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Identification of resilience factors of organic dairy cattle farms

Augustine Perrin, Magali San Cristobal, Rebecka Milestad and Guillaume Martin

Agricultural Systems, 2020, vol. 183, issue C

Abstract: Uncertain and changing agricultural contexts challenge the resilience of farms to disturbances. Organic farming has long been considered a niche practice and has provided farmers with a market that is more protected and regulated than that for conventional farming. However, the organic market is globalising, especially for the dairy sector. This globalisation exposes farms to higher volatility in organic milk price. Thus, identifying resilience factors for organic dairy farms is necessary to support farmers’' strategic decisions. Our objective was to identify factors that promote resilience of organic dairy cattle farms over time. We surveyed 81 organic dairy-cattle farms in six French regions. We collected data on farm structure (e.g. utilised agricultural area, number of cows) and on farmers' practices (e.g. calving period, grazing duration, date of turnout to grazing). Unlike most resilience assessments, which rely on technical and economic indicators and threshold values defined by experts, we used the evolution of farmers' satisfaction since they converted to organic farming as a surrogate for subjective (i.e. self-perceived) resilience. We postulated that stable or increasing well-being of farmers, which is visible through their satisfaction, would demonstrate subjective resilience of farms in a holistic way. Using sparse Partial Least Square regression, we related the evolution of farm structures and farmers' practices over time to the evolution of farmers' satisfaction in the face of a variety of disturbances (e.g. droughts, decrease in milk prices). Results showed that practices that focused on self-sufficient pasture-based grazing systems improved farmers' satisfaction and thus the subjective resilience of organic dairy cattle farms. On average, farmers who improved their satisfaction increased the duration of full grazing (i.e. no other feedstuff distributed) by 0.7 months and advanced the date of turnout to grazing by 6.5 days over a 10-year period. We developed an original method, based on farmers' perceptions, to assess the subjective resilience of farms to multiple disturbances (e.g. climatic, economic, health-related) and for the first time showed the potential of pasture-based grazing systems to promote the subjective resilience of organic dairy farms.

Keywords: Resilience; Farmer satisfaction; Dairy farming; Organic agriculture; Holistic approach (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.agsy.2020.102875

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