Vulnerability to climatic and economic variability is mainly driven by farmers’ practices on French organic dairy farms

MaëlysBouttes , Magali San Cristobal, GuillaumeMartin, European Journal of Agronomy, Volume 94, March 2018, Pages 89-97

 

Abstract

 

The climatic and economic context of agricultural production is increasingly unpredictable and volatile. These issues raise questions about the vulnerability of agricultural systems, i.e. their ability to cope with, adapt to, or recover from the effects of a range of hazards. Applied to organic dairy farming, vulnerability relates to farm productivity and economic efficiency that remain controversial. Our objective was to show whether and how organic dairy farm vulnerability can be reduced by adapting agricultural diversity as well as land-use and herd-management intensities of farm configurations over time, along with contextual changes (both climatic and economic). We analyzed data from 51 organic dairy farms surveyed for 5–14 years in the northwest lowland plains and central mountains of France. Our method considered farm vulnerability as a function of the mean level of, trend in, and variability in productivity and economic efficiency and related these vulnerability variables to explanatory variables that illustrate farm exposure to climatic and economic variability and farm configurations over time using partial least square (PLS) regressions. The animal stocking rate in both regions was positively related to mean farm productivity, whereas concentrate (nutrient-rich feedstuffs e.g. soybean meal) distribution was negatively related to mean and trend of economic efficiency. On average, farm productivity responded positively to land-use intensification, but increasing farm economic efficiency required thrifty management and self-sufficiency with regard to animal feeding. Overall, it appeared that tradeoffs among vulnerability variables were driven by farmers’ practices rather than by interannual variability in rainfall amounts and energy or milk prices. This reveals that the extent to which farms must adapt to changes in the production context remains large and partly unexplored by most organic dairy farmers.

 

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