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Which road could cattle production take?

Researchers from Aarhus University will describe future sustainable cattle production systems by setting up a range of future scenarios. This will be done in collaboration with Seges, Arla and others from the industry in order to support a sustainable, holistic and balanced development of cattle production.

2017.11.15 | Janne Hansen

Which routes should future cattle farming take? A new research project at the Department of Agroecology aims to shed light on this. Photo: Jesper Rais

Financial turnover on a cattle farm is bound to payment on interest on loans and relatively long-term investments in land, machinery, buildings and housing system technology. Future expectations are therefore important for being able to develop the farm within the framework of the production on a 15-20-year time horizon. 

How can cattle production of the future develop when animal welfare, economics, environment, climate and other sorts of things need to be taken into consideration? Which possibilities are there, and which routes are the best to take? A new research project under the leadership of the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University seeks to find answers to these questions. 

- We are not trying to predict the future via a projection of previous developments, but to get pictures of how the future could be under various given circumstances, says the leader of the project associate professor Lisbeth Mogensen from the Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University. 

Detailed descriptions of various scenarios

The first step will be to identify possible routes of development for cattle farms within six main areas, namely breeding, feeding and feed production, daily management technologies, housing and milking, marketing, and consumer and societal demands. The researchers will delve into details and investigate factors such as crop choice, weighting of traits in breeding goals, data use, animal behavior, expected consumer demands with regard to milk and meat, climate impact, and targeted nutrient regulation. 

Results of these efforts will be presented at a workshop aimed at identifying various typologies or future cattle production scenarios. A broad segment of people who may be able to help re-think cattle production will be invited to this workshop. 

In the last phase of the project, the scientists will use models to describe the consequences of the various future scenarios on farm productivity and economy as well as derived effects on environment, climate, biodiversity, and market potential.

- We expect that the results from the project will inspire farmers, consultants and politicians as to how different developmental routes for future Danish cattle farms can support a sustainable, holistic and balanced cattle production, thus ensuring that cattle production fulfils future demands with regard to marketing, consumer expectations and societal demands in relation to climate, environment and animal welfare, says Lisbeth Mogensen. 

Facts about the project:

Title: Fremtidens helhedsorienterede og balancerede kvægbedrifter (Holistic and balanced cattle farms of the future)

Granted: 856,000 Danish kroner from Mælkeafgiftsfonden (Milk Levy Fund) and 200,000 Danish kroner from (Kvægafgiftsfonden) Cattle Levy Fund

Collaborative partners: Department of Agroecology, Department of Animal Science and Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Aarhus University, Seges, and Arla

Duration: Two years (2018-2019)

For more information please contact:

Associate Professor Lisbeth Mogensen, Department of Agroecology, email: lisbeth.mogensen@agro.au.dk, telephone: +45 8715 8025

Climate-Smart Agri-Food Systems is one of the research areas in which the Department of Agroecology is particularly strong and from which results are delivered in line with national and global societal challenges and goals.

Agro, DCA