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Dairy - Holland, Stokman Farm

The Stokman dairy Farm demonstrates how dairy production can be undertaken in a manner which maximises the welfare conditions of the cows, whilst reducing the impact on the environment. Here we highlight good practice in animal and employee welfare, species conservation and in reducing pollutant gas emissions.

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Key areas of good practice

The farm is a member of the farm assurance scheme Foqus which is audited and certified by an independent organisation and covers key aspects such as food safety, animal health and welfare. The scheme scores highly against the McDonald's Agricultural Assurance Programme for Dairy Farms.

Anton's farm was the first dairy unit in the Netherlands to be accredited with the 'Green Facility Mark'. The Green Mark Facility is awarded by the Dutch Government's Environmental Department, and includes awards for best environmental solution to a particular problem.

Animal welfare:

The farm first introduced robotic milking over 14 years ago. Anton believes that one of the most important benefits of this system is that it gives the cows "free choice" as to when they want to be milked and allows them to manage their own daily time schedules. This technology has improved milk yields and animal health, reduced somatic cell counts and has eliminated the labour requirement needed for milking.

Dual chamber water beds are installed in all cow cubicles; these improve cow comfort and reduce injuries such as swollen hocks or hock lesions. Research shows that cows need to lie down for 10 to 12 hours per day (Albright, 2003) so this comfortable lying environment is of paramount importance. Another important aspect of the water bed is that it reduces the quantity of bedding required per cow and remains cleaner and more hygienic than other lying systems.

Passageways are autoscraped every hour, which limits the time slurry in the passageways can release ammonia, reducing nitrogen losses.

Weekly foot–bathing of all cows and tri–annual professional foot trimming ensures that hoof care is at the forefront of animal care, and as a result, the incidence of lameness within the herd is extremely low. The farm recognises that control and treatment is crucially important as lameness is recognised as one of the major health and welfare issues among the European dairy sector.

During the summer period an outdoor grass loafing field is provided for cows, this offers the cows the option to access the outside area, again providing "free choice".

Stokman farm uses the COWEL system, a computer programme which calculates a score based on an assessment of an individual farms housing and management systems. A score is then allocates which shows how well the system provides for the health and welfare of the cows. Anton's farm scored 265 out of a possible maximum of 313

A new dairy unit was constructed in 2009 and has the capability to house 280 cows - secures the long term viability of the unit, and allows them to continue producing high quality milk.

Semen for artificial insemination is selected carefully to compliment the genetic potential of the dam and minimise carbon difficulties.

Certification / assurance:

The farm is a member of the independently-inspected Qarant farm assurance scheme which covers key aspects such as food safety, animal health and welfare.

Ecosystem protection:

34 hectares of "nature fields" are provided for migrating wild geese to graze over the winter period, offering an important food source for these migrating birds

The grooved anti–slip floor reduces emission of ammonia from the slurry and with hourly removal has been shown to reduce ammonia emissions of slurry in the passageways by 30%.

The addition of a new patented rubber slat cover which fits over the concrete slat provides a cushioned surface for the cows to walk on and the unique design limits ammonia gas escaping from the slurry holding tanks.