On April 1st 2016 Eyes on Animals organized the workshop “From Good to Better: Small and big steps to improve a dairy farms’ vitality”. The purpose of the workshop was to connect people with each other and to inspire them with ideas to make changes on dairy farms to improve animal welfare. In total there were 37 participants from all over the country. They varied from farmers to researchers to politicians to people from the industry. The workshop was held at the Regte Heijden farm in Riel, here the dairy cows are kept in a family herd and all the calves stay for at least a few months with their mothers in the herd.
Five inspiring speakers were asked to tell a refreshing story to the audience. The first speaker was Dan Weary who is a professor in Animal Welfare at the University of British Columbia in Canada. He explained the importance of social contact for newborn calves. By housing newborn calves in pairs the animals become smarter and grow better compared to individual housing. The second speaker was Hanneke Jellema, who is a farmer from an organic dairy farm in Friesland. They keep the dairy calves with their mother for a few months. She explained their struggles, solutions, remaining questions and their successes with dam rearing. Her story was followed up by Jacob Beeker who takes care of unwanted Jersey bull calves. These small calves are usually killed, considered worthless. But he raises them to be beef cattle with the help of foster-cows in a free-range environment. After the lunch we got a tour on the Regte Heijden farm. Here we could see the cubicle barn and the family herd on pasture. After the tour we listened to the story of Jan Hulsen who is a consultant at Vet Vice. He explained the importance of having a stress-free calving line. This system can help a cow to start up without problems and there is even the possibility to leave her calf in a small box next to her (called a “cuddle-box”). The day ended with Gidi Smolders’s story. He is an external- employee from Wageningen Livestock Research and he explained the correlations between proper housing/management and good animal health. Would you like to hear one of the talks from the speakers? Below you will find the links to each of their talks.
Dr. Dan Weary – pair housing in dairy calves: https://youtu.be/nFTvwWUPkO4
Hanneke Jellema – dam rearing on a dairy farm: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoxzjR2609Y
Jacob Beeker – alternative rearing of Jersey bull calves: https://youtu.be/d0QNqgBsI04
Dr. Jan Hulsen – stress-free calving line : https://youtu.be/hd1UmaqSoe0
Dr. Gidi Smolders – cow health : https://youtu.be/QhcoQdYqVxs