Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Dairy farming in Netherlands

Agriculture contributes around 10% to the national economy in the Netherlands, while the milk production accounts for 1.2% of the national economy. Milk is produced at 20,000 farms, of which 95% are specialized dairy farms, keeping an average of 85 dairy cows.

The Dutch state began to get actively involved in agriculture for the first time around the turn of the 19th century. It encountered a large number of well-established, competitive and resilient farmers, especially in the coastal provinces. Dutch agriculture, along with British and Flemish agriculture, was the most productive in north-western Europe, both in terms of labour and land productivity.

The first butter and cheese cooperatives in the Netherlands were established in the late 19th century. They could force small traders and processors to pay more competitive prices to farmers or to stop trading. However, they could not redress international overproduction that depressed the milk prices and caused Dutch dairy farming to languish in the 1880s and 1890s.

After 1850, Dutch dairy farmers and cattle breeders profited from the rapidly increasing opportunities offered by expanding foreign markets. Herd book organizations were established to meet the demand for breeding cattle from abroad.

From the late 1920s, economic crisis and international oversupply caused another collapse in milk prices. The continuity of the Dutch dairy sector was threatened, so much that the government had tointervene. Marketing boards with representatives of farmers and processors were set up to organize the markets and maintain sustainable prices. Products that could not be sold domestically at these prices had to be exported.

After 1950 aims in cattle breeding were changed, as it appeared likely that in the near future the production of cheese would become more important than that of butter. At the same time it became clear that the one sided concentration on exterior appearance had led cattle breeding into a cul-de-sac. Consequently breeding programmes had to be developed which used new technologies in breeding, centralized milk recording and artificial insemination. At the same time, the need for a higher labor productivity encouraged the rapid spread of milking machines.

The process of intensification and modernization of the Dutch agriculture started around 1960 creating a type of farm that in academic circles became known as footloose agricultural farms.

The creation of this ‘new’ type of farm coincides with the expansion of dairy farming in the Netherlands, which–according to the Dutch dairy board –gained momentum after 1960. Indeed, dairy production, which is one of the most important production sectors in Dutch agriculture, grew enormously since the 1960s. Although the number of dairy farms decreased dramatically, the milk production per hour and per hectare showed a strong increase in particular until 1985.
Dairy farming in Netherlands

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