NLF in the Netherlands is an independent entity registered as Platform Natuurlijke Veehouderij- PNV), collaborating with Veterinary Knowledge Centre (VKON) and Wageningen Food Safety Research. Antibiotic use in Dutch dairy farming for mastitis control used to be high, especially dry cow treatment. Since 2014 – forced by government legislation – antibiotic use in the dairy sector was reduced 70%, including replacement of antibiotics for dry cow treatment with herbal products. Moreover, farmers have started to use herbs in the grassland and cattle feed. This posed a challenge due to lack of knowledge amongst farmers and veterinarians about this.

NLF strategy is being adapted to large-scale dairy farming. Over the past years more than 400 farmers and 50 veterinarians were trained on herbs in grasslands and safe use of ready-made herbal products. In 2022 Dutch farmers were under major stress due to environmental legislation of the EU, due to growing environmental degradation. The intensive dairy/livestock system is no longer complying with EU regulations. Carbon farming is an opportunity that is coming up.

Major achievements of NLF Netherlands in 2022 include:

  • Training veterinarians and farmers on herbs in grassland continues
  • In 2022 NLF Netherlands is the networking partner in Kennis op Maat (Adapted Knowledge) program on Herbal Products, coordinated by Wageningen University. Project phase 2 has now been approved: spreading knowledge on safety of herbal products in veterinary education & agricultural schools
  • Collaboration with commercial partners on safety of herbal products continues
  • Special NLF course within veterinary education is being set up

NLF Netherlands team

Sjoerd Miedema

Dairy farmer and President of board of NLF Netherlands. Together with his son Douwe, Sjoerd is an innovative organic dairy producer at his farm the Nije Mieden in Friesland, the Netherlands. Active members of dairy cooperation and environmental organizations in Northern Netherlands.  Other board members of NLF Netherlands are veterinarian Jan van der Zee (secretary) and agricultural scientist Jeroen de Vries (treasurer)

Dr. Maria Groot (DVM, Ph.D)

Former researcher at Wageningen Food Safety & Research, until her retirement in 2023. She did a PhD on histological screening for illegal use of hormones in livestock production systems. She has outstanding  expertise in the field of medicinal plants and herbal products, previously heading the Herbs and Animal Health project of Wageningen university as well as the study group Animals and Herbs of Netherlands Association for Phytotherapy (NVF). She has produced the so-called stable booklets for farmers, e.g. on dairy. As part of NLF in the Netherlands she is engaged in the course for veterinarians on safe us of herbal products. Currently engaged as an independent advisor (mariagrootadvies) and technical advisor of NLF.

Gerdien Kleijer (DVM)

veterinarian with wide experience in use of herbs and herbal products in livestock; independent consultant sustainable agriculture, health and food; strategic agricultural advisor of Ede municipality; and staff member of Institute of Ethnobotany and Zoofarmacognosy in the Netherlands. Co-founder and actively engaged in NVF (Netherlands Phytotherapy Institute).

Michiel Vreriks (MSc)

Social scientist heading the Veterinary Knowledge Centre East Netherlands (VKON) – which is focusing on research, knowledge sharing and training on animal health issues. Several of his colleague-veterinarians participated in the E-Motive exchanges and are currently engaged within several NLF Netherlands. This includes the NLF database for farmers and veterinarians (in Dutch) as well as pilots, for example on herbs to prevent calf diarrhea.

Chantal Duijn (DVM)

Coach for professionals in veterinary and agrarian sector. Active in Veterinary Service East Netherlands (VKON) and NLF Netherlands.

Marieke de Louw (DVM, phytotherapist)

expert in natural ways of dairy farming and herbal management for livestock health, including natural ways of worm control. Engaged in NLF Netherlands projects with veterinarians and dairy farmers

Erna Post (DVM)

Working at veterinary practice Olst-Wijhe, the Netherlands, with expertise in improving livestock and sustainable farming systems. Actively engaged in NLF Netherlands and NLF international since the NLF exchange program with India in 2026.

Dairy farming in the Netherlands

Since the 1960’s livestock production in the Netherlands has gone through a process of complete transformation towards large scale and intensive production systems. In the 1950’’s there were approximately 180.000 smallholder dairy farmers with an average of 9 cows per farm – nowadays around 16.500 large scale farmers with an average of 97 cows each.

This spectacular scale enlargement and increased productivity was accompanied by large scale use of artificial fertilizers, antibiotics, de-wormers, vaccination and other chemical inputs. Knowledge related to the use of herbs and natural products eroded over time, and is not included into curricula for veterinarian and farmers alike. Meanwhile, over time the process also resulted in severe environmental problems, such as loss of soil fertility, water quality and biodiversity. See also lessons learnt in Dutch dairy farming – and Dutch Farm Experience

In recent years we see a growing tendency towards the so-called ‘cycle approach’ and ‘nature-inclusive’ agricultural productions systems in the Netherlands. Herbs in the grasslands, replacing the mono-cultures with English Ray Grass, is increasingly common practice. This supports healthy soil life as well as the health of the dairy cattle. Similarly, the use of herbal products to prevent and cure cattle diseases is growing. At the same time, the general knowledge about it is lacking amongst both farmers and veterinarians.

NLF activities in the Netherlands

The main focus of the NLF activities in the Netherlands is to promote knowledge about the use of herbs and natural products, in order to strengthen livestock health and wellbeing. The activities are directed at veterinarians and farmers – the majority of ‘conventional farmers’ (non-organic farmers) who are currently using most chemicals in dairy farming.

Between 2017 and 2020 the project ‘Healthy Cattle – Healthy Food – Healthy Environment in the Netherlands’ provided financial support of the local government of Overijssel to NLF Netherlands. In this period training courses for veterinarians for safe use of herbal products, and training courses for farmers on use of herbal products and herbs in grassland were initiated.
Stable books with background info on herbal products for several livestock species (have been produced by Wageningen University, and are being updated. A new project supported by the Ministry of Agriculture provides the basis for expanding the activities to more veterinarians and farmers.

Initiatives were taken to implement small pilots on specific cattle health issues (e.g. natural control of ticks and tick-borne diseases). In 2021 two groups of students have made an inventory of herbal practices for the control of internal and external parasites. Moreover, several PR activities are taking place, such as regular newsletters and on-line café’s with interested farmers and veterinarians.