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Dairy Beef – Germany, Leitner Farm

The focus of this case study is to show how a family farming enterprise has positively embraced technology to assist in the management of their dairy unit. Investment in new animal housing, dairy facilities and diversification opportunities have helped to ensure the farm's sustainability.

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Key areas of good practice

Leitner is a member of the QS scheme, an independently audited and certified quality assurance programme. Areas inspected range from animal welfare through to environmental requirements. QS status assures farm production methods, which in turn improves consumer confidence in, and marketability of beef produced by the farm.

Animal Health & Welfare:

Automated milking system (AMS) allows the cows to be milked when they want, and frees the family from the time-consuming task of the daily milking routine, a valuable saving for a small family-run farm. The AMS releases half a labour unit for every 70 cows being milked, and cows choose when to be milked which increases their time budget and reduces stress.

The free access stalls at the Leitner farm are fitted with rubber matting which is then covered in straw. This provides a thermally comfortable and conformable lying area. Healthy cows are more productive and increased cow longevity improves the farm’s economics. Cows need to lie down for between 10 and 14 hours per day, and providing a comfortable area allows the cows to fulfil this important need.

Cows perform grooming as part of their natural behaviour. The farm has fitted brushes in all areas where animals are housed; the frequency with which the cows use the brushes shows they provide a valuable benefit in reducing stress within the herd.

Automatically Controlled Natural Ventilation (ACNV), which is used on the Leitner farm, uses temperature sensors to mechanically open and close blinds. Good ventilation avoids heat stress which can cause a decrease in milk production of 5-15%.

The Leitner farm has invested in an automatic scraping system; with this system cows are able to step over the scraper blade so they can remain in the area. This allows hourly scraping, reducing the amount of time cows have to stand in slurry, which in turn reduces lameness to negligible levels.

Product Quality:

Technology developed by DeLaval measures the somatic cell counts (SCC) of every cow’s milk at each milking, allowing any udder health issues to be quickly identified and resolved. Early detection of intramammary infection reduces severity, improves control and limits milk quality penalties. In particular, early identification of mastitis allows timely treatment, eliminating or reducing the painful outcome of this condition.


Leitner uses a dual purpose dairy breed (Simmental). The cows average a milk yield of 7,800 litres and run at four lactations (with the aim of extending to eight). Excellent prices are paid for the cull cows and bull calves, which is due to the Simmentals’ good growth rates and high carcass meat yields.

All cows are fitted with a neck transponder which measures their movement/ activity level. This system provides an 80-90% accurate heat detection rate (which indicates readiness for mating). Additionally, noticing a decrease in a cow’s normal activity level can help in early diagnoses of injury/illness.

The cows and followers at the Leitner farm have access to pastures during the summer grazing period, which is helping to reduce summer feed costs.

The farm has purchased a small hand-held device to record treatments and daily management activities; this is then connected to the main computer which logs all the data recorded during the day. This system saves time and ensures all treatments/daily activities are captured and recorded.

Energy efficiency and renewables:

The main cow housing has been constructed from wood grown on the farm - this reduces the farm’s carbon footprint by reducing building material transport and using wood as the main supporting structures is cheaper than steel. Furthermore, using the farm’s raw materials offers economic benefits over buying in materials from external suppliers.

Fresh milk directly from the cow is passed through a plate cooler. This transfers the heat contained within the milk to the water, which is then used to pre-warm the cows’ drinking water. This method of cooling can remove large amounts of heat from milk in a very short time, significantly reducing electrical costs of the farm.


The Leitner farm has invested €8500 in a Rainwater Harvesting (RWH) system. Over the last 6 months this system has collected 300m3 of rainwater, which is used on the farm, and the system has already saved the farm €300.

Ecosystem protection:

The Leitner Farm has 150 hectares of high conservation land which provides a valuable natural habitat for the area’s flora and fauna.


Four apartments provide a total of 20 beds for local tourists visiting the Alpine region and generate an additional income for the farm business.