Nieuws - 11 oktober 2011

Dijkhuizen annoys Friesland Campina

Dairy company Friesland Campina is 'not amused' by Executive Board Chairman Aalt Dijkhuizen's statements about putting cows out to pasture.

Dairy farmers should be cautious about putting cows out to pasture, said Dijkhuizen early October at a meeting for young farmers. 'Having all the cows outdoors on pasture costs a farmer revenue.' He is referring to the high-productivity cows that currently are kept in barns and produce about thirteen thousand litres of milk a year. Their production levels will fall substantially if you put them out to pasture. 'If no-one is willing to pay for that, farmers will be putting themselves at a disadvantage.'
Friesland Campina Director Cees 't Hart is not pleased. He feels Dijkhuizen is undermining the case for pasture when it is very important for dairy farming's image. 'There is still broad public support for dairy farming precisely because many cows are still kept in natural conditions.'

Initially, Friesland Campina wanted grazing in pasture to be compulsory. However, following protests from its members it now wants to use a pasture milk bonus to encourage grazing outdoors as part of its policy of sustainability. The dairy company has a members' meeting planned soon and putting cows out to pasture will be the main item on the agenda.

Fewer and fewer cows graze outdoors. A study by CLM shows that the proportion of cows that never go outdoors increased between 2006 and 2011 from 17 percent to 26 percent. Dairy farmers are expecting a further increase to 45 percent over the next five years.

During the meeting, Dijkhuizen pointed to the benefits of keeping cows in a barn such as the more efficient feed conversion and the lower emissions of greenhouse gases. He advocates more intensive dairy farming. 'A farmer should have as little land as possible and as many kilos per hectare as possible', he claimed in farming journal Nieuwe Oogst. 't Hart on this subject: 'I think there are quite a few holes in Dijkhuizen's arguments. But there is only one thing that matters to Friesland Campina: consumers. And they want cows grazing in fields.'