Home' NZ Dairy Farmer : April 2010 Contents ON FARM
26 The Dairyman APRIL 2010
APHOTO of emaciated cows on the
front page of Straight Furrow on
March 16 prompted a call from Aad
and Wilma van Leeuwen, who are probably
south Canterbury's largest private herd
The van Leeuwen Dairy Group milks
between 10,000 and 11,000 cows. Aad and
Wilma were concerned at the negative image
the thin cow photo portrayed of dairy farm-
ing in general and agreed some farmers need
to lift their skills to avoid such situations.
If any light cows or potential culls are
spotted among the van Leeuwen's herds,
managers or staff are advised they must be
fattened before they are sent to the saleyards.
Aad, who does not mince words, had this
to say about the photo: "If you look after
your cows they will look after you and it
makes no practical sense to let them get in
It would have taken a few weeks for the
pictured cows to reach the condition they
Yet Wilma believed it would have taken
only three weeks of good feed for them to
pick up again.
A lot of dairy farmers farm on a day-to-
day basis and are unprepared for the dry
spells. When dry spells occur, they struggle
to find feed in a hurry and it is usually prici-
er than owners are prepared to pay.
"If I thought I was going to run out of feed
in three to four months I would be worried,"
It was quite the opposite on their home
farm, which supports two free-stall barns
with robotic milking machines. Vast
tonnages of feed were stacked near the
barns, which can house up to 500 cows each.
In one shed, 400 Jerseys were tucking into
a mix of supplements, others were resting on
a raised sleeping pad and some were queuing
to be milked. A couple were enjoying a back
scratch from an apparatus they operate them-
Marieka, the partner of Rodney van
Leeuwen manages one shed, Rodney the
other. Marieka is a former primary school
teacher. She loves the work and the rapport
she has with the cows. Because she can see
them at close range she is able to spot any
potential problems and attend to things
"This is the ultimate way to look after
them and it allows animal husbandry skills,"
Mastitis and lameness were almost a non-
event because of the sophisticated milking
systems which also steam clean the inner of
the milking cups between each milking; and
because of Marieka and Rodney's proactive
animal husbandry skills.
"It works economically and is a fantastic
way of looking after your animals," Aad
said, adding that the performance of cows
within the stalls was well up on their pasture
grazed herds. As an example, eventually the
barn milking cows will produce between 650
to 700kgMS compared with the 350 to
400kgMS for the pastured cows.
Robotic milkers allow the cows to be
milked at their own pace. The machine
detects if an udder contains the required six
litres and rejects the cow if it does not, in
which case the cow would return later for
Ten per cent of the Jerseys wear rumina-
tion collars which indicate if their feed is not
right and quality can be checked. All collars
are fitted with pedometers which record how
many steps each cow takes. When it spikes
she is coming on heat.
The van Leeuwens believe barns such as
theirs allow them to do a proper job of look-
ing after their cows. As well as doing away
with extra staff, the systems work so well
that each cow's welfare is enhanced.
Environmental issues are taken care of
with clever effluent collection for each shed
and the resulting sludge is applied evenly to
the pastures and promotes a consistent build-
up of organic material and humus which
cancels the need for expensive fertilisers.
Canterbury farmers say cows happy and healthy in barns
The van Leeuwen Dairy Group milks between 10,000 and 11,000 cows and raises them
in barns, which can house up to 500 cows each.
Free info pack 0508 733 728
Durashelter clear roof dries the floor and keeps it healthy
Feed indoors and protect pasture from pugging in winter
Minimal waste of valuable feed and supplements
Open plan "free range" style housing for happy indoor cows
Built nationwide over new or existing feedpads
"Farm buildings for 30 years"
Reap the benefits of sheltering your herd
+ save up to 40% of feed costs
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