Onderwerp scriptie

To graze or not to graze? – A literature review on the effect of grazing dairy cattle on the environmental, economic and social aspects of sustainability - Jojanneke Zandvliet-Nanninga

The disappearance of dairy cows from pasture causes public debate on the sustainability of these livestock production systems. The aim of this paper was to provide an overview of the available scientific literature of the effect that pasturing dairy cows has on sustainability issues compared to the effect of non-pastured dairy cows


Current dairy practices show an increasing trend of keeping dairy cows indoors, resulting in a reduced number of cows that have access to pasture. The disappearance of dairy cows from pasture causes public debate on the sustainability of these livestock production systems. The aim of this paper was to provide an overview of the available scientific literature of the effect that pasturing dairy cows has on sustainability issues compared to the effect of non-pastured dairy cows.

Social issues of sustainability investigated were: lameness, lying behaviour, animal preference, fertility, disease prevalence, body weight and condition, social opinion and product quality. Environmental issues of sustainability investigated were: global warming, acidification, eutrophication and land use. Finally, economic issues of sustainability investigated were: milk production, milk composition, feed costs, and animal health costs.

Pasturing dairy cattle seemed to contribute to social sustainability; showing decreased disease prevalence, a positive effect on social opinion and positive effects on product quality. Environmental effects were found to be about similar between the two systems, with slightly better performance of the pasturing system. It was found that pasturing could provide greater financial benefits than non-pasturing systems. Overall, pasturing dairy cattle seems to provide beneficial effects on sustainability, although more research is needed, especially on the environmental effects, to confirm the results found in this study.



Student: JH Zandvliet-Nanninga

Supervisor: dr ir EAM Bokkers

36 Ects