By doubling the lifetime of the cow, milk production increases and methane exhaust reduces, says veterinarian and CowSignals founder Joep Driessen. The trainer and consultant sees his message finally getting through after twenty years.
Are you happy with developments like no dry period?
Twenty years ago everyone thought we were crazy when we talked about animal welfare and lifetime of dairy cows. Now you see a growing interest, everyone is talking about it. Older cows do have a better feed efficiency, they are more productive and their methane exhaust is lower. And you only need half of the youngstock.
What is needed to make it possible to milk cows for a long period of time?
Cows need to rest, to eat and to calve in a relaxed environment. 100.000 liter cows are not bothered with the wrong things.
Which errors are being made?
In the Netherlands we build a lot of erroneous barns. The beds are often too hard and cramped. We see a lot of udder and claw infection because of that. This is bad for the animals and a huge debit entry for the farmer. It's much better to invest this money in the environment of the cow.
Any more advice?
Put cows that are about to calve in a dry off group before drying off. Build a stress-free calving line. Also, trim heifers before the first time calving. This saves you a lot of problems later. A good start of the lactation will give you a huge return on investment. In existing barns there is a lot you can adapt and you can increase your income a lot.
Will the role of the farm advisor become bigger?
When companies get bigger and more professional, the role of the advisor will also grow. The downside is that most of them also have their own interest, as a vet, a feed seller or a semen supplier. There are only a few independent advisors. A vet should give advice on barn design, to make sure the cows have less disease.
Some farmers choose to milk 3 times a day. Are you in favor of this?
If a cow goes to a robot three times a day by herself, that's fine. But if you want to milk yourself three times a day, I would think again. It may prommose 10% more productivity, but you also lose 5%, because the cow has less resting and feeding time.