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Communicative farm-specific diagnosis of potential simultaneous savings in costs and natural resource demand of feed on dairy farms


  • Huysveld, Sophie
  • Van Meensel, Jef
  • Van linden, Veerle
  • De Meester, Steven
  • Peiren, Nico
  • Muylle, Hilde
  • Dewulf, Jo
  • Lauwers, Ludwig


Feed plays a key role for dairy farmers to produce in an environmentally sustainable and competitive way. It determines both costs and natural resource demand. In this paper, we investigated whether and how dairy farms could simultaneously reduce feed costs and overall natural resource use in the feed supply chain without reducing farm revenues. We applied the frontier method Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) on a data sample of specialized dairy farms in the region of Flanders (Belgium). Results showed potential simultaneous savings in costs and natural resources (up to 48%). This could mainly be achieved by increasing technical efficiency (proportionally minimizing the feed inputs, i.e. (i) on-farm produced roughage feed and (ii) purchased feed, consisting of concentrates and by-products) and to a lesser extent by increasing allocative efficiency (substituting these feed inputs up to a cost and/or natural resource use minimizing allocation). We offered farm advisors starting points to identify concrete improvement actions for individual farms, by graphically presenting improvement paths and by relating DEA's outcomes to Key Performance Indicators they are familiar with. High cost and natural resource efficiencies were related with (i) high milk production per cow obtained with as little as possible purchased feed, and (ii) low on-farm roughage production costs per ha associated with lower contract work costs and a lower proportion of grasslands in the available on-farm area. Finding a good equilibrium of purchased feed amounts and stocking density seemed to play a substantial role in optimizing allocative efficiency. Analysis with different frontier methods showed that the shape of the frontier influences the quantified improvement margins and the diagnosis of win-win and trade-off situations. Further research should focus on (i) the accuracy of the constructed frontier, (ii) relations with emission-related impacts and (iii) possible trade-offs between different resource types.

Suggested Citation

  • Huysveld, Sophie & Van Meensel, Jef & Van linden, Veerle & De Meester, Steven & Peiren, Nico & Muylle, Hilde & Dewulf, Jo & Lauwers, Ludwig, 2017. "Communicative farm-specific diagnosis of potential simultaneous savings in costs and natural resource demand of feed on dairy farms," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 150(C), pages 34-45.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:agisys:v:150:y:2017:i:c:p:34-45
    DOI: 10.1016/j.agsy.2016.09.020

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Van linden, Veerle & Herman, Lieve, 2014. "A fuel consumption model for off-road use of mobile machinery in agriculture," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 880-889.
    2. Tim Coelli & Ludwig Lauwers & Guido Huylenbroeck, 2007. "Environmental efficiency measurement and the materials balance condition," Journal of Productivity Analysis, Springer, vol. 28(1), pages 3-12, October.
    3. Léopold Simar & Paul W. Wilson, 1998. "Sensitivity Analysis of Efficiency Scores: How to Bootstrap in Nonparametric Frontier Models," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 44(1), pages 49-61, January.
    4. 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.
    5. Van Meensel, Jef & Lauwers, Ludwig & Van Huylenbroeck, Guido & Van Passel, Steven, 2010. "Comparing frontier methods for economic-environmental trade-off analysis," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 207(2), pages 1027-1040, December.
    6. Torsten Hemme & Mohammad Mohi Uddin & Oghaiki Asaah Ndambi, 2014. "Benchmarking Cost of Milk Production in 46 Countries," Journal of Reviews on Global Economics, Lifescience Global, vol. 3, pages 254-270.
    7. Basset-Mens, Claudine & Ledgard, Stewart & Boyes, Mark, 2009. "Eco-efficiency of intensification scenarios for milk production in New Zealand," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(6), pages 1615-1625, April.
    8. Huysveld, Sophie & Van linden, Veerle & De Meester, Steven & Peiren, Nico & Muylle, Hilde & Lauwers, Ludwig & Dewulf, Jo, 2015. "Resource use assessment of an agricultural system from a life cycle perspective – a dairy farm as case study," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 77-89.
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