Visit to the Haus Riswick centre with ruminal zootechnical support
This year’s excursion for attendees of the zootechnical support for ruminants was held in Cleves, Germany. A great deal of practical research is carried out in Germany which is also useful in the Dutch dairy farming sector. The programme started in the lecture rooms of the Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences, a recently established university of agricultural studies.
After coffee and a warm welcome from Prof. Wichern of Rhine-Waal University, it was the turn of Dr Clemens van der Aa, sector manager Dairy at Rabobank Nederland, to talk about the prospects for dairy farming in Europe from the Rabobank’s perspective. Attention was devoted to the global market for dairy and dairy products, phosphate, and liquidity and financing in the future. Demand for dairy products is expected to increase globally, but the Netherlands is also expected to face significant challenges when it comes to optimisation of mineral cycles and regulations on phosphate. With regard to financing, the long-term perspective is becoming even more important and the duration is becoming subject to greater control. The second speaker was Arjan Reijneveld from Eurofins Agro who explained the relationships between soil properties and crop quality and yield, soil fertility, nutrients and developments over the years. For many attendees, this provided a good opportunity to refresh and add this information to their background knowledge. This information will make it possible to study soil analyses even more effectively. After lunch, Dr Klaus Hunting, a researcher at Haus Riswick, provided an overview of research into ensiling and the use of silage additives and aerobic stability enhancers. Due to the high demand for non-GMO products (limited use of soybean meal), there is a high demand in for alternative protein sources in Germany. Haus Riswick has also done research in this area. The day finished with a tour of the research facilities of Haus Riswick.
Haus Riswick has around 250 dairy cows with replacement youngstock that are housed in a variety of buildings. A stable, build in the 1980s houses 96 test cows, that can be fed individually using self-weighing feed troughs. In 2011, a new stable was built for 144 cows in which feed trials can be carried out using self-weighing feed troughs. The animals can be divided into six groups of twenty-four cows. There is also a stable to house cows not in experiment. All cows are milked twice a day using a 32-stalls rotary milking parlour. Heifers and bull calves up to 150 days of age are also used for research. The focus of this research is mainly the quality of milk replacer, the concentration, quantity and milking schedules. As well as dairy cows, Haus Riswick also keeps 120 ewes with lambs and 90 wethers (castrated rams). The wethers are used for research on digestibility. The site also features a biogas installation that serves primarily demonstration and research purposes. The organic farm with 42 dairy cows is used for teaching, and an important focus area is the optimisation of grassland use. The excursion showed that Haus Riswick conducts a great deal of interesting practical research that can also be applied in the Netherlands. It is also a teaching institution as well as a research organisation.