STOKMAN FARM

Based in the Netherlands, Anton Stokman’s farm is a leader when it comes to animal welfare.

The farm operates a Free Choice system that allows the herd of 300 cows to manage their time as they like. Waterbeds and robotic milking keep the cows happy and healthy, while regular foot baths and professional foot care keep the incidence of lameness extremely low.

Sustainability and environmental protection are also key issues, and the Stokman Farm was the first dairy unit in the Netherlands to be accredited with the Green Facility Mark, a  government award for novel solutions to ecological challenges.

Certification

The farm is a member of the farm assurance scheme Foqus, which is audited and certified by an independent organization and covers key aspects such as food safety, and animal health and welfare.

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

Animal health & 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 waterbeds 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. The waterbed also reduces the quantity of bedding required per cow and remains cleaner and more hygienic than other lying systems.

Passageways are auto-scraped every hour, which limits the time slurry in the passageways can release ammonia, reducing nitrogen emissions.

Weekly foot-bathing of all cows and tri-annual professional foot trimming ensure 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 recognizes that control and treatment is crucially important, as lameness is 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 gives them the option to access the outside area, again providing “free choice.”

The farm uses the COWEL system, a computer program that calculates a score based on an assessment of an individual farm’s housing and management system. The score 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.

Semen for artificial insemination is selected carefully to complement the genetic potential of the dam and minimize calving difficulties.

Farm ecosystem

The farm provides 34 hectares of “nature fields” for migrating wild geese to graze over the winter period, offering an important food source for these birds.

The grooved anti-slip floor reduces the 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 that 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.

Mootral partnership

Both Ammonia and CO2 levels in Anton’s Farm are measured and recorded continuously. Anton’s objective has been to reduce his farm’s GHG emissions and Ammonia as much as possible. Mootral has now partnered with Anton to measure the methane emission level in his farm 24/7 and gain valuable insights about how to reduce his total methane gas emissions originating from enteric fermentation.