Rapid progress thanks to marker tests
The milk production of their cows has increased from over 9000 to 10,700 kg of milk in the last three years. Dairy farmers Steven and Isabelle Van der Looven indicate that in their herd with 220 cows they have achieved a lot with targeted breeding. "With a good ration you get more out of the cows, but only when they have it in them," explains Isabelle. "The important thing is to remain consistent in your breeding goal. In recent years we have invariably had the same goal. In our breeding goal we focus on three major points: milk production, conformation and health."
Custom Breeding and HerdOptimizer
"You can compare a breeding goal with a ship that sails to America. It can sail in a straight line or get there zigzagging. Thanks to Custom Breeding, we are heading straight for our breeding goal, because we can make very objective matings." Their young cattle are consistently examined for markers. "We know the strengths and the difficult areas of the next generation of dairy cows. This allows us to make quick adjustments and navigate the course we have in mind."
With HerdOptimizer, they can make sure that they do not deviate from their goal. For that purpose they also keep a record of the health data of the cows. "The marker tests work very well to gain insight in what the herd will look like in the future. That way we can quickly make progress on our breeding goal," is their experience.
Agriculture important for the economy of the Netherlands
The share of Dutch agriculture in the total economy of the Netherlands is much larger compared to other European countries. The added value of the total agro-complex, agriculture and processing industry in 2018 was approximately 49 billion euros. This share has remained virtually unchanged over the past ten years.
The primary sector contributed 1.4% to the gross domestic product, which is above the EU average. Animal production accounts for about 38.5% of the total production value.
Infrared app for claw disease detection
In Flanders, researchers are working on the development of an infrared app to detect claw disorders. They also hope to accurately pinpoint the injury location in the claw and determine the type of injury.
To this end, the researchers in the Clawcare project will collect infrared camera images from both professional cameras and smartphones. The mobile thermal cameras for smartphones continue to get better and more affordable, is the idea. With the app, it should also be possible to determine how deep the claw carer should cut to fix certain claw problems.
Drought-resistant crop: Sorghum
Trials in the Netherlands and Flanders with Sorghum show yields of 11.5 to 15 tons of dry matter per hectare. Interest in the cultivation of Sorghum as a forage crop is increasing in the Netherlands and Belgium, partly due to the good drought resistance.
Research institutes Louis Bolk in the Netherlands and ILVO in Flanders discovered that the very best varieties also achieved a starch content of 300 grams per kilogram of dry matter. It was clear as well that there is still a lot of difference in yield between the Sorghum varieties: from 9.7 up to 16.3 tons of dry matter per hectare for the better varieties. Corn was also sown, as a reference. The dry matter yield was found to be between 17.8 and 23.1 tons per hectare, with starch contents around 450. The yield and feed value of Sorghum lagged behind that of corn. However, the range of varieties suitable for the climate in northwestern Europe is increasing.
Prevent heat stress
Less feed intake, risk of rumen acidification, less milk, and udder and claw problems; heat stress is very negative for cows, also in the longer term. Think of fertility problems and a lower birth weight of the calf. The measures to prevent heat stress are: insulate the roof, place fans, change drinking bowls daily and lower the amount of concentrate.
A cow prefers a temperature of -5 to +18 degrees. From 21 degrees she already suffers from the heat. To prevent heat stress, the cow absorbs less feed so that less heat is produced in the rumen. A negative energy balance is a precursor to problems, especially for the newly calved cows. But don't forget the calves. They need extra drinking water. And the dry cows: feed them twice a day an extra buffer to prevent rumen acidification.
Less antibiotics due to artificial intelligence
By cleverly combining the behavior and activity of cows, farmers have managed to reduce three-quarters of antibiotics in a practical test.
The information provided by the cows was combined by Wageningen UR and technology company Connecterra with data from the animal such as the lactation stage. When the system detects heat or possible health problems, the farmer receives a notification on his phone. The farmer's findings surrounding the animal were also returned to the system, making it increasingly capable of producing a diagnosis. Artificial intelligence enabled farmers to intervene faster and reduce the use of medicine.
EU aims at 25% organic agriculture
The European Commission wants to make food production more sustainable. To do this, a quarter of the EU's land would have to switch to organic and ten percent of its agricultural land should be allocated a biodiversity-rich landscape.
The committee wants to reduce the use of fertilizers by 20 percent, the use of pesticides by 50 percent. Efforts are also being made to halve the use of antibiotics.
The plans of the EC are accelerated by the corona crisis, which has shown how important a balance between man and nature is.