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The impact of farm size on sustainability of Dutch dairy farms


  • van der Meulen, H.A.B.
  • Dolman, M.A.
  • Jager, J.H.
  • Venema, G.S.


Sustainable milk production systems require economically viable, environmentally sound and socially acceptable practices. This study compared the economic, environmental and societal impact of large-scale farms with other dairy farms in the Dutch Farm Accountancy Data Network (FADN). Moreover the integrated sustainable performance of large-scale dairy farms was explored. To quantify the impact of farm size on economic performance, we used net farm income (NFI), labour productivity and solvency. We quantified environmental performance using indicators on non-renewable energy use, greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions, phosphorus surplus and pesticides use. To quantify societal performance, we used indicators on milk quality, cow lifetime and grazing hours. Large-scale dairy farms had a higher labour productivity and NFI than other dairy farms, without compromising on phosphorus surplus, energy use or ghg emission. Higher profits were accompanied by a lower solvency ratio on large-scale farms. Pesticides use, however, was higher on large-scale dairy farms due to a lower share of grassland. Large-scale farms had a shorter cow lifetime and applied less grazing compared to other dairy farms. For societal performance, current FADN does not have the potential to assess animal welfare using preferred animal-based indicators.

Suggested Citation

  • van der Meulen, H.A.B. & Dolman, M.A. & Jager, J.H. & Venema, G.S., 2014. "The impact of farm size on sustainability of Dutch dairy farms," International Journal of Agricultural Management, Institute of Agricultural Management, vol. 3(2), pages 1-5, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:ijameu:200241
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.200241

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Klaas Calker & Paul Berentsen & Gerard Giesen & Ruud Huirne, 2005. "Identifying and ranking attributes that determine sustainability in Dutch dairy farming," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 22(1), pages 53-63, March.
    2. Thomassen, M.A. & Dolman, M.A. & van Calker, K.J. & de Boer, I.J.M., 2009. "Relating life cycle assessment indicators to gross value added for Dutch dairy farms," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(8-9), pages 2278-2284, June.
    3. van Calker, K.J. & Berentsen, P.B.M. & Romero, C. & Giesen, G.W.J. & Huirne, R.B.M., 2006. "Development and application of a multi-attribute sustainability function for Dutch dairy farming systems," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(4), pages 640-658, June.
    4. van Calker, K.J. & Berentsen, P.B.M. & Giesen, G.W.J. & Huirne, R.B.M., 2008. "Maximising sustainability of Dutch dairy farming systems for different stakeholders: A modelling approach," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 407-419, April.
    5. Blank, Steven C. & Erickson, Kenneth W. & Nehring, Richard & Hallahan, Charles, 2009. "Agricultural Profits and Farm Household Wealth: A Farm-level Analysis Using Repeated Cross Sections," Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 41(1), pages 207-225, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sulewski, Piotr & Kłoczko-Gajewska, Anna, 2018. "Development of the sustainability index of farms based on surveys and FADN sample," Problems of Agricultural Economics / Zagadnienia Ekonomiki Rolnej 276476, Institute of Agricultural and Food Economics - National Research Institute (IAFE-NRI).


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