CowSignals founders Jan Hulsen and Joep Driessen tell us why they started stress-free stockmanship together.
Can you tell us why you started stress-free stockmanship together?
Jan: It all started from the observation that there is a big difference between farms in the way that cows react to people, their docility and how easy you can work with them. We wanted to understand the meganisms behind that. If we could understand that, we could also use it as a training. We were convinced that docile cows, that are easy to work with, can be taken care of much better.
Joep: And five more liters of milk. The difference is sometimes liters more milk with quiet cows.
How did you start learning about stress-free stockmanship?
Bud Williams inspired us just in time
Joep: We've always found it interesting, we've been looking at it for a long time. Five year ago, one of my certified trainers told me: "You have to go to Bud Williams. He is the source of stress-free stockmanship, he's the big guru". He was 92 years old when we were there, he's not with us any more unfortunately. He inspired us just in time. He spend 25 years learning what cow behaviour is about. He said: "It took me 25 years to understand cows. Then I took 50 years to spread the word, but nobody wants to listen". He was working in the beef industry, he was always inspiring people to do a better job. He didn't reach the dairy industry yet. We were there with several vets from the US, Canada and us two from the Netherlands. Then we decided we have to bring this to the dairy industry.
What is there to gain with stress-free stockmanship training?
Jan: You can improve a lot in safety. Research shows that people who work with cattle that is docile and predictable have more working pleasure and less casualties, accidents. The other thing is that you see a lot less lameness when cattle are docile. I also think that people can just do a better job caring for them. The can catch them easier, treat them and check on them.
For who is this training?
You can have more working pleasure, less accidents, less lameness and more milk
Joep: Actually for everybody. Farmers, vets, feed advisors, everybody that works with cows. Farm relieve workers are now doing a lot of this training. Also inseminators around the world that come between cows every day. They should understand them better to be safer. We read in a research that 80% of sick leaves on farms is because of interactions with cattle. You really have a win-win situation if you're gonna educate your staff and educate yourself. As an advisor you need to educate your clients. How can we reach the world? We have to really work together.
Any last words on stress-free stockmanship for the world?
Joep: Well, maybe what Bud Williams said. Bud Williams said: "No matter how good you'll ever be at reading cows, cows will always be a lot better at reading you". So it's your task to learn how to behave with cows. It's an art: an art of handling cows. It's you that has to learn.
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