Dairy Farm Sustainability -

Meaning and Measurement, Learning from the Farmer

by Philip J Tattersall,


A report summarizing a four year M.Sc. research project that looked in detail at dairy farm sustainability across a spectrum of five Tasmanian dairy farms from certified organic to high input conventional. For a number of years researchers have been busy searching for ways to measure farm sustainability using an indicator approach. Reliable indictors are thought to be of great value in the design and management of farming systems, particularly in the fragile Australian environment.

Research on indicators continues to be challenging due in part to the diversity of opinions on just what constitutes a sustainable farm. The nature of the sustainability concept is such that human perceptions, values and ethical considerations quickly enter the picture, making any research just that much more interesting.

The book explores the linkage between perceptions and values on the one hand and, on the other, concrete ways to measure and monitor farm sustainability. A set of indicators are arrived at across all farms, but in the end it’s all a matter of interpretation by individual farming families.

The research methodology used in the research, including farm selection is an example of the emerging trend in farming system research where case study approaches continue to be used more and more. Detailed discussions of data collection and analysis methods are also given.

The report stresses the importance of involving the farming family as co-researchers. The findings are thought to be important for those who seek to develop relevant and user friendly indicators of sustainability across the various paradigms and approaches to farming.

ISBN 0-9586139-0-7
Resource Publications