Dairyman is an Interreg IV B North-West Europe project which kicked off in September 2009 with the aim of optimising the socioeconomic and environmental performance of dairy farms in Western Europe. The Dairyman project brings together partners from the Netherlands, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg and Belgium. As coordinator of the Walloon part, CRA-W set up and monitored a network of pilot farms throughout the study area with the aim of helping to maintain the overall sustainability of the dairy sector.
The project was divided into three main stages. First of all, an inventory of sustainability and environmental legislation within each region was made. This took the form of two regional reports for Wallonia and an interregional report for all of the partners. Secondly, a network of pilot farms was set up throughout the study area. To assist farmers with strategic planning and decision making, personalised optimisation plans were created and a user manual describing the method was written. Training was offered on topics including grazing management, permanent grassland, lameness problems and biomethanisation techniques, according to farmers’ particular requirements. Some management tools were also made available on line, namely Opticroit, designed to optimise the age at first calving, and UniRat, to help formulate a ration commensurate with production levels and farm-produced feed. In addition, data sheets were compiled containing specific advice on a number of issues such as grazing management, plot management, lameness problems, working hours, nitrogen catch crops and energy consumption and made available to farmers, colleges and advisors. Lastly, a network of knowledge transfer centres was set up in order to test innovations, the results being disseminated via summary sheets. The network is also a forum for exchanging knowledge generated between the partners and the various stakeholders in the agricultural sector (students, advisors, farmers, etc.)
The Dairyman project was hailed as a model project by the European Commission at the conference held in Brussels on 19 November 2012 under the title ‘European Innovation Partnership on Agricultural Productivity and Sustainability – Priorities and Delivery Mechanisms’. A closing seminar was held on 2 July and the project will come to an end on 31 August 2013. In view of the farmers’ keenness to take part in the project and the numerous results generated, another project with some new partners is in preparation.