When the new barn was built at Folsberga, cow comfort was high priority, with mattresses in all cubicles, rubber-covered feeding areas, cow brushes, good ventilation and automated manure scrapers.
Folsberga farm has been in Anders’ family for four generations. When their daughter and her husband decided that they want to take over in the future, Anders and Inger made the decision to expand their dairy herd and they built a new barn in 2009. Prior to the new barn, the cows were housed in a tied up barn with conventional milking.
Folsberga farm is a certified organic milk producer by Swedish KRAV*. Initially the strongest incentive to make the transition into organic farming was that it was promoted by the EU through subsidies. Now that the farm has been organic for many years, Anders and Inger are very happy with the way of running the farm. They feel it works well and they appreciate not having to deal with pesticides.
Milk Production and Quality
At the moment the herd consists of 62 Swedish Red cows (56 in the new barn and 6 cell count cows in the old tie stall barn). The barn and the VMS can handle about 75 cows so that is where the number of cows are heading. The herd produces on average 9200 kg ECM per cow and year and the milk contains about 4,2 % of fat and 3,3 % protein. On average they have a SCC of 109.000 cells/ml and a bacteria count of 8000 cfu/ml. The milk is collected every second day and they primarily deliver the milk to Arla but also to a small local cheese producer. The current pricing (June 2010) to a farmer delivering organic milk to Arla is approximately 0,42 EUR but varies depending on milk quality.
The milk is kept in a closed cooling tank and they use a heat recovery system that generates floor heating in their office. The VMS is complemented by the Feed first concept where the cows are checked by the DeLaval Smart Selection Gate when they return from the feed area where they are either directed to the robot or to the resting area. Folsberga also utilizes the ALPRO system to monitor herd, group and cow performance, and manage individual cows.
The cows are fed a partially mixed ration and they have four feeding stations where concentrate is fed. The forage mix is distributed through a conveyor belt and is fed ad libitum. Since the milk production is organic, the certification rules states a maximum amount of concentrates to 50% of the ration on dry matter basis. This applies for the 3 months where the energy demand is as greatest. The rest of the year the maximum amount of concentrate is allowed to 40% of the dry matter. The farm participates in a national surveillance scheme where the milk from every individual cow is sampled and analyzed once a month to be able to monitor and make management decisions. Based on the results from these analyses, a feed advisor makes works out individual rations for each cow every month.
The forage at Folsberga farm is harvested at least two times per season and is at the moment solely conserved in plastic wrap silage bales. They might invest in a tower silo to store parts of the forage in the future. The forage mainly constitutes of different grasses as e.g. timothy, but also legumes as e.g. clover. Whole crop silage has also been used on a few occasions. All forages as well as barley, oat and wheat are home-grown while they buy some minerals and concentrate. In total they distribute 142 hectares for cultivation and grazing. The manure produced on the farm is stored throughout the winter and spread during the growing season as fertilizer.
According to Swedish law all farms need to give their cows the opportunity to be out on pasture during three months in this area of Sweden (Northern Sweden two months and the southern parts four months due to the differing climates). The cows are also obliged to have at least 50% of the daily DMI from pasture during the grazing season to fulfill the demands for an organic certification. At Folsberga farm the cows are provided with water and some extra feed inside, to encourage the cows to go inside to become milked.
The cows are regularly checked for heat and as Susanne has been working as an animal technician she is able to inseminate the cows herself. The breeding strategy is worked out by a breeding advisor based on results from the national cow recording scheme. In general Anders and Inger looks for nice cows that are easy to handle.
Calves and heifers
The calves are raised in pens in one of the older buildings. According to the organic certification restrictions the calves have to stay with their mother during the colostrum period and after one week they also need to be group housed in pens. Furthermore, the calves should be fed whole milk for at least 12 weeks. Folsberga sells most of their bull calves to other farmers, who raise them for slaughter. Sometimes they keep a few bull calves as steers and sell raised animals to a local meat retailer. When expanding the dairy herd, Anders and Inger raised most of the replacement heifers themselves but have also bought some organic certified animals from a neighboring farm. Their recruitment level is approximately 30 %.
When the new loose housing barn was built, cow comfort was a high priority. Mattresses are installed in all cubicles. The alley where cows stand to eat consists of open walkways of concrete covered by a rubber mat. The other alleys are kept with bare concrete for the claws to wear a bit so that claw trimming will only be necessary about twice a year. An automatic cow brush is also installed to keep the cows clean and the cows also seem to like it a lot. The barn is isolated to keep free from frost and is naturally ventilated to maintain a cool climate with fresh air for the cows. To ensure dry and clean stalls the manure is removed from the alleys by automated hydraulic scrapers and ends up in a lagoon underneath the floor. From there, it flows to a pump pit where it pumped further to a top loaded concrete manure pit.
When the new barn was built in 2009, another future expansion was also planned. Hence the site selection and the design of the barn is accustomed to expanding the herd in the future but there is no time schedule for this at the moment. As for Anders and Inger, they will gradually retire and Susanne and Tore will take over and run the business on their own.
*KRAV is an incorporated association with 27 members at present. They represent farmers, processors, trade and also consumer, environmental and animal welfare interests (www.krav.se, 2010). KRAV has adapted the standards to IFOAM Basic Standards. The KRAV standards also fulfil the EU standards for organic production in the regulations (EC) No 834/2007, (EC) No 889/2008 and (EC) No 967/2008. However, in some cases the KRAV standards are stricter than the EU standards.Source: KRAV