Lystbjerggaard - Denmark

Key statistics

  • Herd size: 260
  • Location: Nr Snede, Denmark
  • Type of animals: Cows
  • Milking system: Automatic milking
  • Region: Europe
"With good management, good technology and hard work we see our goal as within reach."

Ole and Annette are both from farming families, and Ole has known since childhood that he was going to be a dairy farmer. When he met Annette, who had always wanted to be married to a farmer, they started looking for a farm together. In 1993 they bought the farm Lystbjerggaard, which at that time had 50 cows in a tie stall and 37 hectares of land.

Between 1993 and 2000 they expanded the old barn to house 100 cows and bought more land. In 2002 they built a 34 x 65 m (111 x 213 feet) loose housing barn with room for 160 cows plus heifers, and started milking the cows in a 2 x12 milking parlour.

They became very interested in automatic milking, and they were certain that this would provide the best comfort for their cows, as well as for the people, so in 2007 they installed a VMS, a Voluntary Milking System. It worked very well, and in 2008 they expanded the barn with additional 38 x 65 m (125 x 213 feet) to house 260 milking cows and 40 young stock, to be milked in four VMS. The old tie stall barn was re-built into a loose housing barn for the calves.

Milking

  • Total milk yield produced per year is 3.000.000 kg
  • Fat: 4,09 %
  • Protein: 3,36 %
  • Somatic cell count, SCC: 170.000
  • Total bacteria count: 9000

Cow comfort

Their cows' health and comfort matter a lot to them. There has to be enough space in the barn for each cow to have a sleeping place and an eating-place, so that even the lower order cows can eat and rest. (Read more about Herd hierarchy and cow comfort at the DairyCo web site: http://www.dairyco.org.uk/news/news-archive/september-2009/herd-hierarchy.aspx )

There is free cow traffic in the barn, as they like the idea of the cows being able to move around freely and go to the feed table or the robot when they want to. In addition to free access to water there are also cow brushes, manure scrapers, and an automatic straw bedding spreader.

The cows that are to be inseminated or treated can easily be separated to a calmer area, which also helps to improve working conditions in the barn.

Feeding

They use Total Mixed Ration, TMR, and the cows recieve a maximum of 4 kgs of concentrate per day in the robot.

The roughage is made of corn, grass, rape-seed, soda-treated grain, straw and minerals. A feed advisor helps them with the ration balancing. 60 % of the feed is grown on the farm. No grazing is applied.

Read more about Feeding management checklists here: http://www.extension.org/pages/11033/use-of-the-dairy-feed-management-plan-checklist-in-feed-management-plan-development#.UzLXNvl5N8F

Crops and forages

They grow 105 hectares of corn, 70 hectares of grass and 40 hectares of grain. The land is irrigated with automatic irrigators and they use the farm’s manure to fertilize plus extra fertilizer when needed.

Herd management

They have 315 heifers, and replacement rate is 41%. Average age of the cows is 4,5 years, and the average lactation length is 360 days.

For herd management they are testing a new system, DelPro that gives them a lot of possibilities, as it can be modified according to each farm’s specific needs and wishes, while it at the same time gives the farmer the best possibilities to manage his operation.

In April 2009 they started using a new management tool called Herd Navigator, and this has become an indispensable tool for them in handling the cows. It gives them accurate information about heat detection, cysts, pregnancy, ketosis, mastitis and it also measures urea.

Thanks to the Herd Navigator they now feel that they have total control over their cows’ health, as the system points out the cows that need special attention from them. In this manner they can observe and/or treat them a lot earlier than what was previously possible.

"Herd Navigator gives us the possibility to be pro-active with what’s going on in the barn, and we can act even before things affect the cow’s health, and before production drops" says Ole.  

"To work with cows without Herd Navigator would be like working blind-folded!" says Ole with a laugh.

Manure Management

The manure is stored in a manure tank with seven months capacity. Part of their land is nitrate-sensitive, which puts special demands on manure management and fertilizing on the farm.

Farm management

They have two full time employees, both with a farming education. There are Standard Operation Procedures within the Herd Navigator, and they also apply standard procedures when they milk a new cow in the VMS, or when a cow needs treatment.

Decisions on the farm are made jointly in the family. Ole primarily takes care of the practical work with the cows, while Annette handles most of the administrative work at the computer, as well as the Herd Navigator monitoring. Annette also cultivates the milk tests when they suspect a case of mastitis, in order to quickly find out what bacteria they are dealing with and so that they can initiate a treatment if needed. This is possible because they are participating in a project called "New Health Advice" together with their vet.

"Thanks to the VMS and the Herd Navigator we are able to run our business as we do today. We have excellent possibilities to monitor our cows, and we can’t even think of milking 260 cows in a parlour."

The future

Annette and Ole see the biggest challenge for the dairy farmer now and in the future as being able to produce a product of high quality and in demand all over the world. If they can do that they will be able to survive low milk prices.

"We have to take good care of our image as dairy farmers, and we have to do everything we can to be the best. Both in cow comfort, yields and last but not least milk quality" says Annette. 

They believe it is important to use technologies that are available to be able to deliver the best possible product while making sure they don’t compromise the cows’ welfare. This is why they were never in doubt when they first heard about the Herd Navigator.

"We cannot come closer to the truth about the cow’s health, since the numbers are based on direct measurements of hormones in the milk. This way we are able to make the diagnosis at an early stage and also prevent and act before the cow becomes sick and needs treatment."

Annette, who is a nurse, compares it to a blood test on a patient for a diagnosis, only that the advantage with Herd Navigator is that the system monitors by itself and takes the samples that are needed and presents the result without the farmer having to lift a finger.

"Thanks to Herd Navigator we now have indispensable information on our cows’ health available and can act a lot earlier than was previously possible. Now we can prevent and be pro-active with our cows, and it’s always best to be at the cutting edge rather than the tail end."

They see big opportunities in milk production in Europe, but think that there should be common laws and regulations in all countries, e.g. for animal welfare, otherwise there is a distortion in the competitiveness.

Development of new technology will be an indispensable decision aid in everyday work, since it improves working conditions and animal welfare.

They are not considering expansion at the moment, since they doubled the herd in 2008. But the barn is prepared for an installation of two more VMS, but that would require a new barn for the young stock, and a change in the current cow traffic in the barn.

Their four children are between seven and 14 years old, and they don’t know yet if anyone of them would be interested in taking over the farm. Annette and Ole will not put any pressure on them, and the choice of education is their own.

Their plans for the nearest future is to optimise the business. Currently they are milking 2200 kg in each robot, and the goal is to increase this to 2500 kg per robot.

"With good management, good technology and hard work we see our goal as within reach."

Interview made in June 2010

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