Environmental restrictions to impact on Dutch production

Published 4 May 16

Dutch farm minister, Martijn van Dam, has warned dairy farmers in the Netherlands that they must reduce the size of their herds to meet EU phosphate limits. The environmental targets come into force from 1 January 2017 and it is estimated, in total, Dutch farmers will have to cull up to 100k cows in order to comply with the new rules.

Dutch farmers will be issued with phosphate rights based on the cows they had in July 2015. Those rights will be tradable, allowing farmers who manage to cut phosphate production to sell their rights to other farmers.

The Netherlands produced more extra milk in 2015 than any other EU country. However, the environmental constraints are expected to dampen that expansion. To put it into context, the Netherlands produced 830m litres more milk in 2015 than in 2014. 100k dairy cows would be expected to produce around 750m litres per year. Therefore, removing these animals from the herd could almost completely reverse the production gains seen over the last year. In reality, the actual impact on volumes should be lower than this, with farmers looking to remove the poorer performing animals to keep within their phosphate limits.