NLF Network

NLF Network2018-12-11T18:18:43+00:00

Dutch Farm Experience is the leading company within the exchange programs of the Natural Livestock Farming (NLF) Network with emphasis on reduced use of antibiotics and other chemicals in dairy farming. We also provide support to international dairy training programs with participatory methodologies and Dutch Farm Experience information. Concepts used include: the NLF 5-layered strategy for reduced antibiotic use, endogenous livestock development, wheel of animal production and wellbeing, and 4 livestock production systems. Includes programs on medicinal plants with Indian partner organization Trans-Disciplinary University.

Clients include:

More balance, less antibiotics – India exchange visit 2015

On Wednesday, 23 April 2015, a mixed delegation of Ethiopians, Ugandan and Dutch livestock professionals went to India in addition to the Exchange visit from a Dutch delegation to Africa in March. This visit, which is part of the E-motive program, is sequential to the exchange between India and the Netherlands last year, enhanced by some African partners. For more information on the exchange: //

Also this time an inspiring delegation participates in the program consisting of several veterinarians, farmers, professors, a representative of a farmer union, professors and other cattle specialists. Additionally, two social researchers from Kaleidos Research contributes to the program by monitoring and evaluating the learning process.

During this ten days visit the delegation stays at the TDU – Transdisciplinary University in Bangalore, which is the location of the I-AIM Healthcare Centre as well. The aim of this institute is to give a place to the old, traditional remedies and knowledge within modern healthcare. In those institutes information of a breath-taking amount medicinal plants and related treatments according to the Ayurvedic principls already has been digitally documented as well as a comprehensive herbarium.

The Dutch delegation is, due to the demand of antibiotic reduction, highly interested in this vision and searching for a more natural way to treat livestock. Dr. Shankar gave an inspiring introduction on the holistic vision including both human and animals: similar to the one health principles. As Dr. Shankar said: “The very roots of modernity lies in tradition”, since chemicals will affect human health, livestock and environment; where management is a very important part of working with livestock.

To get an impression and understanding on the Indian way of livestock sector, numerous parts of the production chain are visited during this ten days. To begin the delegation went to different type of farmers: some local, small holder farmers and a farm which is producing natural fertilizer and natural pesticides from cow urine. This last farm is holding indigenous breeds to preserve those cattle varieties. On the second day in India, Kolar Chikkaballapura Milk Union was visited; this cooperation receives milk from 2919 villages on two districts. In total they have 278 212 members. All members are small holder farmers, which means the farmer holds 1 to 3 cows per farm. On Monday the group travelled to Chennai, where several official meetings were organized to discuss the essentials of this program with members of TANUVAS University: Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University. Other interesting excursions include the veterinary clinic and laboratories of TANUVAS, Karnataka Milk Federation and MILMA – Kerala Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd.

In Kochi, located at the West-Coast of India, a small symposium was organized on Tuesday. To finish up with the exchange visit another two day symposium will be organized at the end of the visit.

In September the Indian delegation will come to the Netherlands for the next part of the exchange.

Dutch delegation visited Ethiopian State Minister for Livestock Development

As part of the E-Motive Exchange visit (Exchange project between Netherlands and Ethiopia/Uganda on cattle breeding for resilient dairy farming and improved milk quality) a Dutch delegation of dairy experts visited the State Minister of Livestock Development in Ethiopia. The State Minister proudly presented the Ethiopian Livestock Master Plan for the next 15 years. This plan aims is to stimulate the commercial dairy sector in 3 major areas: crossbreeding, improved animal health and feeding.

The aim is to have 5 million crossbreds milk cows for the milk supply of the cities. The government has decided that only Holstein Friesian (HF) or Jersey breed (sperm or cows) may be imported. The State Minister: “A lot of milk has to be produced because the need for dairy is large and everything is imported now. People need money and food to survive. Milk products can bring in that money. And we cannot do without antibiotics. We are aware of the risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but first we go for quantity and later for more quality”.

After saying this the delegation discussed that there may be more ways to reach the required food security. Ethiopia counts with a rich biodiversity: all ecosystems between 140 m below sea level and 4000 meter above sea level are present. There are 36 local livestock breeds with very specific values; some of these breeds producing 10 liters of milk a day when properly fed. Why expect everything from foreign companies, HF cows and antibiotics? The discussion about these issues continued for over one hour beyond the time planned. The State Minister of Livestock was also invited to come to the Netherlands for the return visit of the exchange in September, including to visit our Minister of Agriculture. He could not confirm straight away but certainly seemed interested.

Moreover, it was agreed to continue the exchange of views and experience with the State Minister this Thursday (March 26) after visiting various milk factories and dairy farms.



Short film (10 min, January 2015) on whole exchange program 2014 on ways to reduce antibiotic in dairy farming, in which Dutch and Indian expertise is combined


Short film (10 minutes, August 2014) on the methodologies and practices promoted by TDU and TANUVAS to strengthen use of medicinal pants in dairy farming


Short film (8 min, June 2014) on first phase  – visit Dutch farmers and veterinarians to India (April 2014)


Indian experts on medicinal plants visiting the Netherlands. Choose your activity and register in one of the events!

(October 20154) Between 21 October and 1st of November 2014 a group of Indian experts on the use reduction of antibiotic use in dairy farming will be visiting the Netherlands. This includes veterinarians, herbal plant experts, the president of the Kerala Vetyerinary Association, as well as the director Animal Health of the Karnataka Milk Federation in Bangalore – India’s second largest dairy cooperative with 2.5 million members.

The program includes several events during the visit of the Indian experts that are open for interested people:

1. Thursday October 23, 2014: Symposium at Provinciehuis Zwolle – between 10.00 and 16.00. Entry free. Theme: Cows and Herbsoutcome of India-Netherlands collaboration towards the reduction of antibiotics in dairy farming’ (Koeien en Kruiden: uitkomst van India-Nederland samenwerking rond terugdringen antibioticagebruik in melkveehouderij) Language: English/Netherlands. See English-Program symposium Zwolle Aimed at all actors in the dairy sector: Farmers, veterinarians, companies, dairy factories, students. Organized by Dutch Farm Experience, NVF and VKON, supported by Agro&Food program of Province Overijssel. Register here for symposium on 23rd October

2. Friday October 24, 2014: This day at the farm and on the boat: ‘Antibiotics, Biodiversity and Cow Health’ between 10.00 and 16.00. Entry free. Location: Harbor Akkrum, and Farm Miedema Natuurlijk, Haskerdyke, Friesland. Organized by Dutch Farm Experience together with Miedema Natuurlijk, NVLV (Netwerk Vitale Landbouw en Voeding) and KenyFan’e Greide. Language: Dutch. Register here for the farm-day on 24th October

3. Monday October 27, 2014: Meeting of NVF working group Dier en Kruid at RIKILT, Wageningen. Between 17.00 and 20.30. Entry free. Includes Indian dinner. Register: at NVF Dier en Kruid – by sending a message to

4. Saturday 1 November, 2014: Workshop Milk Quality at Stake! Solutions from Ethiopia, India and the Netherlands for the Reduction of Antibiotics in dairy farming. At Africa Day, KIT Amsterdam. Aimed at all actors working on sustainable food production, food quality and food marketing in Africa, taking the dairy chain as an example. Time: 14.30 at the Library. Entre fee: 12,50 (for Africa Day). Register here at site of Africa Day (please note that you have to register both at the Africa day and the workshop.


Film now released entitled:

Herbs replace antibiotics – an Indian-Dutch exploration on ways to reduce antibiotics in dairy farming

See also PERSBERICHT-NL.pdf Dutch Version

and PRESS RELEASE English version

Basic content of the film:

The reduction of antibiotic use in dairy farming is a challenge in both India and the Netherlands. Farmers, veterinarians, dairy companies and governments are looking for the best ways to do so.

In April 2014 the E-Motive exchange program has facilitated a group of Dutch dairy farmers and veterinarians to visit southern India. They wanted to learn more about the expertise on medicinal plants that has been developed over the past 30 years by the Institute of Ayurvedic and Integrated Medicine (I-AIM) in Bangalore, together with the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS) in Chennai.

This exchange project aims to reduce the use of antibiotics in dairy farming in both India and the Netherlands. For this aim the Indian expertise on the use of medicinal plants is combined with expertise on dairy farm management from the Netherlands. In this way we will collaborate to improve animal health as well as milk quality, with positive effects for both producers and consumers.

In October 2014 the Indian experts will come to the Netherlands to support the experiments of the farmers, and to exchange views with farmers, veterinarians and other organizations. Together we can design new ways for dairy farming, with less antibiotics and other chemicals.
Ways that sustain livelihoods, biodiversity and food quality


Press release:  Findings latest NL-India exchange on reducing antibiotics in dairy farming

English version: Press-release E-motive – 21april2014

Dutch version: persbericht E-motive – 22april2014

The Dutch Association for Phytotherapy (NVF – ) is cooperating with the Institute of Ayurvedic and Integrated Medicine (I-AIM – in Bangalore, India, in the succesful project: Indian-Dutch exchange on the reduction of antibiotic use in dairy farming.

gesprekje aan de deur

the Indo-Dutch exchange group in special t-shirt


A group of Dutch veterinarians and farmers has just returned from their week visit to the I-AIM Institute in Bangalore, South India.  This visit was part of the E-Motive exchange program funded by EU, and the program Agro&Food of the province Overijssel, which supports innovations towards reduced antibiotic use in Dutch livestock farming. The Dutch farmers and veterinarians wanted to learn from the experiences developed in southern India on the use of medicinal plants in dairy farming, and the possibilities of these practices to reduce antibiotic use in the Netherlands.

Obligation to reduce antibiotic use

The Dutch livestock sector has the obligation to reduce antibiotics by 70% at the end of 2014, compared to its use in 2009. The multi-resistance of microbes against antibiotics is a growing problem that threatens humans and animals across the globe. Both India and the Netherlands are aware of this challenge.  Recently a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between both governments.

Meanwhile in India the free availability of all kinds of medicine, combined with the high disease frequency in dairy cattle, has resulted in an uncontrolled use of antibiotics in the sector. This includes the kind of antibiotics that should actually be reserved as final resort for human use.  The milk with residues enters the food chain without sufficient control of chemical substances.

Practical methods based on fresh medicinal plants

In recent years, and as initiative of I-AIM (Institute for Ayurveda and Integrated Medicine) and the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Science University (TANUVAS – ), practical methods have been developed on basis of medicinal plants to control common ailments in dairy farming, such as mastitis and calf scour.

During their visit the Dutch group has spoken to numerous farmers and veterinarians. Everywhere their colleagues informed them about the positive outcome of the use of medicinal plants. Most of them are now using the medicinal plants in a stand-alone mode; others in combination with the local application of antibiotics.  Moreover, the use of medicinal plants is now actively stimulated by large dairy corporations and veterinary associations like the Karnataka Milk Federation in Bangalore, Erode Milk Federation in Tamil Nadu, en de Kerala Veterinary Council in Kerala. For the farmers, who are cultivating the medicinal plants in their home gardens, this system also implies a 90% reduction in their animal health costs.

Change in breeding strategy urgently needed

Another element that struck the Dutch delegation – and which was confirmed by their Indian counterparts – was that the use of the Holstein Friesian (HF) breed has largely contributed to the high use of antibiotics in India. Since the 1980’s the government has implemented a breeding strategy of crossing local breed cows with HF bulls. Over time this has resulted in animals that are largely unable to cope with the local circumstances, leading to high incidence of heat stress, udder infection (mastitis) and hoof problems.   Meanwhile, around 50% of all traditional cattle breeds were lost due to systematic castration of the bulls. One of the conclusions of the Dutch delegation was that mere focus on increasing milk production by using HF bulls is leading to high uses of antibiotics, and thus contributes to the growing resistance of microbes against antibiotics.   Besides adapting the breeding strategy there is room for improving the animal management that will lead to milk production increases.

Animal management + medicinal plants + quality control systems

As a third element the control of quality control of milk – and a related payment system – can stimulate farmers to actively reduce their antibiotic use. When combined with animal management and quality control systems the use of medicinal plants are an essential part of a structural approach to improve animal health, reduce antibiotic use and obtain healthy milk for the consumers.

Note: Want to know more about this project and press release? Get in touch with Drs. Katrien van’t Hooft, Dutch Farm Experience, at +31-343-411043 or  

Dutch farmers and veterinarians visiting I-AIM in Bangalore

This Saturday 5th of  April a group of Dutch dairy farmers and veterinarians will travel to Bangalore India to learn more about the expertise related to medicinal plants developed by I-AIM and partners. They will have a full 5-day program with exchangesin various institutes, communities, dairy plants and veterinary associations in Karnataka and Kerala. This exchange project aims to reduce the use of antibiotics in dairy production by combining expertise from both countries: expertise on the use of medicinal plants and other natural products from India, and expertise on integrated dairy farm management from the Netherlands. The program implies one visit from Dutch farmers and veterinarians to Bangalore and Thiruvananthapuram (6-14 April 2014) – and a return visit of Indian farmers, veterinarians and representatives of the dairy industry to the Netherlands in November 2014.  It also implies various profiling and press activities in both countries. Contact persons: In India:

  • Dr. M.N.Balakrishnan Nair, I-AIM
  • e-mail:
  • phone: 00-91-80-28568000

In Netherlands:

Partners in the exchange

This project is a combined initiative of the following organizations: In the Netherlands:

In India:

  • I-AIM – Institute of Ayurvedic and Integrated Medicine
  • TANUVAS – Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University
  • ANTHRA – Livestock Development and Ethnoveterinary group

Funding comes from various sources:

1. E-Motive program 2. Province of Overijssel 3. Participating (farmer, veterinary and dairy) organizations

Challenges of globalization in the livestock sector

The world’s livestock sector is bubbling. Demand for meat, eggs and dairy products is growing, and both food processing and international trade are up. Dutch processors and retailers are expanding their businesses into new countries and continents, and they report increasing turnover and profits. Consumers – especially those in the cities – benefit from the enhanced availability of livestock products at prices that even poorer people can afford. Many dairy farmers, too, are among the winners of this ongoing “livestock revolution” gaining from the increased demand for their products. To enhance their efficiency and scale up their production, growing numbers of them are investing in genetically improved animals, technologies and facilities and are linking up with other players in their sector. While such ventures used to be undertaken mostly by richer, and bigger producers, many more recent development approaches have enabled small-scale farmers also to participate, furthering their integration with buyers and other players in the value chain. The challenges of the trends for scale enlargement and intensification in agriculture in general, have been described by FAO in 2009 (Livestock in the Balance): (1) Increasing pressure on the ecosystem and natural resources; (2) risk of spreading animal diseases due to high animal densities and globalization of food systems; (3) Social implications of the structural changes in the sector. Since then two other major challenges have been added to this list: (4) climate change effects of livestock; and more recently (5) the multi-resistant strains of microbes due to indiscriminate antibiotic use.

Ways out of these problems

This exchange project bases it’s activities related to the reduction of antibiotic use on the concepts of agro-ecology, which strives for a balance between all parts of the agricultural system and promotes the ecological intensification of smallholder farmers. Numerous organizations worldwide are now promoting this view, such as Pablo Titonnell the recently appointed professor Farming Systems Ecology at Wageningen University. This view on agriculture and livestock development is based on improving the natural soil fertility, closing mineral cycles, and reducing use of fossil fuels and chemicals. Such a system is found to be more resilient for both ecological and economical situation of farmers. The excessive us of antibiotics in dairy farming is largely due to a production system that changed from integrated production (for milk, meat, manure for crops etc) to a specialised system only for milk. The most popular high-producing breed, the Holstein Friesian cow, is now spread over the globe with the single objective of milk-production. The accompanying animal management and feeding regime, based on high levels of corn and protein (through concentrates, and fields manured with artificial fertilizer) has resulted in a cow out of balance: a cow with frequent diseases increasingly shortened life span. This implies high prevalence of udder infection, hoof problems, stomach problems, as well as low fertility. This is the background of the increased use of antibiotics in dairy production systems, which is seen in both large-scale and smallholder dairy production worldwide. As the cause of the problem is multi-faceted, the ways out also have that characteristic. Reducing the use of antibiotics in dairy farming cannot come from introduction of one change within the system: it requires a system change. This system change is being promoted in various parts of the world, including India and the Netherlands. The approaches in each of these countries are different, though complementary. Meanwhile– just like the focus on agro-ecology – these approaches are not yet mainstream, and need to be strengthened.

Ways for reduction of antibiotic use in dairy farming

The following steps are important elements towards a system change in dairy farming, that can only in effective in a combination: 1)   Changes in animal management – improving efficiency of dairy farming by closing nutrient cycles and improved soil fertility. Changes in animal management include aspects of breeding, feeding, housing manure management, soil fertilization. Netherlands has an important experience and history to share in this field. 2)   Medicinal plants and other natural products – that can be use in animal feeds to prevent disease as well as curative – when disease is prevalent. India has an important experience and history to share in this field. 3)   Herbal grassland and fodder trees: natural grasslands that include herbal products are increasingly seen as another important way to reduce antibiotic use in dairy farming as well as improve soil fertility and closing nutrient cycles. It is a small but gradually growing in the Netherlands – and still prevalent in other countries like India. 4)   Probiotics:  this is a new development in the Netherlands and Belgium, in which the concepts of how to diminish the effects of disease bringing microbes is changed from extermination (though antibiotics) to replacement with positive or innocent microbes (though pro-biotics).

Dutch Topsectorenbeleid

The Netherlands – and its ‘Topsectorenbeleid’ – is playing an important role in international livestock development: it is actively promoting the Dutch livestock sector all over the world. In this process especially the conventional system focused on, for example, specialized dairy production is being promoted. The latest innovations – such as the 4 ways of reducing antibiotics mentioned above – are not yet part of the current Topsectoren beleid. This is a pity as other countries could benefit not only from the innovations related to productivity, but also from the lessons learnt in our country as a result of that approach.

More information?

Read the Press Release here (in Dutch) or contact us.