Towards a sustainable dairy chain in the Netherlands - The opinion of dairy farmers and their advisors

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In the Sustainable Dairy Chain (SDC), the dairy industry and its representatives strive to make the Dutch dairy sector the world leader in sustainability. Focus is on climate and energy, animal welfare and health, maintenance of grazing and environment and biodiversity. A survey with closed questions and pre-programmed answers was finished by 150 conventional dairy farmers. Questions were asked about SDC, the measures farmers took to make their farm more sustainable, the feasibility of these measures, ethical stances of dairy farmers regarding SDC, the farmers' willingness to change, the role of advisors, etc. In addition, 25 in-depth interviews were carried out with veterinarians, feed suppliers, banks, accountants and independent advisors (five in each group). The results of the survey and the in-depth interviews showed that both dairy farmers and their advisors had a positive attitude towards the goals of SDC and their feasibility, and that measures are already taken (or are planned to be taken) to achieve those goals. However, dairy farmers also believe that certain sustainability measures do not suit their farm, or they are unsure about these measures because they do not have enough knowledge or concrete tools are missing. The farmers' advisors share this view. Dairy farmers often see concrete, animalrelated goals as important, such as reducing the use of antibiotics, maintaining grazing and lengthening the lifespan of the cows. On the other hand, less concrete goals tend to be seen as less important, such as improving biodiversity, using sustainably-produced soy and palm kernel and reducing phosphate in manure. Approximately half of the conventional dairy farmers who completed the questionnaire indicated that they wished to keep their farm up-to-date and approximately one third said that they preferred to see how things developed before making changes. This should be taken into account in the communication about SDC and its goals. Advisors can play an important role in this because they influence the dairy farmers' decisions to implement sustainability measures. However, to be able to do that, they need to know SDC first.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationKnow Your Food
EditorsD.E. Dumitras, I.M. Jitea, S. Aerts
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9789086868131
ISBN (Print)9789086862641
Publication statusPublished - May 2015


  • Advisors
  • Dairy industry
  • Farmers
  • Sustainable dairy farming


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