06 December 2018

Brainstorming the optimisation of dairy farming

PROTECOW aims to help dairy producers in the Franco-Belgian border area to improve the results of their farming operations. The project is structured around three closely related criteria: protein autonomy, nitrogen efficiency and profitability.

Brainstorming the optimisation of dairy farming

What practices will improve your protein autonomy?

Nine strategies for improving the protein autonomy of dairy farms have been detailed in technical data sheets. These present a summary of the facts and figures, the implementation rules and an analysis of their advantages/disadvantages.


A more detailed analysis of the technical and economic impact of replacing the soya meal included in the dairy cow diet was also carried out. Five different practices were assessed: the use of rapeseed meal, intercrops, the improvement in the quality of harvested grass, the self-consumption of faba beans, and also the conversion to organic farming. These are included in the technical data sheets.

What’s happening in the field?

A cross-border club of 18 dairy farmers (6 French, 6 Flemish and 6 Walloon) has been set up. Valuable lessons can be learned from monitoring these farms and the resulting interaction. For example, analysis of their gross margins has led to two major observations. Marked differences in the prices paid for milk are observed in the revenues. These can be largely explained by the fat and protein content differences among farms. Between the 3 lowest and the 3 highest dairy farms, this variation is of the order of 4.5 and 1.5 (in g/kg). The difference in fat content is mainly due to the diet, and more specifically, the quality of the grass silage produced on the farms, and the extent to which it is incorporated into the cows’ feeding rations. In terms of costs, farmers produce the same amount of milk in all 3 regions (≈ 30 kg/cow/day in the spring of 2018), but the amount of concentrates is very different. This varies between 1970 and 1400 kg/cow. On farms with good quality, plentiful fodder, producers must question their use of production concentrate and its marginal efficiency.

In the current context, judicious expenditure and optimisation of production are the main weapons available to farmers who must respond to the volatility of prices. But what solutions can be readily implemented in the Franco-Belgian region? What impact do they have on farming in terms of autonomy and/or profitability? Enriched by the cross-border experience, the PROTECOW project is providing answers to these questions and food for thought for dairy farmers.     


For further information: www.interreg-protecow.eu

Five organisations, ACE and Idele (FR), Inagro and ILVO (FL) and CRA-W (W), are collaborating on this project. It is subsidised by European funding of the INTERREG V programme, the Walloon Region and the province of Western Flanders.

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