Brand new dairy unit showcases a high level of automation

In the second installment from a visit to the Netherlands, Katie Lomas reports on a farm where a novel bedding material is used in a new greenfield-site set-up.

After moving 37 miles from his existing farm Peter Hampsing used the services of an architect to construct a new dairy unit from scratch at a cost of €1.2 million (£1.03m).

The shed, which houses all the cattle, also includes a high level of automation. The 120 Holstein Friesian cows are milked through two robots, a scraper robot is used to keep the slatted passageways clear and a roof level robotic bedding dispenser is also used for a loose-housed area.

Peter’s farm at Emmer Compascuum, in the north east province of Drenthe, also makes use of an unusual cubicle bedding product - horse manure. The manure is bought in, composted down and then mixed with lime before being spread on the cubicle beds every two weeks. Peter says this presents few health problems and cell counts are usually around 150.

Peter has some part-time help and to keep labour requirements to a minimum feed is put out to the cows every other day.


The basic ration comprises 60 per cent grass silage, 40 per cent maize, some straw plus 5kg soya and 1.5kg brewers grain. The herd is split into highs and lows, with the high group made up of cows which are in the first 150 days of their lactation.

The high yielders also receive 1kg wheat, some molasses and 400g linseed and minerals.

“They get about 17kg dry matter from the roughage and then get up to 6kg a head of cake each day when going to the robots,” says Peter. “The cost of concentrates is about €5.31 per 100 litres.”

Five cuts of grass are taken, a common practice in Holland, with Peter doing all of the mowing, raking and tedding himself. He also does some contracting work for near by farmers.

Outside contractors come in to do the maize harvest, around 25 hectares (62 acres) and also the slurry injection.

Peter uses a slurry additive to help increase the availability of N in the slurry and also reduce crust formation so it can be easily injected.

Dry cow diet

The dry cows are fed a different diet from the main herd, which includes straw, maize silage and a little grass silage. Then for the last two weeks of the dry period they will receive 2kg of concentrates to get the rumen functioning again.

The dry cows are also loose housed on straw and they will stay there a few days after calving before moving into the main slatted floor area.

All the youngstock are under the same roof as the main herd and dry cows. Calves are firstly kept in hutches and then at 14 days old come into the main shed where they receive milk until weaning at eight weeks. They will then move groups and are on hay and 2kg concentrates a day.

At six months old the heifers receive maize silage, straw and a little grass silage, although this is limited to make sure they do not gain too much condition and they are put to the bull at 14-15 months old.

In the future Peter hopes to build another barn for the youngstock and use the existing barn for milking group, and put in another two robots to cope with this expansion.

“It should be easy to get more land here, as it’s an arable area anyway and the cost of land here is around €40,000 per hectare.”


Farm facts

  • Farm size - 110 hectares (275 acres)
  • Cows visit robot 2.8 times a day on average
  • Average number of lactations is 4.2
  • Yields - 12,000 litres at 4.15 per cent butterfat and 3.40 protein

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