Reflections from EGF 2015

Reflections from EGF 2015

Thursday, July 30, 2015

15th – 17th June the European Grassland Federation (EGF) held their 18th Symposium, hosted by the Netherlands Society for Grass and Fodder Crops in Wageningen, also know as ‘Food Valley’. The theme of the symposium was Grassland and forages in high output dairy farming systems, which attracted diverse and topical paper and poster submissions under three linked sub-headings: High output dairy farming systems, grassland and fodder crops in high output systems and, high output and high (eco)efficiency.

The symposium provided a useful sounding-board for all in attendance with important overarching questions being raised from the outset. For example, does the term ‘high output’ mean the same for everyone and how re we measuring it, by value, by quality and/or by social and environmental benefits? Differences between dairy systems across Europe were compared and contrasted by a number of presenters providing country summaries. Trindade, H. pointed out the stark distinction between dairy production in the Azores and Northwest mainland dairy area in Portugal, the former being primarily from mixed holdings with an ideal climate for grass but confounded by limited availability of imported feeds, the later seeing a shift towards zero grazing and increased concentrates in recent decades. The apparent fear of ‘cows vanishing’ from fields across Europe was focused further by Klopcic, M., who gave an overview of dairy farming in Slovenia, where 43% of dairy farms have fewer than 10 cows and the average holding is 11ha.

The mid-symposium tour proved a highlight, taking in a grassland show for farmers, grass breeding plots and a visit to Aeres Praktijkcentrum Dronten, an agricultural college and commercial farm where students take charge, learning by doing, with eight week long management practical’s. Delegates were also treated to a photographic display of Dutch dairy farmer over the last 50 years, presented by longstanding members of the Netherlands Society. The display captured and charted the change from hand-rake and actual horse-power to automated electric fences, robotic milking and precision field application. A lingering question for many attendees may well be, what will a similar display depict in five decades time?

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