Professor Leo den Hartog, Director of R & D at Trouw Nutrition, and Professor of Sustainable Animal Nutrition in Production Chains at Wageningen University, knows there is a big challenge facing all food producers, and especially dairy producers, as world population is slated to increase from our current seven billion to an incredible nine billion by the year 2050. On a global level the demand for animal proteins will increase even more dramatically than that. As people can afford quality protein, he projects there will need to be a 53% increase in milk production in that time frame. Looking at it on an even grander scale, that means that dairy farmers will need to produce more milk in the coming four decades than they have produced in the past 8,000 to 10,000 years!
Can this be accomplished? Yes, says Professor den Hartog. But only if it is done in a sustainable way. While it is true that feeding billions more people could be accomplished by simply having more animals which produce more food, that would be bad for emissions and ultimately bad for the environment. The other, more environmentally-friendly way, is to figure out a way to make the animals we already have, more efficient. This is the path Professor den Hartog favours. He says that to accomplish this we must have sustainability through innovation.
Indeed, Professor den Hartog feels that key to that innovation is increasing the efficiency of the food animals we already have through new technologies, such as the sustainable solutions Trouw Nutrition is putting forward through scientific research. By increasing the productivity of each animal, a smaller number of animals can, in fact, produce a larger amount of food. An example of recent research in this area (by Soberon, et al., 2012) has shown that by feeding heifer calves an elevated plane of nutrition prior to weaning, when those heifers in turn calve and lactate, they produce significantly more milk than those fed lower planes of nutrition. It's this type of innovative breakthrough which can help us achieve the increase in dairy production which will be needed in the coming decades, without increasing emissions. Professor de Hartog believes this type of sustainable solution is not only better for the environment, but it is also better for the profitability of all who work in the dairy sector!