Despite a milk processor premium for grazing, a third of the dairy cow population in the Netherlands is now housed all year round.

Dutch magazine Veepro Holland report that the public prefers to see cows grazing outdoors and processors such as Friesland Campina are trying to create the image of grass-based farming.

However, as they push for higher yields, farmers prefer the control of 100% indoor systems. Robot milking is now mainstream in the Netherlands, with 3,000 robot farms. One out of every two farms rebuilding their milking facilities is now opting for a robot milker.

Despite having a similar number of dairy farms – 18,000 – the Netherlands produces 11.8bn kg of milk, over twice Ireland’s 5bn kg. Growth of 20% by 2020 is forecast in the Netherlands. Environmental pressure is likely to be the main barrier to growth. Interestingly, in their article on Dutch expansion, the magazine mentions only one other country’s expansion plans – Ireland.

In 2013, the average Dutch dairy farm had 83 cows that produced over 650,000 litres of milk. This is an increase from 51 cows in 2000. The total herd is 1.4m cows. The number of very large herds has also jumped. Five years ago a herd of 250 cows was a rarity in the Netherlands; today there are 275 herds with more than 250.

The forecast is for 700 such operations by 2016. Herds of over 1,000 cows are also emerging, but are attracting negative media attention.

They are branded as “megabarns”, according to Veepro Holland magazine.