UK farmers exchange visit to the Netherlands

UK farmers exchange visit to the Netherlands

From 25th -27th October 2017 a UK group of 10 dairy farmers, 2 staff members of EuroDairy partner AHDB and a researcher of the University of Bristol visited the Netherlands to learn about the Dutch antibiotics policy and how it is implemented at farm level. This knowledge can contribute to the UK implement and antibiotics reduction strategy. The visit was hosted by the Dutch EuroDairy partners ZLTO and ZuivelNL.

Day 1
The first day Henry Voogd, proces manager of ABRES cattle, gave an overview of the Dutch approach to antibiotic reduction and responsible use. Government pressure resulted in all live stock sectors signing a covenant in December 2008 (PDF, Abres Henry Voogd Presentation Eurodairy 24 10 16). The covenant is signed by representatives of the farmer’s organizations, dairy and meat industry and vets and the implementation is coordinated by the steering group ABRES. The dairy cattle farming sector was very successful with achieving almost a 50% reduction throughout the 2009-2015 period! Also the use of critical antibiotics went down significantly (2nd choice) are rarely used anymore (3rd choice).

The three main points of the Dutch approach are:
1) Responsible prescription, delivery and administering of veterinary medicines by making use of an assured vet and farm health and treatment plans.
2) Transparent and benchmarking (of farms and vets) antibiotics usage at farm and sector level making use of a central database MediRund. (vet is responsible for input)
3) Assuring services vet and implementation in quality assurance programs of the dairy industry.


One of the instruments implemented is Selective Dry cow Therapy. Based on the individual somatic cell count 6 weeks or less prior to drying off only antibiotics maybe used for heifers at > 150,000 cells/ml and 50,000 cells/ml for cows.

Based on an overview of the present situation in the UK by Derek Armstrong (AHDB) the Dutch approach is ahead of the dairy sector in the UK. Working together with all stakeholders resulted in a real on farm change in the Netherlands.

Jeanet Bakker of Dutch farmers union LTO Netherland gave an overview of current and planned BVD and IBR control strategies in the Netherlands which will have also an impact on the reducing of antibiotics. It is difficult to eradicate these diseases by making use of regulation implemented in the quality assurance programs of the dairy industry as a lot of cattle is kept outside the dairy sector.

Day 2
The second day, 3 dairy farms in the forefront of animal health and responsible antibiotics use were visited. These visits were also joined by 12 (young) Dutch dairy farmers resulting in a lot of interactions.

The first farm, run by Erik and Marian van Grinsven at Sint Michielgestel, had a 260 high yielding cow herd with 5 milking robots. UK visitors were impressed by the high milk production (12,000 liter/cow) realized with a limited area of land and low use of antibiotics.

The second farm of the family Nabuurs in Sint Hubert had 250 cows with a separate unit of young stock rearing. This visit was also joined by the vet which showed the good collaboration between the farmer and his vet. Between healthy cows a healthy lunch was offered to the visitors.

The last farm visited this day was at Ijzendoorn run by Arnold and Brenda van Dee. This 90 cow herd farm is characterized by a high animal health status and no drying off.

After this farm visit Renny van Hoeij, PhD candidate in Animal Science, gave a presentation of a research about shortening or omitting the dry period. A short (30 days) dry period leads to a limited reduction in milk yield, but also an improvement of the energy balance. A follow up experiment is going on to study an optimal dry period for individual cows depending on characteristic like udder health etc.


Day 3
The third and last day the UK group visited the site of Dairy Campus at Leeuwarden. Dairy Campus of Wageningen University (WUR) is a center for research, education, training etc with more than 300 hectares of land and 500 cows. Firstly Eke Folkerts gave an overview of the site and the many stakeholders of the Dutch dairy chain working together in Dairy Campus. Afterwards Paul Galama (WUR) presented the development and ongoing research to alternative housing.

During the tour visitors were shown the facilities and research like ammonia emissions to do with floor and alternative floors (composting wood chips, artificial floor with manure robot)  in stables with no cubicles or concrete floors. During the reflection workshops ideas and practices were identified on how to reduce antimicrobial use on farms in the UK. Farmer’s feedback about this visit was positive or as one of them said “More trips like this”.



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