Agro-ecological Knowledge Hub



Key challenge

Economic viability of conventional and organic dairy farming without intensification of practices.

Key Dilemma

  • How to increase the economic viability of conventional and organic, largely grass-based, dairy farms while preserving biodiversity in grasslands and water resource quality?
  • How to ensure that all organic milk is processed into organic dairy products?

Key reseach questions

Dairy Farming

  • How to motivate organic farmers to maintain organic/ agro-ecological production?
  • How to motivate conventional farmers to transition to agro-ecological production?
  • How to raise the efficiency (and competitiveness) of dairy farms? (incl. increasing the size of herds and reducing the number of employees per cow, cooperation between farmers)?
  • How to increase productivity in terms of average milk yield and improve milk quality?
  • Which agro-ecological factors have a significant impact on dairy farming?

Dairy Product Production

  • How to diversify production and increase innovation in conventional/ organic dairy products for the local and regional market?
  • How to stimulate market demand for organic dairy products in the local market?

Short description of key characteristics

Case study area – National, country (NUTS 1 & NUTS 2 levels)

Focus of case study

  • Dairy cattle on grassland and arable land
  • Specialized Conventional Dairy vs Specialized Organic Dairy vs Specialized Organic Dairy + Field Crops

Key characteristics of the case study

  • The dairy sector is highly fragmented:
    • many small dairy farms with small herd size,
    • small number of large farms with large herd size;
    • many competing milk processors (c.a. 50 companies).
  • Dairy sector productivity is increasing, but remains comparatively low due to the fragmented small-scale farming structure.
  • Fragmentation results in weak position of producers in the milk food chain (dominated by big processors and retail chains), and overly high competition in processing sector.
  • Differing business models – some small and diversified farms selling their products locally and developing new artisan products vs efficient, highly modernised farms with market strategies allowing penetrating global markets vs “typical” family farms.
  • Several farm business models exist, but the most typical farm in Latvia is the “family farm”. There are an increasing number of highly modernised farms with market strategies oriented to global markets. Additionally, there are some small and diversified farms involved in direct sales who are developing new value-added niche products largely for the local market.

Key actors involved

  • Representatives of state institutions: Ministry of Agriculture, it’s affiliated institutions (Rural Support Service, Food and Veterinary Service, State Plant Protection Agency, Agriculture Data Centre); Ministry of Environment and Regional development, it’s affiliated institutions (State Environmental Service, State Environmental Bureau)
  • Experts from Organic Farming Certification Bodies
  • Trainers, educators, researchers: Rural Consultation and Training Centre; Agricultural University of Latvia, Institute of Agricultural Resources and Economics
  • Farmers and representatives from Farmer Associations: Latvian Agricultural Organization Cooperation Council, Farmers Parliament, Association of Latvian Organic Agriculture, Latvian Association of Agricultural Cooperatives, Latvian Dairy Committee
  • Organic/ Conventional Dairy Producers: “Tukuma Piens”, “Talsu Piens”, “Lazdonas Piensaimnieks”, “Cesvaines Piens”, “Trikatas Piens”, cooperative “Viļāni”, “Preiļu siers”
  • Representatives of Milk Logistics Companies: “Rigas Piensaimnieks”, “Piena Partneris”, “Talsu Piensaimnieks” and various Farmers Cooperatives
  • Representatives from various environmental NGOs: Latvian Fund for Nature, WWF-Latvia

Expected Results

  • Improved understanding of the sustainability (strengths/weaknesses) of conventional vs organic dairy farms of different sizes.
  • Identification of approaches to strengthen the viability/ sustainability of the conventional and organic dairy farming sector (particularly small and medium size dairy farms).
  • Identification of approaches to support transition to organic/ agro-ecological farming practices.
  • Identification of approaches to diversify production and stimulate innovation in conventional/ organic dairy production for the local and regional market.
  • Identification of approaches to stimulate market demand for conventional/ organic dairy products in the local market.


Dairy Farming in Latvia