Want to know how farmers keep their cows happy and healthy? Read on…

The Farm Life

Did you know the secret to getting high-quality milk is having a happy herd and strict quality control? Dairy farmers have known for generations that to be profitable, they need to raise happy, healthy cows, and part of this includes feeding their livestock with a nutritious diet.

Cattle Country

Meet Paul Schouten, 49, a third-generation farmer. Paul’s family have farmed in the area of Doorwerth, Netherlands since 1930 (that’s when his grandfather first started the farm). Paul, along with 19,224 other farmers in the Netherlands, own the Dutch dairy cooperative FrieslandCampina, which produces the Friso milk formula.

Compared to other dairy providers, FrieslandCampina has total control over the supply chain, spanning from the production of fresh milk on the farm to the final sealing of Friso tins into cartons at the manufacturing facility.

Paul says he is proud to carry on his family’s expertise in dairy farming to ensure that his herd of 250 Holstein-Friesian cows continues to provide high-quality Friso milk

A visit to his farm offers wonderful learning opportunities, especially for children living in the city, as they are able to observe how these animals live and learn how the farmer cares for his livestock.

Farm Work

A farmer’s work is never done. Most farmers work seven days a week, 12 hours every day from 6am to 6pm, and there is no annual leave or off days. Since Paul took over the 100-hectare farm from his father in 2012, his cows have been his livelihood. So, it only makes good business sense to ensure that his cows stay healthy and receive the best tender loving care possible. Special care is even extended to the quality of the soil, as it’s the starting point to producing high-quality milk.

Eats All Right

When it’s feeding time, Paul zips around in his little red tractor, loading and unloading mixed feed consisting of straw, grass, corn and soy. Paul stresses that whatever his cows eat will definitely affect milk production. “The animals need time to re-adjust to the new feed,” he explains. That’s why he hardly ever changes his feed sources, as a significant change will affect the cows’ milk production.

And because many cows look alike, they wear tags on their ears to help Paul keep track of them, so that he knows when they need to be milked. The cows also wear a unique electronic collar to help the farmer monitor individual cow’s health status. Just like humans, cows, too, go on a controlled diet if they put on too much weight or get too fat. If need be, Paul will justify the mix of the feed in order to adjust the milk’s nutrients to the optimum level.

Creature Comfort

Paul treats his herd just like family. This means he takes individual care of each cow very seriously. “If my cows have enough food, water and are comfortable, they are contented,” says Paul.

Sometimes, he talks to his cows as he mucks around the cowshed. “Pop music is the best music to play when milking the cows,” Paul shares. “When you take good care of your cows and give them special attention, they will give more milk in return.”

His herd also receives “VIP grooming treatment”, which comes in the form of a swinging cow brush installed in the cowshed. The brush automatically starts when a cow gives it a slight nudge — and then rotates to allow the animal to scratch itself in a way it finds particularly enjoyable. In short, the brush keeps his cows clean, busy and happy, and also helps improve blood circulation!

Amazing Graze

These Dutch cows are not only fed and watered in the cowshed, they also get plenty of fresh air at the pastures. Each day, Paul’s cows kick up their heels and race for the pastures where they’ll spend six hours grazing (between 11am and 5pm, only if the temperature is below 25 deg C).

But if it’s gets too hot, Paul will allow his herd to venture out in the evening. Heat stresses my cows, he explains, which makes them eat less and causes a decrease in milk production.

The Milky Way

Before a cow can start producing milk, she must have delivered a calf, says Paul. A cow starts to produce milk when her first calf is born, which typically happens when the cow is about two years old.

The cows wait for their turn at the two computerised milking machines. At this computerised stall where the cow will step into, an automated robot milks each animal with a mechanical pump that operates 24/7. The machine also monitors the health of each beast, a vital part of modern cow-farming.

Each cow is milked three to four times a day and the pumped milk goes into a large storage tank that can store up to 9,000 litres of milk. Once every three days, the milk undergoes a stringent test conducted by a “milk chauffeur” who’s an employee of FrieslandCampina. Only high-quality milk that passes the test will be delivered to the FrieslandCampina factory to be processed into high-quality milk formula. Paul says his farm delivers approximately 1.1 million kilogrammes of milk to the factory each year.

And did you know that a Friesian-Holstein cow can drink between 110 and 190 litres of water each day? To ensure that his herd produces good quality milk, Paul says FrieslandCampina regularly conducts water checks of his borehole.

Grass to Glass

Combined with decades of extensive research and an understanding of children’s delicate digestive system, the scientists at Friso have formulated the FrisoShield system with nutrients; such as probiotics, prebiotics, DHA, AA, zinc and iron, to help maintain your child’s healthy digestive system and his immune system, so that he can enjoy life’s experiences outdoors while giving you peace of mind.

So, the next time you reach for that shiny tin of Friso Gold on the supermarket shelf, remember, every Dutch farmer always strives to ensure that nothing but the best goes into each can of formula.

Paul sums it up, “I can’t see myself doing anything else… You have to put in a lot of effort to get the results. It’s very hard work, but it’s a good life.”

Did you know?

• The average Dutch farmer in the Netherlands has about 90 cows on his farm. The largest number is 500.
• Cows lick their favourite farmers.
• It takes 50 to 70 hours for a cow to turn grass into milk.
• The average size of a Friso dairy farm is about the size of 120 football fields combined.
• A cow can produce 30kg of milk a day under optimum condition.
• More than 50 per cent of milk is used to produce cheese.
• One milking robot is able to “serve” 60 cows a day, and perform 180 number of milkings a day.
• The total output of milk produced per hour from all the farms combined in the Netherlands? One million litres!