The aim of this study was to explore stakeholder perceptions of the contribution of an Automatic Milking System (AMS) to sustainable development of organic dairy production in Denmark and the Netherlands. In addition, reasons for the current difference in AMS use on organic dairy farms between both countries were explored. Farmers and advisors in both countries were interviewed using a focus group approach. Questions in the interviews were based on a literature review of sustainability issues affected by the introduction of AMS. Participants expressed no moral problems regarding AMS use. They, however, pointed out uncertainty about the economic gain, difficulties with grazing, adaptation problems to technology, and image problems for consumers. The latter results from a reduction in grazing time affecting both animal welfare and product quality. The participants did not recognize eutrophication, as a result of the high stocking density on farmstead lots, as a problem caused by AMS. The milk quality problem related to AMS use, although acknowledged as crucial to consumers, was not prioritized very highly, especially not by the farmers in both countries. All groups were, however, unanimous in their perception of how important image was as far as the consumers are concerned. The perception analysis revealed that Dutch participants were more concerned about the economic payoff of AMS use, and showed more reluctance towards enlargement than Danish ones. In addition, they acknowledged the small-scale naturalness of organic production. These differences in perception could possibly explain observed differences in AMS use in organic dairy production between Denmark and the Netherlands.
|Publication Title||Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics|
|Author Address||Department of Agricultural Engineering, University of Aarhus, Research Centre Bygholm, 8700 Horsens, Denmark. FrankW.Oudshoorn@agrsci.dk|
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