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A Europe-wide thematic network supporting a sustainable future for EU dairy farmers

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - EuroDairy (A Europe-wide thematic network supporting a sustainable future for EU dairy farmers)

Reporting period: 2016-02-01 to 2017-07-31

EuroDairy is a thematic network to increase the economic, social and environmental sustainability of dairy farming in Europe. Funded by the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (ISIB-2015-1 program under grant agreement No 696364), EuroDairy fosters the development and dissemination of practice-based innovations in dairy farming, targeting key sustainability issues following the abolition of milk quotas: socio economic resilience, resource efficiency, animal care, and the integration of milk production with biodiversity objectives. EuroDairy commenced on 1st February 2016 with an expected project duration of 36 months.
EuroDairy spans 14 countries, encompassing 40% of dairy farmers, 45% of cows and 60% of European milk output.
The project adopts the interactive model of the European Innovation Partnership (EIP), putting farmers at the centre of practice-based innovation, adapting and developing new and existing scientific knowledge to produce implementable solutions, which can then be shared across the network. In the EU regions, farmer-driven ‘Operational Groups’ come together to target specific problems or opportunities for the dairy sector. EuroDairy partners have been active to stimulate the establishment of these ‘multi-actor’ groups, and the network will link these cross-border, so that innovations identified in one country or region, can be shared with another. The project aimed to establish 120 innovating dairy farmers across Europe to demonstrate best practice, and push boundaries in the application of new knowledge. Specific objectives are, to:
1. Accelerate the uptake of best practice by exchanging knowledge on four priority themes (resource efficiency, biodiversity, animal care and socio-economic resilience)
2. Capture and/or stimulate further innovative practice in order to provide solutions, or overcome barriers to implementation
3. Synthesise the scientific and practice-based knowledge created, into user-friendly formats and training materials
4. Disseminate this information widely to European dairy farmers
5. Collate ideas from end-users for further innovation-driven research, and communicate these back to the EIP-AGRI network.
In its first 18 months
- EuroDairy has established 120 innovating pilot farms. Originally, these farms were intended to be drawn from Operational Groups funded by the Rural Development Programme (RDP) as part of the European Innovation Partnership (EIP). Given significant, ongoing delays in implementing EIP Operational Groups across member states, EuroDairy partners have had to proactively and independently recruit suitable farms.
- Many EuroDairy partners championed the implementation of the EIP at regional level, even before formal roll out of the H2020 programme. In the light of delays above, several partners established ‘unofficial’ Operational Groups from their own resources in order to progress. In some regions several EuroDairy partners have successfully led bids to establish ‘official’ Operational Groups funded by RDP.
- A methodology to collect, validate and analyse financial data on Pilot Farms was established, based on the European Dairy Farmers (EDF) cost of production model. On-farm data collection started from July 2017, aiming to collect financial performance data for two financial years (2016 and 2017).
- In addition to financial data, a EuroDairy Resource Efficiency tool was produced to capture nitrogen, phosphorous, and feed efficiency data.
- An existing biodiversity assessment tool (Biotex) was refined for use in the project. A subsample of 40 pilot farms will undergo a bio-diversity audit, beginning in Autumn 2017.
- The website was established. This is an ‘open learning platform’ centred on the four priority areas - animal care, resource efficiency, biodiversity and socio-economics. Interactive web tools embrace and open up the wisdom of the EuroDairy network, such as hosting free webinars (Join Me), sending surveys (SurveyMonkey), running discussion fora and an interactive GIS-map. In addition, the website carries news and inspiration from dairy farming across Europe. The growing network of Pilot Farms and Operational Groups may be seen graphically on the website.
- Production of webinars, technical leaflets, and videos has commenced. During the reporting period, there are have been: 8 webinars, 1 video case study, and 1 technical leaflet produced. These provide templates for deliverables planned for the remainder of the project. As further promotion to advisors, scientists and industry, poster presentations were given at European Grassland Federations (EDF) meetings in Norway (2016) and Sardinia (2017), and conference sessions at EAAP 2016 (Belfast) and 2017 (Tallinn) were held under the auspices of EuroDairy.
- Four cross-border farmer exchange visits were organized – Irish farmers to Flanders (Socio-economic resilience), UK to Netherlands (Antimicrobial use), UK to Netherlands (Novel housing systems), and France to UK (Socio-economic resilience). In addition, one technical workshop was run on novel housing systems.
- An initial inventory of innovations relevant to dairy farming has been compiled. This will be enhanced and refined over the course of the project, as a repository from which to draw technical content and inspirational ‘stories’ to communicate widely to dairy farmers.
- The first 18 months of the project have laid the foundations to capture and stimulate innovative actions and thinking, which will help the dairy industry to progress and become more sustainable.
- The network of 120 Pilot Farmers creates a strong pool of forward-thinking individuals, whose application of best practice will serve as an inspiration to other dairy farmers.
- The parallel capture over two years of financial performance and resource efficiency metrics will point to the gains which can be made towards economic sustainability. Biodiversity audits conducted on a third participating pilot farms will provide examples of how profitable dairy production can be combined with greater care for the environment.
- During the second half of the project we will move into running workshops, webinars and exchange visits driven by farmer interest and demand. These will deliver outputs directly relevant to our core themes – namely resource efficiency, animal care, socio-economic resilience and biodiversity, which have benefits not only for farmers but for wider society.
- Our aim is to reach over 60% of all end users (dairy farmers and professionals) via the website and a network of media contacts in the participating countries.
- The collaborative open learning tool created is multi-actor centred, highly participatory and open-sourced. In the coming months there will be some novel ICT approaches visible on the website, such as webcam techniques on pilot farms and 360-degree photos of KTC’s.
- The common language (English) is functioning well for researchers and advisors, but it limits cross border dissemination and exchange of knowledge to farmers as many are not familiar with English. Additional effort will be made to offer webinars and videos in local languages, using ‘voice-over’ and subtitles, producing and translating some deliverables in other languages and stimulating the transfer of English-language news and end-user products by advisers to farmers in their own mother tongue.
UK farmers exchange visit to Netherlands, April 2017
EuroDairy Pilot Farm, Slovenia, July 2016
EuroDairy at Knowledge Transfer Centre, Poisy, July 2017