The Pattern of Denmark’s Dairy Farms

The Northern European country of Denmark is well-known for their dairy products and cattle.  Therefore, I thought it would be interesting to see where, exactly, the most dairy farms per square kilometer are located.  For these purposes, I used data from the website StatBank Denmark (http://www.statbank.dk).   The StatBank website, while being generally very useful and versatile, does one thing that tends to limit the use of the data they provide: they lump Fredriksborg, Copenhagen, and Roskilde counties into one region they call the Copenhagen Region.  While this is useful for making generalizations for the area around the city of Copenhagen, it is somewhat limiting for those of us attempting to do a wider spatial analysis.

Despite this drawback, the pattern of dairy farms is fairly obvious.  The western part of the country contains the most farms per square kilometer.  The islands that make up the eastern part of the country, however, do not have a lot of dairy farms when compared to the rest of the country.  There are several good reasons for this.

The first reason why there are few dairy farms in the east compared to the west is human population density and urbanization.  The islands contain a large proportion of the country’s population, compared to the area they occupy.  With more people, the land will be in demand for human uses, and the cost will probably be prohibitive to agricultural workers.  Farmland is usually the cheapest land in a country.  The bottom line is that islands are limited in space, and having Copenhagen there makes for large numbers of people, who want to use the land for houses, businesses, and other urban and suburban uses.

Another reason for the variation is climate.  While Denmark as a whole has a relatively homogenous climate, the western coast does have the mildest temperatures due to the influence of the Gulf Stream.  It may be a bit windier, but the fact that the temperatures tend to be a little milder probably makes life easier on the farm workers.

One big reason for there to be more dairy farms on Jutland (the mainland part of Denmark) is proximity to markets.  Granted, they aren’t too close to Copenhagen, but they are on the mainland of Europe, and in a good position to try to market their goods to cities like Ahrus and Ribe inside the country and Hamburg and Bremen in Germany.  Dairy farms on the islands would have to ferry the milk, cheese and butter out (and also have to boat in feed for the animals due to the lack of grazing land).

Over all, it isn’t surprising that the dairy farms have concentrated along the western shore.  Cheap land, the mildest temperatures available in the country, and relatively easy access to some large markets make that area the most sensible choice for dairy cattle farming.

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