ORGANIC FARMERS AND CHAMPION BREEDERS
We are joining the Wester family for a chat. John and Christel Wester run their organic dairy farm in North Holland with their sons Jens (22), Niels (19) and Emiel (18). The Wester family has used bulls from K.I. SAMEN for more than 32 years. The family also bred K.I. SAMEN bull Axl rf (Albiorix rf x Alexander).
John and Christel made the transition from conventional dairy farming to organic farming in 2016 in a gradual process. “It’s something you grow towards,” says John. “Circularity in farming always starts with the soil. I am very interested in aspects such as soil fertility, soil structure and active life and organisms in the soil. And, I think it’s vital that the food we produce is good. Organic farming suits us to a tee.”
Switching to organic farming impacted on milk production, which decreased. Wester continues: “The cows had to get used to a different ration. Feeding concentrate is a thing of the past. Cows should be fed like a ruminant, not like a pig,” laughs John. “They are given fresh hay daily, supplemented with silage grass and cold-milled cereal grains such as barley, oats and rye. The ration is high in products with structured crude fibre with a higher carbon content. Ultimately, this is returned to the soil in the form of organic fertiliser. Partly due to the new feed strategy, the nitrogen percentage at animal level has improved from 30% to 80%. By applying the right feed strategy and herd management measures, milk production has now risen again. Taking everything into account, the transition was relatively easy.”
Well balanced dairy cows
To ensure a good forage intake, a cow must be balanced. “My preference is a balanced cow that functions easily, and gives good fat and protein percentages in her milk. I define that as cows with length in the first rib, sufficient chest width and capacity thanks to a generous skeletal structure. Bulls such as Maikman, Malki, Repairman and Albiorix rf contribute these traits to the herd. The herd also includes numerous daughters of old SAMEN bulls, such as IJsselvliedt 140, Dropshot, Lightning rf, Jorryn, and Shogun. Some of these herd members are older than 10 years. The Shogun daughters are now approaching production of 100,000 litres,” John smiles..
Future-proof family farm
The family have faced many new challenges on their journey to becoming an organic farm. ButJohn and Christel have had no major problems. Johnexplains: “We worked very gradually in baby steps towards becoming a fullycertified organic dairy farm. “What you see now isa profitable, future-proof family farm with good cows. We milk our cows with pleasure every day, and I have enough other challenges now,” says John.
Exceptionally successful in the showring
There is one challenge the family all works together on: ‘Breeding a champion cow on an organic dairy farm’. The Wester family fondly look back on many successful years at the shows. The champion cows of the past are now among the older members of the herd. John: “At the Opmeer Agricultural Show in 2014, Ant 264 (EX 92) won no fewer than three titles. She was awarded the title of overall show champion and also won in the intermediate class. And, this Albiorix daughter took away the prize for the best udder and was also part of the winning farm group. Last winter, Ant 264 achieved 100, 000 kg of milk.” The Albiorix daughter was not the only successful cow. Daughters by bulls including IJsselvliedt 140 and Dropshot, also took home silverware for the Wester family..
THE RIGHT CHOICE OF BULL
Jan Wagemaker, breeding advisor for North-Holland: “K.I. SAMEN puts the farmer’s freedom of choice high on the agenda. Farmers make their own choices and K.I. SAMEN plays an advisory role. John and Christel have been breeding using the aAa system for years and we look for the right combinations together. We also consider the bloodline and cow families to arrive at the right match. For a year now, John has only used A2A2 bulls. In this segment we also offer a wide variety of breeds and pedigrees. K.I. SAMEN offers a solution for every choice.”
Farm and location: Wester, Opmeer (NL)
Land: 50 ha. farmed land and 23 ha. natural landscape
Herd: 115 dairy cows, 70 young stock and 20 sheep.
Breed: Holstein Friesian
Milk production in 2021: ave. 8,000 litres of milk/cow/ year, 4.30% fat and 3.5% protein.