Developing a tool to assess the sustainability of farms with automatic milking systems and grazing

E.M. de Olde, Frank W. Oudshoorn, C.A.G. Sorensen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingAbstract


The use of automatic milking systems (AMS) is increasing among European dairy farms and is associated with a decrease in farms practicing grazing. This shift results in concerns about environmental and economic implications, as well as the impact on animal welfare and cultural values. In the EU project AUTOGRASSMILK a sustainability assessment tool was developed to gain a better understanding of the sustainability performance of dairy production systems with AMS and grazing.
The development of the tool was organized in five phases. First, a stakeholder analysis was performed and identified farmers, advisory services and researchers as key stakeholders to identify sustainability indicators. Second, representatives of research institutes, advisory services, and farmers were asked to define the importance of economic, environmental, social and governance themes for the assessment of the sustainability performance of dairy farms. Third, weights were assigned to a selection of 25 themes by distributing 100 points over the themes in each dimension. Subsequent, 50 indicators were specified to evaluate the performance on each theme. Finally, reference values had to be defined for each indicator. Project meetings and data of 37 monitor farms in 7 European countries highlighted differences between dairy production systems (i.e. productivity, costs, and grazing season), and emphasized the need for a context specific approach using regional reference values. Regional reference values were gathered in cooperation with experts in each country. Sustainability assessments of 37 farms indicate farm profitability and working hours as key sustainability challenges. The development of the sustainability assessment tool presented a valuable method to enhance understanding of systems, indicator synergies, and trade-offs. Moreover, its' development supported knowledge exchange and learning between stakeholders on sustainable dairy farming in Europe
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBook of abstracts of the International Conference on Agricultural Engineering, CIGR - AgEng
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventInternational conference on agricultural engineering, Aarhus, Denmark - Aarhus, Denmark
Duration: 26 Jun 201629 Jun 2016


ConferenceInternational conference on agricultural engineering, Aarhus, Denmark
Internet address


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