Project Code: D-102-20

Organisations involved: AgriSearch (N. Ireland); West Pomeranian University of Technology (Poland); Teagasc (Ireland); Kiel University (Germany); University of Ljubljana (Slovenia); Chamber of Agriculture (Lithuania); Wageningen Livestock Research (Netherlands); Research Centre for Animal Production (Italy); CRA-W (Belgium); Lorra (Spain); Inagro (Belgium); French Livestock Institute (IDELE) (France); Efficient Innovation (France); Aarhus University (Denmark); Lycee Technique Agricole (LTA) (Luxemburg); Facility of Agriculture and Food Sciences and Environmental Management (Hungary); Natural Resources Institute (Finland).

Project objective: The overall objective of R4D is to develop and strengthen a sustainable EU Thematic Network on “resilient and robust dairy farms”, designed to stimulate knowledge exchange and cross-fertilisation among a wide range of and stakeholders of the dairy industry.

Project aim: The aim of R4D is to widely disseminate relevant and ready-to-use best-practices based on innovations, facilitating knowledge exchange between farmers across the EU.

Background: The dairy production sector is the second largest agricultural sector in the EU, representing more than 12 % of total agricultural output. At the last official census (Eurostat, 2013), there were around 1.485 million dairy farms in the European Union, while in 2018, almost 23 million dairy cows were recorded to be within the EU. Milk represents the highest proportion of EU agricultural output by value and has the potential to be a key driver of future economic growth. However, to achieve this potential, growth must be delivered from sustainable production systems, providing viable incomes and an adequate quality of life to dairy farmers, which impact less on the environment. These challenges and opportunities have been brought into sharp focus by the ending of milk quotas in 2015, which removed regulatory constraints to expansion in milk production. The abolition of milk quotas coupled with a reduction in direct market support has been associated with increased uncertainty in the marketplace, more extreme price volatility, and shifts in relative competitiveness between different milk producing regions of the EU. 

Challenge: In recent years we have seen major changes in livestock farming: many dairy farmers are committed to increasing working hours with deteriorated working conditions and work/life balance. This situation is linked to the increased size and intensity of the farms which farmers have had to undertake to alleviate the effects of the price squeeze they have faced over the last 25 years. The future of the dairy farming sector in Europe will be heavily influenced by its capacity to respond to several challenges including: economics (such as low profitability), environmental changes (in part due to climate change), and new societal expectations, both from farming communities and citizens. Dairy farming must be profitable and economically viable for farmers, but it must also provide high quality products that take into account animal welfare and environment.

Action: There is a need to collect and transfer knowledge, tools and techniques to improve the profitability and resilience of dairy farms within countries and across Europe. To improve technical performance and resilience of their farms, dairy farmers need access to up-to-date knowledge, tools and techniques which are applicable to their specific conditions and systems, together with the skills, confidence and motivation to implement them.

To achieve this, R4D will be using a multi-actor approach to foster knowledge exchange across the nations in order to transfer key practical solutions which are ready to be put into practice on dairy farms. While all dairy farmers face challenges in terms of sustainability, their motivations and ability to access existing knowledge (either from other farmers or research) and to accept solutions to such challenges is variable. Thus, a bottom-up approach will be taken to identify farmers’ knowledge needs and to ensure that the dissemination of knowledge from good practices and research findings occurs through targeted and trusted channels. Furthermore, the multi-actor approach will aim to encourage cooperation between researchers, advisors, farmers and other actors to ultimately achieve greater acceptance of collected solutions amongst European dairy farmers.

AgriSearch Role: as Deputy Leader for WP1 within R4D, AgriSearch will act as a farm facilitator for Northern Ireland, connecting innovative and resilient farms, as well as relevant stakeholders, with the wider thematic network.  

Click HERE for a flyer on R4D project.