Belgium - Flanders

In Flanders about 7,800 farms produce milk, of which approx. 4,000 are specialized dairy farms, while others are mixed, most often combining dairy and arable crops. The dairy sector is the third most important sector in Flanders, after pig farming and vegetable production. They make use of about 50-55 % of the total Flemish agricultural area to grow grass and forage maize. Most of the specialized dairy farms are located in the province of Antwerp (Noorderkempen), there are also a lot of farms in the Flemish Ardennes (south part of the province East-Flanders) and in the Pajottenland (province of Flemish Brabant).

Environmental regulations and main constraints

Agriculture in Flanders is characterised by an intensive use of the limited space, leading to high consumption levels of mineral fertilizer, concentrate and pesticides, which in turn leads to a high pressure on the environment. In 2007 MAP3 started (MestActiePlan), and the entire Flemish region has been designated ‘Vulnerable region Water’, and there are additional limitations for nature- and forest areas, and phosphate-saturated areas. Farm plots that have several restrictions placed on them, have the most strict limitations. Maximum amount of N depends on the soil type (sandy vs. non-sandy soils), and on type of crop. For grass, a max of 350 kg N/ha (max. 170 kg N/ha manure (including grazing) and max. 250 kg N/ha mineral fertilizer) is allowed, for maize this is limited to 275 kg N/ha (max. 170 kg N/ha manure (including grazing) and max. 150 kg N/ha). These numbers apply to regions with the least restrictions, but without derogation.

P2O5 is limited to 100 kg/ha on grass, and 85 kg/ha on maize. P2O5 from mineral fertilizer is not allowed (with some minor exceptions). In phosphate-saturated areas this is limited to 40 kg/ha.
Application period: 15 Febr – 31st August, and low emission techniques have to be used in slurry application. Main other problems are limited space (high competition with other users of this limited open space) and high land price (30,000 €/ha).

Water quality of the region

Two different networks of measure-sites exist in Flanders
The MAP-network, focusing on nitrates and phosphates in water in agricultural areas, and the ‘Operational Network Flemish Waters’, which has measure sites in the larger streams and rivers, and which are also influenced by industry, households, etc (not mainly agriculture).
In the MAP network there was a significant decline in nitrate concentrations in the water, between 1998 and 2003, but this has now stagnated. However, a further decline is still needed, as 37% of all MAP-measure sites still exceed the limit of 50 mg NO3/l at least once a year. On average the nitrate levels in water (for the MAP network) were 38 mg/l (2007-2008).
For phosphate we see a sharp decline in the Operational Network (at least until 2002), but no real decline in the MAP network. There are very strong annual fluctuations (weather conditions). Average phosphate concentrations are 0.4 mg/l (2006), which still exceeds the limit. Overall, phosphate concentrations are too high.

Average region information

Agriculture area 30 ha
Mineral fertilizer per ha 105 kg N
7.3 kg P (2006)
Dairy cows 38
Milk per cow 7,000 kg
Milk quota 380,000 kg
Main diet of the cows 30% grazed grassland
25% grazed silage+hay
45% maize silage
1,500-2,000 Kg concentrate/cows
Time in pasture and period 1 May - 1 November but highly variable (in some farms fulltime indoors)

Pilot Farms

  • Peeters-Konings Lv Dreveneind 33 2910 Essen
  • Cis Oostvogels Kleine Horendonk 15 2910 Essen
  • Juliaan De Keyser Breutheide 20 2890 Sint-Amands
  • Jef Noyens Desselsebaan 8 2460 Kasterlee
  • Bram Maes Orgelveld 1 9881 Bellem
  • Geert Buysse Beekstraat 53 /A 9968 Bassevelde
  • Bart Strubbe Blauwgoedstraat 1 9910 Ursel
  • Philip Sinnaeve Tervaetestraat 39 8600 Keiem
  • Maarten D'hoore Oedelemsestraat 21 8020 Oostkamp
  • Frederic Coens Rogiersveldstraat 15 8730 Oedelem
  • Nico Vanneste Praatstraat 2 8730 Oedelem
  • Luc Monbaliu Nieuwe Steenweg 3 8377 Zuienkerke