"Dairy farming is a pleasure with the VMS", say Herman and Lya Van de Hoef from Netherlands. "Everything is more flexible now. We can plan cleaning and maintenance much more freely."
- Owners: Herman and Lya Van de Hoef with their sons Jeroen and Arjan
- Breed: Holstein Friesan
- Milking on average 2,5 times/day/cow
- Milk is delivered every third day.
- The current milk price is 29,5 Euro/100 kg. (Nov 2009) They get paid extra in the winter; due to the fact that the Dutch Dairy Industry stimulates the farmers to deliver the same amount of raw milk in the winter as in the summer.
- Total milk yield produced: 9.100 kg milk/cow/year
- 4,59% fat, 3,0% protein
- Somatic cell count: 193.000
- Total bacteria count: 7.000
Three generations of dairy farmers
Herman’s father was a dairy farmer for 40 years and in 1993 Herman started to work with his father on the farm. In 2006 Herman took over the farm, and is now running it in partnership with his wife, Lya and with the help from their young sons. The old farm, where they milked their cows in a 2x5 Herringbone parlour, was located 140-150 km from where they are now, but the Amerfoort municipality needed the land for housing, and bought the land from the family. They milked their cows at another location for a period, while they were planning their new farm. In 2008 they started up in Appelscha, their current location.
Prioritizing the comfort of the cows
The cows are housed in a free stall barn. Cow comfort is a high priority on the Van de Hoef farm. The barns are equipped with swinging cow brushes, cow mats, climate controlled and natural ventilation, with fans and curtains. The stalls are wider than normal, and this extra space makes it easier for the cows to stand up. According to Lya, the cows really enjoy the cow brushes, and it keeps them clean too.
The cows are fed concentrate individually trough feeding stations in the barn and in the milking robot. The forage is made of grass, maize, some extra sugar beet pulp and minerals. They feed it per kilo per group.
The cost per produced kg milk is around 0,27 euro/kg, including everything (vet etc). Grass and maize is grown on farm: 72 ha grass and 25 ha maize, and they use 600 kg fertilizer/ha. There is no out-door grazing.
They use an automatic manure scraper and a 4100sq m manure pit for 9 months’ storage. The manure is spread on the fields from Feb 1 to Sept 1 (according to Dutch regulations).
Good control of activity
The herd consists of 160 cows, and 20 heifers, and the replacement rate is 20%. Average age of cows is 4.08 years and the average lactation length is 433 days.
For herd management they use Uniform Agri, a Dutch software which does the calculations from the data communicated from the ALPRO Windows. They use ALPRO activity meters, and Lya is very happy with them and says that they work very well.
The farm uses three full time employees, and the work force consists of Herman, Lya, their sons Jeroen, 16, Arjan, 12, and volunteer Tony who works two days/week. They also have agriculture students doing their practice on the farm. Everything is done according to Standard Operation Procedures.
Choosing the VMS
After selling their previous farm land in 2006 they started planning for the new barn by looking around and gathering information, while milking their cows in a rotary. During this interim period they came to the conclusion that a rotary did not suit them from a labor point of view, and they started to look at milking robots. The social aspect, with the flexibility an automatic system provides made them go for a robot.
The difference between the previous conventional milking system and the VMS are that as they before had to milk twice a day at certain hours, everything is more flexible now. They can plan cleaning and maintenance much more freely. They also plan to go on vacation some time in the future when everybody, including Tony, is more used to the system. With the VMS their cows yield more milk, and the flexibility and the lifestyle that comes with a robot also mean a lot to the Van de Hoef family.
“Dairy farming is a pleasure with the VMS”, they say.
Dairy farming is our passion
When the milk quota disappears after 2015 the Van de Hoefs want to be able to milk around 200 cows the whole year round. At the moment Jeroen and Arjan seem very interested in working on the farm, so they might want to continue the operation of the farm in the future.
Did they ever think about quitting dairy farming, when they sold the land and planned to move?
“No. Never.” says Herman firmly and continues: “This was never an option. We are dairy farmers. Dairy farming is our passion.”