Animal health and labour efficiency now go hand in hand for us!
To run a healthy dairy farm, stable animal health is crucial, says Janitha of Dairy Farm Migchels-Maarsingh. This was one of the reasons why the company started using the solutions of AHV.
The dairy farm Migchels-Maarsingh is located in Groningen, The Netherlands. On the farm, we speak to dairy farmer Janitha, who runs the company together with her husband Albert and parents Harm and Margriet. The farm has an arable section with 100 hectares of land on which starch potatoes, sugar beet, fodder beet and grain, among other crops, are grown. The farm also has 100 dairy and veal cows and 70 young cattle.
Strong and robust cows important for our dairy farm
When we enter the barn, we immediately notice that we are not dealing with Holstein cows here. The company actually crosses Fleckvieh and Scandinavian Red Pied. They have chosen to cross these breeds because of the strong and robust cows they produce. These cows have a triple A score. “Even the inspector sees that the cows are well put together. We have a mixed farm, so the cows just have to be easy going, it should not be a problem barn where you have to go all the time. That is the underlying idea. The basics should be easy and smooth for us and the Fleckviehs contribute to that”, says Janitha.
Adjustments because of shoulder problems
Two years ago shoulder problems started to play a role for both Janitha and her father. This is why they opted for a milking robot. This adaptation changed the daily routine and the physical effort of milking disappeared. They now use the computer system to identify problems early on. “When we started with AHV, we really started using the data from the robots. Thanks to the data, we can now tackle the cows before problems become visible. This allows us to anticipate, for example, a negative energy balance that is too severe. This fits in well with our aim to have labour efficiency and ease of work as key priorities.”
“The basis must simply be good. If there are health problems after that, we want to be able to tackle them early on.”
Recovering investment with milk proceeds
Janitha had heard about AHV through her back neighbours. As a result, she was already quite positive about AHV, but there was still the threshold to start using it herself. Harm had already spoken once to a specialist of AHV. When Janitha came into contact with Animal Health Specialist Bart via the cow inseminator, she was convinced and decided to give it a chance.
“I did hesitate for a while, because the solutions are not free. You then start to look closely at what you get in return for your investment. A 35-litre cow with udder problems easily cost you fourteen production days. What will it cost me then, I thought? If I do nothing, I easily lose about €300 in milk money. An investment of €100 in AHV tablets might be a good idea, especially if you know that your cow can remain in production and that it will save us a lot of labour. After doing the maths in my head, I started using AHV more frequently and in a more targeted way.”
“The first cow we tackled with AHV products was a 10.000 litre cow, she was not healthy at all. My father looked at it and said that it needed more than the AHV solutions. I then said to my father, let’s just try this, then we will know straight away if it works well. Fortunately, the solutions really did work, the cow is back on her feet again! This gives you confidence in the products. After this, I helped the second and third cow, who also recovered well. These results confirmed to me that it was the right approach.
The support from AHV is essential
The Migchels-Maarsingh farm uses the AHV Extra Tablet, Quick Tablet and Aspi Tablet based on their milk recording data. They do this together with Bart. “We have now had 4 to 5 milk checks and it seems as if the cows are now more balanced in terms of udder health. We now sporadically treat another cow. When we first started, we treated quite a few cows, the next time it was fewer and the next time it was even less. You also start to recognise more and more patterns. For example, I now notice that cows on sixty days have an energy dip on our farm. They are sluggish, activity decreases and milk yields often follow. When I notice something like that, I ask Bart what I can do. He advised us to use the AHV Booster Tablet. Now, if I see that the feeding time is decreasing, I immediately give the Booster Tablet.”
The support and advice from AHV is very pleasant for the Migchels-Maarsingh farm. “Last time I selected the cows myself thanks to Bart’s guidance. Actually after doing it together three times, I already understood what I had to do and managed to do it myself. Still, when I have questions it is really nice that I can send Bart a WhatsApp message and a picture. We started using AHV’s solutions five months ago and I did not expect that I have already been able to solve so many different problems.”
“If I do not know, I ask! If I would not then it wouldn’t work either. You have to break the habit. It is a new approach.”
The health of our cows gives us confidence
When we continue the conversation and ask about the different products they use, Janitha comes up with some interesting examples. “Cow 35 has really hit rock bottom in terms of activity. She was really out of it for two days and hardly gave any milk. We then helped the cow by using AHV solutions. After this, the cow recovered. This even convinced my father of the products. So much so that he now proudly shows a picture of this graph everywhere”, says a smiling Janitha.
Another example is an 11.000-litre cow that started off rather slowly. “I gave her a Milk Start Paste and never had to worry about that cow again. I think that is the ideal thing: you use a product and you do not have to worry about it any more. This fits in very well with our way of doing business.”
Tackling problems early on based on lactose levels
The examples discussed are problems that were already visible to Janitha, but on the farm they are increasingly tackling problems early on. “Thanks to a tip from Bart, I started looking at the lactose level. When it drops, I know for sure that problems are on their way. It is great that you can use the robot data to address problems early on. I now check the levels per cow. Does it fit the cow or is it too low? If I am not satisfied, then I start working on it!
The AHV Metri Tablet has really changed my thought process
The AHV Metri Tablet really changed Janitha’s thought process. When Bart told her about the solution, she thought: “You give something in the mouth to make the afterbirth come off, that is not right? Then I read about the experiences of other dairy farmers and I thought, you know what, I am just going to try the AHV Metri Tablet too! If the afterbirth of a cow has not come off after a certain time, I give a AHV Metri Tablet. After this, the afterbirth comes off fairly quickly. I see that the cows that I have given the Metri also come into heat quite quickly, so it does make sense!
You see that it works and that is why we are continuing with it!
You really have to start looking at animal health differently
When Janitha started with the AHV solutions she did not know exactly what to expect. Her neighbour said before starting with AHV that he no longer got nervous about a cow that had flakes. “Before we started with AHV I could not understand this remark, but now I notice that my father and I feel the same way. If we saw a cow with abnormal values or a different body reaction, we used to get stressed out. Now we give them the AHV products and we know that everything is alright.
We have talked before about the return on investment in AHV. For dairy farmers, with the current regulations and market prices, it is a challenge to always act correctly from an economic and health point of view. According to Janitha, it is also difficult to outline the return on investment with AHV. According to her, it is mainly about the hidden costs that you tackle. “I do understand that it is sometimes difficult for dairy farmers to translate the story properly to their own business. But if you can do the maths in your head, then the choice is quickly made.” According to Janitha, it is quite simple to explain why they use AHV and continue to use it. It is not just labour efficiency that convinces them. In the long term, you easily earn the investment back through improved animal health. “Our cows have become healthier and they stay that way. We can tackle many problems early on now. In the beginning, we had to treat a lot of cows, but this is now decreasing. The problems have been taken out of the animal and then they just do not come back as quickly. That is what you want!”
The problems are taken out of the animal and then it just does not come back as quickly. That is what you want!