Again more cattle grazing

The practice of pasture grazing for dairy cows has increased for the second year in a row. In 2018, 71 percent of Dutch dairy cows were allowed to graze outside, up from 65 percent in 2016. The share of farms that allows grazing for their herd has gone up for the third consecutive year. This is evident from provisional results in the 2019 Agricultural Census conducted by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), in which farmers were asked about grazing practices in 2018.

Grazing practices (%)
JaarDairy herdFarms with dairy herds
20117180
20127079
20137078
20146976
20156576
20166577
20176878
2018*7180
*provisional figures
 

According to the Agricultural Census, 71 percent of the 1.6 million dairy cows in the Netherlands grazed outdoors in 2018. This was still 65 percent in 2015 and 2016. In the period 2010–2015, the share of grazing cattle declined from 74 to 65 percent.

Dairy herd (million)
CategoriesOn pastureIn sheds
20101.100.38
20111.040.43
20121.040.44
20131.090.46
20141.080.49
20151.050.57
20161.140.61
20171.160.54
2018*1.120.46
*provisional figures

More farms practicing grazing

In 2018, the share of pasture-based dairy farms rose for the third year in a row, reaching 80 percent. A contrasting trend was seen in the period 2011–2015, with more and more dairy farmers keeping their cattle indoors. On 77 percent of the farms, all dairy cows were allowed out of their sheds, against 3 percent of dairy farms where only part of the herd was allowed to go outside. Twenty percent of all dairy farms keep their herd in stables throughout the year. In 2018, these primarily larger farms accounted for 30 percent of the total dairy herd.

Farms with dairy herds (%)
JaarOn pastureIn sheds
201179.8420.16
201278.9821.02
201377.5822.42
201476.0124.00
201575.6024.40
201676.5023.50
201778.2121.80
2018*80.0020.00
*provisional figures

Primarily larger farms opt for partial outdoor grazing

Larger farms (with more than 160 dairy cows) are more likely to opt for partial outdoor grazing. Across the entire dairy sector, 4 out of 100 farms apply this pasture system. The share is slightly under 1 in 100 for larger farms. The share of farms with 160 or more dairy cows where the animals went outside for grazing did continue to rise in 2018 to 59 percent. This was still 53 percent in 2016.

Farms with grazing cattle including partial outdoor grazing, by farm size (%)
Bedrijfsgrootte2018*2016
Fewer than 4092.0091.02
40 to 5989.0089.52
60 to 7986.0082.57
80 to 9982.0079.59
100 to 11976.0072.49
120 to 1397366.63
140 to 1597062.21
160 and over5953.37
*provisional figures

Less grazing per day

A trend among pasture-based dairy farms is to keep their herd outside for shorter periods of time. In 2018, grazing cattle spent on average 1,648 hours on pasture, versus 1,941 hours in 2013. This reduction in grazing time is partly related to farm expansion and increased use of the partial grazing system. In Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland, dairy cows spent most of their time on pasture, but even in these provinces they receive fewer grazing hours.

Average grazing hours for grazing cattle, 2013 ( hours per year)
ProvincieNumber of grazing hours per year
Groningen (PV)2202
Friesland(PV)2003
Drenthe(PV)1880
Overijssel(PV)1628
Flevoland(PV)1896
Gelderland(PV)1780
Utrecht(PV)2105
Noord-Holland(PV)2715
Zuid-Holland(PV)2497
Zeeland(PV)2225
Noord-Brabant(PV)1486
Limburg(PV)1879


Average grazing hours for grazing cattle, 2018* (hours per year)
ProvincieNumber of grazing hours per year
Groningen (PV)2017
Friesland(PV)1775
Drenthe(PV)1552
Overijssel(PV)1379
Flevoland(PV)1577
Gelderland(PV)1421
Utrecht(PV)1840
Noord-Holland(PV)2447
Zuid-Holland(PV)2137
Zeeland(PV)1640
Noord-Brabant(PV)1175
Limburg(PV)1444
*provisional figures