On September 6 and 7 an international forum of farmers, policy makers, researchers and NGO representatives came together during a 2-day Conference on Livestock Futures in Bonn, to discuss the future of livestock keeping in its global and social context. It was important to see that representatives from both developing and European countries came to a similar conclusion: small-scale farmers need a level playing-field to put livestock develoment on a sustainable path. See also the outcome and conclusions of the conference – which was organised by the League of Pastoral Peoples, with support of Misereor and TradiNova Livestock.

During this important event Dr. Katrien van’t Hooft made a presentation entitled: “Lessons Learnt from Dutch (dairy) Farming”. This is now available on video (18.21 minutes)

Reaction on the video: We just had our Ethiopian Society of Animal Production (ESAP) annual conference in Addis Ababa. Over 350 people turned up. The theme was climate change and climate variability and livestock. As the current president of ESAP I was impressed at the turn out. More impressive was the interest  that emerged from the video presentation of Katrien’s presentation that was done at the Future of Livestock conference in Bonn. This was presented on the 3rd day of our conference. I was told by many that it was well articulated, informative and able to link the development in the North and how that needs to be understood by people in the South. Clear messages in the lessons learnt. Great thing. (Getachew Gebru, president ESAP)

Brief description of the video

In this presentation Dr. Katrien van’t Hooft describes the background of Dutch dairy farming, shedding light on facts and figures relatively unknown beyond our borders. Dutch dairy cows are highly productive, and labor-efficiency in dairy farming (kg. of milk produced per man-hour) has increased more than 20-fold over the past decades. How was this achieved? Many support policies were put in place, including market protection and EU subsidies. What were the side effects of this success? This includes the ongoing loss of family farms (over 90% since 1960’s) and environmental problems, including loss of soil fertility and biodiversity.

Industrial (dairy) farming is increasingly criticized by Dutch citizens, especially due to it’s animal wellbeing and climate change effects. So what does the future of Dutch dairy farming look like? This is still debated. Is it to continue the process of scale enlargement in highly computerized milking units – as the dean of the Wageningen Agricultural University has recently suggested in his article ‘Intensification or Hunger’? Or is it to further develop the strategies that farmers themselves have developed – combining old practices and new techniques in innovative ways – in response to the growing interest of consumers as well as farmers’ own dissatisfaction with industrial livestock keeping?

Other countries do not necessarily have to copy the Dutch dairy system and follow the route of scale enlargement and specialization. Instead they can make a ‘technology leap’: preventing mistakes that are now known and building on what has been developed by innovative Dutch farmers over the past decades.