IRDBF Tour 2023
Punased lehmad- meie uhine kirg!
Red cows our common passion – The Estonian slogan for the Conference
Pre conference tour of Demark Included visiting the national a and p show at Herning which is in the middle of the mainland Jutland. It a was very impressive show with fantastic facilities with cows housed in multiple barns with vacuum line above stall area where cows could be milked by plugging in. The big main show ring with grand stand alongside of ring for crowd to watch with Holstein jersey and red danes breeds shown in evening the Viking genetics trade stall turned in to beer tap room socializing area.
There was farm machinery displays, beef cattle and sheep. These were more hobby shown apparently. With the main agriculture in Demark is dairy, pigs and arable horses with around 50 heavy horses been shown. Breeds were Jutland(local) shire, Clydesdale, punch and cob types/breeds.
They was big engagement for kids and young people for outdoors and rural experience with school groups and families taking part in many activities. Wood carving with knives, camp fire making, hand milking cows and clay target shooting. There was big hunting and fishing site with deer carcasses hanging up which we were treated to as roast venison over wood coals for dinner at show.
Our guides for the tour were Lars Inversen who was former president of Viking genetics and involved in the merger to bring the Nordic red breeds together and current president of Danish farmers union. He also runs dairy and bull fattening farm on island of Funen. Other guide was Bjarne Serup Pedersen who had retired from farming but still takes keen interested in farming in Demark and red Dane cows.He currently runs a furniture construction and firewood business from Danish oak grown on funen and before retiring from farming was running two dairy farms. They were great, very knowledgeable for all the many questions asked by the curious New Zealand farmers.
We visited two farms on the island of Funen on way to overnight stay in Copenhagen.
Farm one was Bjanes family farm where he grew up and is now run by his nephew Jacob who is on Viking board. Milking 400 red Dane cows 3 times a day it was a very modern well run farm with Jacob hoping to increase to 600 cows in near future. Government rules are in place to set stocking rate at 1 cow per hectare this farm is spread over 20 km ground is used for growing crops and silage to feed the cows. Jacob discussed concerns about environmental restriction in future with c02, his plan is to be in top ten percent to survive what the future throws at him.
The cows were housed in mix cubical stalls and straw free barn sheds. Milk is supplied to Arla milk co-op. Rules discussed with us was a “heart system” and for every heart rating achieved they are paid extra. For example calves have to be housed in pairs and have play stimulation in form of two rubber teats to suckle on. Cows have to have access to outside which Jacobs did but they prefer to stay in barn where it is very comfortable for them. The farm has to have certain amount of calving pens per number of cows.
Jacob has 3Dcameras in barn along feed passage and is involved in study with Viking it measures the TMR in front of cows, how much is eaten and by what cow. It reads cows ID and monitors cows condition and weight gain or loss. The information is fed into a data base where it compares milk yield and builds data on cows feed efficiency by intake and output. Really impressive set up apparently they use same cameras on Xbox game consoles. There is hope to develop cameras for grazing system by having cameras to in bail in cowshed to measure weight or condition changes on cows during milking.
The second was a real family enterprise run by Johan Bebe and wife Anne Katherine with the help on both their fathers. Johan’s looks after the young stock and Annes takes care of the cropping and cultivation on farm this farm had best maize crop I saw on my travels through Europe.
Then on to the Baltic part of the tour starting with hosts Estonia with conference business meeting in the capital Talin and started off with a guided city tour of the old part of city. With different architecture from brought by different areas or empires that had rule over Estonia (only having 50 years independence in last 100years) being demark Sweden German Russian empire and soviet Russia all leaving there mark on city we enjoyed great evening entertainment from our hosts as well the hotel had a KGB spy Museum.
Business meetings consisted of welcoming and opening presentation from ministry of agriculture. Host Estonia cattle breeders association CEO Talel Bultiko gave a outline of how agriculture dairy industry and trade was given and how it has changed over last 30 years of independence from USSR followed by two presentations from Australian data gene on there roll out of red genomics across the red dairy breeds there and then professor at la Trobe university on breeding a bright red future.
Followed by German rediverse study program research being done by German professor smaller populations of red dual-purpose and dairy breeds across France Belgium neverlands and Germany then coffee break.
After break we had speaker from Edinburgh university on perils and benefits of import or introduction of outside genetics in small cattle breeding programs were using study and finding from dairy breeds in Czech Republic
Followed by chief technology and innovation manger from Geno Norway talking about their breeding program with an impressive 200,000 cows genotyped in the reference population to allow 1500 bull calves to being screened annually with genomic testing then them taking the top 10 through for their breeding program.
Then chairman of Viking red who farms in Finland gave talk and update on what tools and opportunity’s it is using to secure future for red cows. Which lead to Jan Lassen who manages the project from Viking he’s based in demark giving talk on the use of 3d camera’s in barns and study on saved feed index and elaborated on finding so far.
Which red cows being able to produce more meat and milk off low energy feed compared to jersey and Holstein and also how dairy cows in calf to beef pregnancy’s lose more weight than when having dairy pregnancy’s and require more feed to maintain maintenance and condition during pregnancy.
IRDBF AGM was held which president Christina Paulsen-Schluter (Germany) and Tanel Bulitko (Estonia) retiring on rotation and Harvard Melbo Tajet (Norway) and Lorenz Engelbrecht (Germany)being voted to the board and Morton Hansen (demark) becoming vice and Graeme Hamilton (Australia) becoming president and proposed for next conference to be held in new Zealand in march 2026 to be organized by Russell Tocker (me) and two youth scholarship to be set up for two young breeder or farmer under 35 to allow assistance with travel costs attending future conferences.
Then we were off on the bus tour of the Baltic states. Firstly Estonia then Latvia and Lithuania were treated to visiting dairy farms with red cows and a few tourist sites such as castles and old stone building cities such as Riga and Vilnius had a river cruise as well.
The countryside was flat absent of any hills and mostly forested with silver birch and pines. A few marshland with cleared pockets of farm land in which was mostly in grain or lucerne and some old abandoned buildings along roadsides. There wasn’t many villages or towns in Estonia and as we moved south to Latvia and Lithuania they was less trees and just grain crops as far the eye could see. No fences just up to the road edge then were some paddock rye grass paddocks around for silage and rape seed as well.
The soil in the north was quite shallow sandy and crops didn’t look to have the yields of the ones in the south on more peaty and clay soils. All the milking cows we saw were housed all year round but they looked very well looked after and healthy. There were a lot of good uddered cows with red Holstein and Viking bulls and some Ayrshire used as well as local red bulls. Alot of the farmers were breeding for better hooves and udders saw one red cow in Latvia that done over 1000ms a big market for export of incalf heifer farmers were getting 2000 euro per head.
The cow barns were all cubical stalls for laying in and center feed passage on all farms. The barns were old concrete structures built during soviet time and still in use today the milking set ups were mostly double up herringbones all farms were managed by women as well.
The farm businesses were all 30 years old because that’s how long it had been since soviets had left and private ownership had reallowed. After ww2 all land owners had land conversated and sent to Siberia by soviets, all farms had vast array of machinery ie combine harvesters foragers tractors slurry spreading and cultivation equipment really impressive fleets one farm had 6000 ha of arable land another one had over 100 staff with 2 accountants.
Then last leg of my trip was to the Uk with a visit to the kite family’s Cotonhall dairy shorthorn herd in Staffordshire. They milk 150 cows with young stock kept down road on different block calving all year round.There were two big strong concrete bull pens were up by cow shed where bulls are kept and then let out with herd when they up in yard for mating. Beautiful country side of hedge paddocks and little lanes and gentle rolling hills tb was a issue in there area they told me.
The cows were out grazing when rob showed me round the milking herd, had some really impressive older cows with big bodies and well attached udders they really stood out. A few younger cows rob pointed out were by Illawarra bulls and he was a bit disappointed with them they looked a bit immature he thought they needed to be grain fed more than grazed. A big part of the kites farm business is selling in milk heifers to supplement their milk cheque and rob puts a lot of effort in to showing his cows to promote his sales.
I like to thank all the hosts and organizers of the conference the hostility we were shown was really first class.