Automatic Milking Systems (AMS) are increasingly implemented in EU dairy farms. This is associated with a decrease of grazing for dairy cows. This study aimed to determine how sustainability could be assessed at the dairy farm level in six different EU countries in order to gain more insight into combining AMS and grazing.
The EU dairy sector is currently facing number of challenges. Sustainability, handling economic, social and environmental issues, is a framework usually used to address development of future livestock systems. Automatic Milking Systems (AMS) are increasingly implemented in EU dairy farms. This is associated with a decrease of grazing for dairy cows because of technical, economic and management challenges. Grazing is generally seen as positive for sustainability, but there is a need for assessing sustainability in the context of combining AMS and grazing. This study aimed to determine how sustainability could be assessed at the dairy farm level in six different EU countries in order to gain more insight into combining AMS and grazing.
A literature review on existing sustainability assessment methodologies at farm level was conducted. In addition, a participatory study with stakeholders was executed to identify issues related to the combination of AMS and grazing that might need a specific sustainability assessment. A stakeholder analysis was performed to select key stakeholders. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 28 farmers, advisors and scientists in France, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Ireland. A short online questionnaire was spread in the EU in order to reach other stakeholders and to assess differences between countries.
The combination of AMS and grazing is referring to different realities among countries, especially due to grazing diversity levels. Sustainability definition is well known among stakeholders and has the same meaning for them; however they put importance on different sustainability dimensions and themes among countries and jobs. Sustainability themes presented by stakeholders are mostly already handled in existing sustainability assessment methodologies. Sustainability indicators for AMS and grazing systems may be more specific or a different scoring may be applied, due to the AMS (investment-related costs, variable costs, work repartition through the day) or the grazing system (feeding costs, opinion of external people, biodiversity).In conclusion, the same sustainability themes may be used through the EU to allow for international comparison, but regional and “AMS and grazing” adaptations will be needed, for indicator, scoring and reference values selections. A methodology based on focus group may be used for that.
Student: LDD Coutey
Supervisors: dr ir EAM Bokkers (APS)
dr V. Brocard (Idele, Fr)