The dairy sector is one of the largest and most vital sectors in agriculture in The Netherlands. The dairy sector is highly specialised, horizontally concentrated, vertically integrated and increasingly international in its operation. *1 There are over 18,000 dairy farms in The Netherlands spread out over 1.2 million hectares of grassland and corn fields (28% of the total surface area of The Netherlands). 1.47 million dairy cows produce annually nearly 12 billion kilograms of milk which is converted into various dairy products. The Netherlands imports £2.3 billion worth of dairy products but exports £5.4 billion. 35% of dairy products are sold in The Netherlands, 45% are exported to the rest of the European Union and 20% of dairy products produced in The Netherlands are exported elsewhere. *1 In 2011, the dairy market was on a positive inclination. A combination of limited availability and increased demand during the first few months had led to a rise in prices. The prices for dairy products were more or less in line with inflation, when the economy is doing well the dairy sector excels. However when the economy has taken a turn for the worst, the consumption of dairy products reflects that. *1 Figure 1
The favourable progress of prices in the market for dairy products was reflected in a positive development of the milk price paid to farmers. Figure 1 (above) shows us the increasing prices for the various dairy products sold in The Netherlands. In 2011, the average price for milk was 14% higher than what was paid the previous year as shown above. *1 Europe has a milk quota system which limits milk production per Member State. Under the EU milk quota system, dairy farmers are allowed to produce up to a certain level of milk and milk fat. The milk quota system was introduced as a way to control production rates so the supply of milk doesn’t far exceed the demand. This milk quota is calculated over the period 1 April - 31 March of the subsequent year. In 2011, the total Dutch milk quota for deliveries to factories was more than 11.7 billion kilograms – this was exceeded by 0.5% (including the adjustment for fat content) which resulted in a super levy of £16.4 million. A super levy is a penalty to be paid to the EU for producing excess kilos of milk and milk fat. *1 Figure 2
As figure 2 shows you above, the total consumption of dairy products in The Netherlands has decreased slightly over the past few years. However in the EU, cheese consumption has increased. The consumption of cheese has remained relatively stable since 2005 and the average consumption of butter has been fluctuating for years. However, the consumption of milk has been on a downward trend recently. Compared to 2005, the average Dutchman drinks 7 kilograms less of milk. *1 Milk Production
In the past few years, there has been a decrease in the number of dairy cows yet an increase in milk yield as shown in figure 3 (below). This is due to the increased efficiency of milking. This could be due to the change in types of milking parlours. In 2005, the 3 main types of milking parlour found in dairy farms in The Netherlands was the herring bone parlour, the tied up stable and the tandem parlour at 67.5%, 14.8% and 7.0% respectively. In 2011, that had changed to be herring bone parlour, parallel parlour and automatic milking system at 52.6%, 15.3% and 13.8% respectively. *1 Housing Systems
Most farmers provide housing for their cows for part, if not all, of the year. Such housing might be required to provide animals with protection from adverse climatic conditions, to confine animals when grazing is not possible, or may simply allow easier control and management of the herd. *2 There are many farms where cows are housed for a significant period of the lactation and consequently shortcomings in housing systems become more noticeable. This can create significant adverse effects on animal...