Prolonging dairy cattle longevity is regarded as one of the options to contribute to a more sustainable milk production. Cattle longevity is a direct result from culling decisions, which is primarily driven by economic considerations. As a consequence, at the herd level, cattle longevity can have effects on the efficiency of dairy production. This study investigates the technical inefficiency of dairy input, and its association with cattle longevity under Dutch commercial dairy production conditions, using a two-stage data envelopment analysis (DEA) approach. First, the technical inefficiency of capital, labor, land, seed & crop protection expenses, veterinary services, livestock purchase & services, feed purchase, miscellanea, livestock units and total input on total farm revenues was computed using DEA. Secondly, a bootstrap truncated regression analysis was applied to identify the association of cattle longevity with the evaluated input-specific and total input scores for technical inefficiency. Data were compiled from performance and accountancy records of 1,037 commercial Dutch dairy herds over the period of 2007 to 2014. In general, Dutch dairy farms displayed a relatively good overall technical efficiency, represented by an average inefficiency score of 0.09. The economic benefit of extending cattle longevity was evidenced by the negative association of cattle longevity with total input inefficiency. Of the evaluated inputs, the utilization of livestock units and feed was most efficient, with inefficiency scores below 0.26. This contrasts with the poor input efficiency of capital and livestock purchase & services with inefficiency scores around 0.52. Although the strength of the evaluated associations was generally low, the regression results illustrated that, except for labor, the age of culled cows was significantly negatively associated (P < 0.05) with each of the input inefficiencies. This contrasts with the significant associations of input inefficiencies with lifetime milk production, which were mostly positive. Since lifetime milk production is driven by length of cattle lifespan in combination with production level of the cows, the reverse direction of the associations with the two longevity indices illustrates that prolonging cattle longevity can improve efficiency performance of a dairy farm as long as the milk yield per cow remains unchanged.
- culling age
- data envelopment analysis (DEA)
- input-specific technical efficiency
- lifetime milk production