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year-round to ensure year-round
milking, which is most effi cient with
the robotic milking machines. He says
average yield per cow is 30.5L per day.
A Dutch solution to a Dutch
With increased cows comes increased
manure and Dutch dairy farms
don't have the capacity to use it all
themselves. Therefore, the country
has come up with what one farmer
referred to as 'a Dutch solution to
a Dutch problem', and much of the
excess is exported or livestock farmers
pay those in the horticulture industry
to take it and it is used to fertilise
arable lands.
Before quota, he was milking between
140 and 150 cows but also had about 150 young stock,
so he reduced young stock to maintain the dairy herd
because he also needs phosphate rights for young stock.
Another method of managing manure production is to
recycle it and use it as bedding in the barns. Toon's farm
is equipped with a drying machine, which he fi nds an
eff ective way to reuse manure from his herd.
The phosphate rights and manure management are all
part and parcel of the industry's eff orts to operate more
sustainably. Just as in Ireland, farmers and processors
are being called on to up their eff orts in this space and
it means more farmers are embracing pasture-based
systems. Dirk says 80 per cent of Dutch farms include
some pasture-based farming, however, he added, that
fi gure is rising because processors will pay a premium for
pasture-based milk.
For example, for 2018, FrieslandCampina has set a
premium for partial outdoor grazing at 46c per 100kg of
milk. `Partial outdoor grazing' refers to outdoor grazing
of at least 25 per cent of the dairy cows on a dairy farm
for at least 120 days per year. Part of the drive for this is
the growing consumer awareness around food production
and animal welfare. The commitment to such endeavours
is particularly evident on the Stokman dairy farm, which
operates a free-choice stable.
Three hundred cows graze, bathe, take shelter, eat and are
milked on the farm that Anton, Tiny and their son Arjan
Stokman own, and they do it as they please. When we
arrived on the farm, most of the cows had taken shelter
from the sun in the barn, a few others were taking a dip in
a pond in the adjoining fi eld. At 24-years of age, Arjan is
committed to taking over the family farm at some point in
the future and he is now working with his parents to make
that a fi nancially viable and personally rewarding career.
The family designed the farm themselves and have
been running it this way for 10 years. The family has
four milking robotic milking machines, one full-time
employee, one-employee for weekends and coverage for
holidays. Arjan says: "It is about
making cows happy. But, it's not
just about the cows, it's also about
the environment. The people who
live around us also have to be happy
and it is about nature, the birds and
the bees on the farm also have to be
happy. This is all part of farming and
we have to integrate it. But, people
working here also have to be happy.
My friends who are not farming
have a free day at the weekend and
holiday once a year, and I want that
so that's why we want one employee
who knows everything about the
farm working with us. Then you can
have a social life as well and I think
that is important for farmers." The
family also recognise the importance
of the visuals. They have built new barns, installed
solar panels and are self-suffi cient for energy and are
also planning to build a biogas plant to use the manure
produced on the farm. "Then the whole city can live on
our gas," says Arjan. Anton explains that the investment
in the biogas system is economically wise for the future,
being both a sustainable solution to the farm's manure
production and future gas payments.
The Stockman farm is a Flagship Farm for McDonald's in
The Netherlands. Arjan says farmers need to be fl exible
and that the job of the farmer is no longer just on the
farm. Now, he says, farmers need to be entrepreneurs and
marketeers of their own products. "I think in the future
more customers are going to want sustainable milk. One
of those customers is McDonald's and 10 years ago we
started working with them."
Arjan explains that customers like McDonald's want to
know where and how the milk is produced so they can, in
turn, share this story with consumers. "McDonald's is a
very smart company, they look way ahead, maybe 20 years
ahead of the rest and they have a smart strategy."
Arjan is optimistic about the future of the industry. He
says customers may want their products produced in
certain ways, and farmers can produce them in those
ways, but the customer will have to pay for them. "As a
young f armer I see only opportunities."
There are 70 million people in The Netherlands and
1.6 million cows
There are 17,500 Dutch dairy farmers
The average dairy farm is 49.4ha
In 2017, the Dutch produced approximately 1.4 billion
litres of milk
Export 80 per cent of their milk
80 per cent of farms will graze outdoors. It is
increasing because they will pay an extra bonus for it.
Anton, Tiny and Arjan Stokman.
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