazing strategies, technical results and sustainability consequences. A complete overview of these interactions, however, is missing for future farms. Therefore, we aim to quantify technical results and economic and environmental consequences of grazing strategies for future dairy farms. To fulfil this aim, we combine data collected from literature and from grazing experiments with whole-farm optimization modelling (i.e. linear programming, LP). First, we will use existing data of grazing and zero-grazing systems in dairy farming as input for the LP model. Based on a sensitivity analysis we will identify which parameters have an important impact on the economic and environmental consequences of future grazing strategies. In addition, we will identify which technical data is missing to make a detailed comparison between strategies. Second, we will perform grazing experiments in which we will quantify relevant technical parameters as identified in phase 1. Third, these newly obtained data will be added to the model. The updated model will be used to quantify economic and environmental consequences of potential grazing strategies for future dairy farms.