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European-inspired farming system ticks all the boxes

European-inspired farming system ticks all the boxes

Winter milking and a cow house go handin-hand for South Canterbury farmer Arjan van’t Klooster. Sharemilking on his parents dairy unit in Glenavy, 20 minutes north of Oamaru, a cow house has been part of the van’t Klooster’s farming system for the last 10 years.

Kinder on the animals and the pasture, the cow house also ensures almost 100% feed utilisation, as opposed to 30 – 40% feed wastage – wastage that impacts on milk production and ultimately the bottom line results.

“When we’re feeding out in the herd home the only things left behind in the feed lane is some alkathene piping, some thistles and hedgehogs,” says Arjan.

While the cow house is used all year round for feeding supplements 15 minutes each day, the winter herd looks forward to cozy accommodation from the beginning of May, with the sojourn finishing at the end of August.

“We put the cows in after the afternoon milking, they come out for the morning milking then stay outside to get some fresh air and natural sunlight. So the cow house is only used 12 hours a day, unless the weather is cold and wet when we keep the cows inside to save the pastures and it’s much nicer on the animals.”

Arjan says the cows get to know the warmth and comfort provided by the cow house and during bad weather in the spring or autumn they stop outside the home on the way to the shed waiting ‘hopefully’ for the doors to be opened – creatures of habit and not at all silly.

While passionate about the use of a cow house, Arjan also accepts that it is a more complicated farming system and there is a learning curve.

“Dad came from a European background where cow houses were common place in Holland so he knew how to run it. The biggest learning curve would be animal health – you will see more lameness and mastitis because of the environment and concrete floor – so the learning curve is to manage that. But you would never go back.”

A past winner of the Aorangi Regional FMG Young Farmers competition, Arjan recalls his passion for farming starting as a five-year-old getting up at 5:00 in the morning to help his dad, Gert van’t Klooster, bring the cows in for milking – though he’s not sure how much help he was in those days.

As the years went by Arjan worked on the farm before and after school and during the weekends before attending Lincoln University and attaining a BCom Ag, and a certificate in Applied Science.

Academic studies complete, Arjan returned to the family farm taking up a low order sharemilking position in 2012.

“That was probably one of the biggest and hardest steps of my career going from a full time student and part time worker to managing a team of four staff at 20 years of age – much older and more experienced than me.”

Arjan says that he has tended to target younger staff when recruiting because of their enthusiasm and passion for farming.

“I like to develop that passion and watch people grow in their careers. One of my strengths is passing knowledge on to new staff.”

In addition to his sharemilking role on the family farm, Arjan and his wife Kelsi have purchased their own farm just a kilometre down the road.

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