02 February 2024

Slight decline in grazing, possibly due to sustainability concerns and extreme weather

After years of growth, last year saw a slight drop in the number of dairy farms grazing their cattle. Various sustainability concerns may offer an explanation, but last year’s extreme weather did not help, either.

In 2023, 82.8% of all Dutch dairy farms practiced partial or full grazing. This is a slight decrease from the previous year. Last year, 77% of dairy farms were fully grazing, 5.8% partially. The latest figures were published in ZuivelNL’s annual report.

Extreme weather conditions in 2023 may have been a reason for some dairy farms not to graze cows or to graze them less. Dairy farms may have also placed less emphasis on grazing due to various sustainability concerns. Keeping cows in barns, for example, can help reduce their carbon emissions.

The grazing percentage of 82.8% is still above the 81.2% target set in 2014 in the Grazing Covenant, signed by more than eighty organizations to support grazing practices on dairy farms. These organizations share research and knowledge, provide financial incentives, and mentor new grazers. Thanks to the Covenant and the efforts of dairy farmers, the proportion of grazing has increased since 2014.

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