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Theme Symposium: Grassland and forages in high output dairy farming systems

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The end of the milk quota system in 2015 represents an additional major change for the European dairy sector. Many countries anticipate this change by exploring the possibilities and constraints of scaling up and intensification. The Symposium “Grassland and forages in high output dairy farming systems” in June 2015, focused therefore on a particular aspect of the European grassland community, i.e. intensive animal production systems. The issue of food security is asking for high output from agricultural systems. A major question is the extent to which societal demands, such as animal welfare and grazing, can be met in intensified production systems. Will further optimization of grassland management enhance profitability and reduce environmental pressure of farming systems?

The symposium focused on high output at farm level (milk production per ha). Furthermore, it focused on Europe and the European societal needs, such as those defined by the European Commission.

Sub-theme 1: High output dairy farming systems

This sub-theme focused on the regional level. Keynote speakers from a number of different regions were invited to address their regional farming systems in their specific context, the problems encountered within those farming systems and, if possible, the solutions found.

Sub-theme 2: Grassland and fodder crops in high output systems

This sub-theme focused on the field level. It focused on the optimal use of grassland and fodder crops in high output dairy farming systems. Key words in this theme were: production, utilisation, use, optimisation. Both mowing and grazing were part of this theme. The benefits of grazing are acknowledged in many countries. Current trends, like scaling and the increased use of automated milking, however, cause a decline in the popularity of grazing.

Sub-theme 3: High output and high (eco)efficiency

This sub-theme focused on the farm level. The sub-theme examined “sustainable intensification” in profitable animal production systems, where yields are improved without damaging ecosystems, animal integrity and consumer concerns. Optimising nutrient balances was part of this sub-theme. Eco-efficient farms are farms with maximum output, minimum use of resources and minimum effect on the environment.