Investing in animal health pays off significantly!
In a fully automated barn, dairy farm Aantjes-Blokhuis in Haastrecht, The Netherlands, keeps 200 milk and veal cows. Dairy farmer Martijn Blokhuis is proud of the company and his livestock. Partly thanks to the guidance and products of Animal Health Vision Benelux (AHV), the cows and calves are in excellent condition.
Inside the barn of dairy farm Aantjes-Blokhuis, the automatic feeding system ensures that there is enough roughage for the cows. The four milking robots ensure that the cows are milked regularly. Upstairs in the barn, in the spacious office, sits satisfied dairy farmer Martijn Blokhuis and his partner Francesca. Thanks to automation, he can run the farm practically on his own. He is assisted by Francesca and his father, who can be found on the farm regularly.
Open to the public
The barn we are in was built about ten years ago. Before that, the company consisted of four locations. “In one location we had about one hundred dairy cows. At the location where we are now, we had chickens, at the neighbour’s we had rosé calves and a little further away we also had rosé calves. With my partner, I then started a partnership. We sold everything and built this barn here. So we started all over again and consciously opted for a fully automatic barn. One man must be able to take care of the daily business”, says Martijn, briefly describing the history of the company.
The new barn initially raised some eyebrows in the neighbourhood. “People quickly associate a barn this size with a mega barn. But that is pure ignorance. That is why we like to show the outside world what we are doing. A year after the barn came into use, we held an open day here. At that time, we did not yet use outdoor grazing and we received questions about it. But once people saw how well the cows were doing inside during a hot summer day, they concluded that the cows are doing very well,” says Martijn.
Automation and grazing go well together
By now, the partnership has been using outdoor grazing for several years. Last summer they even started with day-and-night grazing. With forty hectares of land at his disposal, the farmer manages to do this very well and shows that automation and outdoor grazing can be a great combination. In addition to the forty hectares of private land, the partnership has another thirty hectares at another location, of which four are maize land. The rearing of young stock is contracted out to another company. Milk production averages around 9.000 litres, with 4.34 percent fat and 3.41 percent protein. The lactose content is 4.51.
Optimising animal health in a better way
Automation is not the only factor that influences the workload on the farm. Animal health also plays an important role and the dairy farmer therefore invests a lot of energy into it. About five years ago Martijn met Wim Streefland, Animal Health Specialist at AHV. Wim then told him about the products and support AHV offers for optimizing animal health. Initially, the dairy farmer was sceptical, but he thought it was worth a try.
“At the time, we had no real reason in terms of animal health. We started because we wanted to do things differently, better in our eyes. We were already looking for alternatives before Wim entered the farm and although I was sceptical, I wanted to try it. After all, I wanted to take a different approach to health on the farm. Before, when we wanted to improve udder health or when the afterbirth did not come off properly, it was easy to use the standard protocols. We really wanted to get rid of that. I wanted to take a proactive approach with animal health. That is why I finally decided to start using products and guidance from AHV. I gradually started to see results.
Calves’ respiratory systems most recent improvement
Martijn’s scepticism soon turned to enthusiasm. “When we started I said ‘great, but I never believe that all challenges can be solved’. Until I realised that you can’t help a cow any more with the regular means. So at a certain point I started using the AHV products more and more, with success. Because of its success, I now use it for udder health, uterine health, transition, calves and for energy & metabolism. In fact we now use AHV products for everything; the regular, older products and protocols have disappeared.
The latest product that has been added is the AHV Respi for our calves. We had some challenges with the calves’ lungs. But since we have been giving the AHV Respi, the calves’ respiratory system has also improved a lot. The practical thing about the AHV Respi is that you can easily mix it with the artificial milk. Thanks to the method we now use, we have certainly achieved our goal of five years ago.
Bacteria lose their protection
AHV Specialist Wim Streefland, who also joined in the conversation, was happy to explain how AHV products work. This is very different from regular products, he explains.
“Bacteria fool the cow and the dairy farmer. They hide in a so-called biofilm, which is a defensive wall made of a layer of mucus that the bacteria produce themselves. The cow’s body does not realise that there are bacteria. However, when the resistance of the cow drops, they do appear and strike. For example, during warm weather, after calving, with a change in the ration, start of pasture grazing, etc. Our products manage to penetrate the biofilm and disrupt communication between the bacteria. In this way, bacteria feel that they are no longer present in large numbers and are released from the biofilm. The cow can then deal with it itself and excrete it through the body. In this way, they can do no more harm. This saves the cow a lot of energy that she can now put into milk production.”
AHV helps utilizing the milk recording data
The effect of the cooperation with AHV is easy to see, according to Martijn. “The overall health of the cows is simply good. The health values of the herd have improved significantly since the partnership and remain more constant. Fertility, for instance, is very satisfactory, as is uterine health. Thanks to the AHV Metri Tablet, which has to be administered orally, this has improved considerably. Martijn emphasises that the success is not only due to the products of AHV, but especially to the guidance they receive.
The dairy farmer has authorised AHV to receive his milk recording data. A lot of information can be extracted from this data. “If we suddenly see shifts in the health values for the cow’s udder, then depending on the individual history of the cow I respond to this with the AHV Extra, Quick and/or Aspi. If the fat and protein percentages are far apart or if I want to improve the lactose content, then I use the AHV Booster products again.”
“Using our AHV data programme, we analyse and predict milk production data and indicate with a colour which cows require attention. We send this to the farmer. In this way, we give him fast and targeted early advice. During the next check-up, we then see how the cow is doing.” Streefland has noticed that many farmers already understand which cow needs which products after a couple of check-ups.
Together we look at the health values of our cows
On the farm in Haastrecht, it is Francesca who mainly looks into the data and she is happy to show us. When Francesca has the computer on, she likes to show us how she works with the data. “I mainly look at the health status of our cows from the list of data and colours, and Martijn from the barn. If I see a cow that needs attention, Martijn exactly knows what the reason is. This way, we complement each other, using data from the computer and from practice. A good example is udder health, there are four categories, and especially the first two are important to pay attention to. This is often because they are still young animals or animals that are normally in good health. By monitoring and paying attention to these groups early on, you ensure that your herd remains healthy for longer.”
Keeping a close eye on health values
Francesca appears to be able to convert the data very well into specific advice and is so enthusiastic that she will continue to do so. Another good example is the attention paid to the fat/protein content.
“We keep a close eye on these values thanks to the AHV data. If they are too far apart, they automatically get a colour. I then discuss it with Martijn and say, look, this cow is suddenly showing different values and milk production is also falling. Then we look at it together and decide, yes, this one will get an AHV Booster Tablet. We really try to make a good assessment, because the products are not free. The help and data that you get from AHV is a big advantage. You don’t just do something, you always get substantiation from data, both before and after. And it is still up to you, with the knowledge of the cow in mind, to decide whether or not to give them a product.”
When we ask at the end of the interview about the current situation of the farm, Martijn and Francesca say they are very satisfied. “Since we have been able take a proactive animal health approach thanks to the data, you can see that it has improved significantly. Milk production also no longer suddenly drops, but is now more constant over several lactations!”
Tourists more than welcome
Martijn and Francesca are proud of the farm and the healthy livestock. Meanwhile, they are also looking to expand their activities. Last year, for example, they started a camper site next to the stable. There is room for 25 campers here. Tourists have a view of the beautiful landscape around the farm, where the healthy cows of the Aantjes-Blokhuis partnership can be admired again in the coming summer. More information about the company and the camper site can be found at www.aantjes-blokhuis.nl.
About dairy farm Aantjes-Blokhuis
Aantjes-Blokhuis keeps 200 milk and calves in a fully automated barn in Haastrecht. Milk production averages around 9.000 litres, with 4.34 percent fat, 3.41 percent protein and the lactose content is 4.51.
These products are mentioned by Aantjes-Blokhuis
AHV Quick Tablet
AHV Extra Tablet
AHV Metri Tablet
AHV Aspi Tablet
A question for an AHV Specialist?
Would you like to be visited by an AHV Specialist in order to discuss the health of your dairy farm together? Our AHV Specialist will be happy to visit you to assess the health of your cows together and to provide appropriate cow-specific advice.
EN – Get in touch
"*" indicates required fields