Work package 3

Work package 3. Increase the sustainability of an integrated AM and cow grazing milk production system


  • Identify quantifiable sustainability indicators for integrated grazing and AM systems
  • Use indicators developed to test the sustainability of various AM technology on research farms
  • Develop an assessment tool to enable farmers to evaluate the sustainability of their AM system

WP Leader: AU, Dr. F.W. Oudshoorn

Description of work

Sustainability is a key condition for future dairy systems. The systems and technological tools to be developed, demonstrated and disseminated in this project will be evaluated using a well-defined framework for sustainability assessment (Mollenhorts et al. 2008; Oudshoorn et al, 2011). This will firstly be tested on the research farms involved in WP 1 and WP 2. The ability of the dairy farmer to conduct a sustainability assessment of the system is critically important to ensure long term optimization. Therefore, ‘Monitor Farms’ will be included in this WP. A decision support tool specific to sustainability will be developed. The operation of this tool will be refined to evaluate sustainability onfarm, as defined by a range of criteria (e.g. energy and water usage, carbon footprint, cow fertility, lameness and milk quality) and to ensure sustainability proofing for subsequent modification and optimization on-farm. Economic sustainability of the ‘Monitor Farms’ will also be examined while a further full economic analysis will be conducted separately in WP 4. The sustainability tool will be placed on the SME farm in Denmark to test its workability and effectiveness. Weighting of the different sustainability criteria will be studied in sensitivity analyses. Non-quantifiable parameters concerning ethical and cultural background will also be included.


Task 3.1 To identify quantifiable sustainability indicators for integrated grazing and AM systems

Task leader: AU, Frank Oudshoorn

Involved partners: AU, WLR, IDELE, TEAGASC

To identify sustainability indicators for different grazing strategies and technologies within an AM system on-farm, a participatory analysis on the relevant sustainability issues will be conducted in DK, NL, F, and IRE. These countries will be able to present the range of dairy production systems which are in focus (see state of art). Stakeholders ‘including ‘Monitor Farms’, processing industry and consumers will be interviewed by questionnaire, asking which issues they would address as critical concerning future dairy systems, incorporating cow grazing and AM. Responses will be analyzed, assessed for relevance by the RTDs, and presented to stakeholders in each of the countries, using focus groups, requested to give feed-back on the results. A definitive decision on the sustainability indicators which identify the issues of concern will follow. The framework for assessment may contain some indicators common to different regions and others specific to regions, but will be standardized for use in the different partner countries. The actual participatory activities will be conducted by the national RTD’s. This framework will then be applied to assess the sustainability of the AM systems on Research Farms, incorporating a fixed robot (WP 1) and mobile and carousel robots (WP 2).

Task 3.2 Registration of ‘Monitor Farms’

Task leader: VFL, Thomas Andersen


Four to six farms in each consortium country will be registered as ‘Monitor Farms’ for a 2-year period. They will be recorded in WP 5. The selection of farms will be a joint decision between the national SMEAG and RTD. The ‘Monitor Farms’ will be selected using criteria such as current effective integration of cow grazing and AM system, data capture ability, previous association with recording techniques, etc. Measurement systems for data collection on sustainability indicators identified and defined in Task 3.1 (e.g. energy and water usage, carbon footprint, cow fertility, lameness, milk yield and quality, labour time, etc. ) will be put in place on the farms. Economic data will be secured from the accounts of the ‘Monitor Farms’ using the appropriate data capture system for specific countries. Next to this, all of these measurement systems will be put in place on the SME end-user partner farm (SME FARM DK). Management practices modeled on those outlined in WP1 and WP 2 will be advised and promoted as far as possible, for implementation on the ’Monitor Farms’. This approach will ensure provision of farmcentric data for assessment and sensitivity analysis.


Task 3.3 Sustainability assessment of data from ‘Monitor Farms’

Task leader: TEAGASC, Laurence Shalloo

Involved partners: TEAGASC, AU, IDELE, WLR

A state of the art evaluation process of the indicators (Meul et al., 2008) will be used as default to assess the data from the registered ‘Monitor Farms’ with respect to sustainability indicators defined in Task 3.1 and registered according to Task 3.2. Economic sustainability will be assessed in Task 4.2. The method anticipates use of different “gold standard” measures for different dairy strategy goals. The results of the evaluation will be examined in association with the national stakeholders in each partner country to ensure that due recognition is given to non- quantifiable parameters, e.g. ethical and cultural values. A template for evaluation on these issues will be made from an anthropo-technical angle (Oudshoorn et al., 2008) using experts from AU and IDELE. It is envisaged that practices tested and proven to be positive in WP 1 and WP 2 will be implemented on the ‘Monitor Farms’ in WP 3, thus contributing to a process of continuous positive development which will be part of the dissemination (WP 5) activities. Data from the ‘Monitor Farms’ will also be used as input for modeling of sensitivity. Sensitivity modeling (e.g. DairyWise, FarmGHG, MOTIFS) will be used to identify the relative influence of different parameters on sustainability, thus allowing modification of these parameters, leading to optimization of sustainability.


Task 3.4 Sustainability assessment tool for farmers

Task leader: AU, Frank Oudshoorn

Involved partners; AU, WLR, IDELE, TEAGASC, IGA, SME FARM DK

A sustainability assessment tool will be developed using the sustainability data as it comes on stream, with the knowledge of and in accordance with the respective farmers. This will, over time, enable the farmers to evaluate the sustainability of their AM system. The tool will be a web based program, where farmers every month have to upload farm data (input/ output) and process data (e.g. animal treatments, labour time). Their individual goal for “gold standards” of economic (e.g. farm income, costs), environmental (e.g. GHG emissions, ammonia emissions, nitrogen leaching, energy consumption) and social issues (animal health, milk quality, family life) will be used for on-line assessment. The tool will be put in operation on the partner SME end-user farm in Year 3 and validated on its effectiveness and usability. Feed-back from stakeholders will be collected by organizing a thematic day where the tool will be presented, and possible usage for bench marking of dairy production evaluated.