Date:November 07, 2012



Sustainable Dairy Farming in The Netherlands

Today, dairy farming in The Netherlands is a challenge! With unpredictable prices for milk, scale enlargement of the dairy farm seems the only way out to reduce costs and make a living. But is this really the best option? A small, but growing group of dairy farmers has become aware of the potential of reducing costs, increasing entrepreneurship and skills through the cycle approach. The aim of the Sustainable Dairy programmes within the ETC-Netherlands is to produce in an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable way. In the Sustainable Dairy Compas you can find the background information, technical tips, inspiration and links about this sustainable dairy approach, which is becoming more and more popular amongst dairy farmers in The Netherlands.

The Sustainable Dairy programmes of ETC-Netherlands support dairy farmers through practical programmes, linking farmers with technical support services, research and policy makers.  We work on knowledge exchange and farmer capacity building, in the following ways:

Stimulating entrepreneurship
ETC Netherland sorganizes studygroup meetings of dairy farmers, field trials and farmer to farmer visits. Dairy farmers are offered the opportunity to interact with experts and each other about ways to increase soil fertility, to better use the organic manure, to reduce mineral losses and to breed animals with increased efficiency. Within the studygroups of about 12-15 farmers exchange takes place about the economical and environmental results of each farm.

Measuring impact
The effect of the adaptations on each farm are measured twice a year, related to economic performance (price of production) as well as environmental impact (Nitrogen and Phosphorus efficiency). The outcome is discussed amongst the group members, comparing the results between group members and with previous years. In this way farmers become aware of the most effective ways to increase their income as well as to reduce their environmental impact.

Stimulating regional development
The Sustainable Dairy programmes are effected in close collaboration with rural communities, farmer organizations, researchers, policy makers and private enterprise involved in dairy. In this ways the coordination between all actors is enhanced. Around 450 dairy farmers in 8 different regions of The Netherlands are involved in the programs: Drenthe,Utrecht, Friesland, Gelderland, Noord Holland, Zuid Holland, Noord Brabant,Groningenas well as the Wadden islands.

Scoring sustainability
Within the Sustainable Dairy programmes an integrated sustainability-score has been developed. This facilitates comparisons between dairy farmers related to their socio-economic sustainability (People and Profit), environmental sustainability (Planet), as well as animal-wellbeing (Animal).  In this way it is possible to reward dairy farmers with a high level of sustainability, for example through payments for environmental services. For this, ETC-Netherlands actively links sustainable dairy farmers with opportunities in private enterprise, such as Ben&Jerries Icecream.

International cooperation
ETC-Netherlands not only stimulates cooperation on sustainable dairy farming within theNetherlandsbut also at international level, through the Sustainable Dairy Compas. ETC-Netherlands organizes exchange visits and trainings for international visitors and organizations. In this way it is conveyed that for increasing sustainability, the dairy farmers in The Netherlands are re-focusing on farmer initiative and expertise, mineral cycles, mineral efficiency, soil fertility, medicinal plants, local breeds and biodiversity.

Information is on these activities is available for all organizations and individuals involved in sustainable dairy farming. ETC-Netherlands produces newsletters, folders, brochures and other publications. The film: Op Eigen Kracht (Building on Local Strengts) gives a 10-minute impression of the activities. The latest insights and development are shared on

Countries/Countries the Netherlands
Duration of project 2007-2014
Client/partner Province of Friesland, Drenthe, Utrecht
Contactperson (within ETC) Henk Kieft