Jeanet is a dairy farmer and board member of LTO dairy farming – LTO is the Dutch Organisation for agri- and horticulture. She has a passion for dairy cows. The combination of owning a dairy farm with her husband, an MSc-degree of Wageningen University and international experience provide an excellent blend to take care for farmers interests.
Dairy farming in a circular economy
Circular economy essentially is all about the transition from a linear economy, with ending resources (take, make, dispose), towards an economy in which resources and products stay within the cycle (waste does no longer exist).
While working in and with biological processes farmers have always been working in a sort of circular economy, being essential to have a long term (generations) focus. But they can still contribute largely to a more circular economy. For example by improve efficient use of resources, toe re-use waste and by production of energy from natural resources.
Efficient use of resources can be found in increasing longevity of dairy cows, in saving energy, an efficient use of the N, P and C in the mineral cycles and by lowering impact on biodiversity, water- and air quality. More efficient use of minerals is also economically interesting. It makes a good match when lowering costs by purchasing less minerals can be combined with a lower environmental impact.
The re-use of waste, for example manure, has a wide spectrum. Manure itself is already a good fertilizer, but by using new technology manure can be converted into more specialized organic fertilizer products. The increased interest in biomass as a source of e.g. building blocks, clothing and packing material provides new opportunities to add value to waste.
Dairy farmers also have many opportunities to deliver renewable energy through solar panels, windmills and biogas production. Currently the agricultural sector in the Netherlands is a net producer of energy. An enormous achievement which also provides new models for earning an income.
The steps towards a more circular economy will of course be challenging, but I am also convinced it will provide many more new opportunities for dairy farmers.