Keen focus on calves at the Van Gosliga dairy farm
At the Van Gosliga farm in the Friesian village of Schettens, you won't find the calves tucked away at the back somewhere, instead, they're en route as you walk from the house to the barn. Alice van Gosliga: "Whenever you walk past, you automatically check the pens. It means that you're quickly on top of any situation."
The Van Gosliga farm has enjoyed very healthy growth in recent years. From the road, the red roof of the characteristic farm is barely visible behind the enormous barns full of cubicles and the endless rows of bales. Yet this oldest building still houses the farm base. Where the stalls and hay sheds used to be, the youngest calves are now reared.
This farm partnership is formed by brothers Jan and Freek, and the latter's wife Alice. Together, they are responsible for 280 dairy cows and 200 young cattle. A new barn was built in 2003, and the accommodation for the calves was modernised. Before that the calves were already housed in the original farm, but in smaller pens.
Calf drinking machine with 2 drinking stations
As the company grew, it was time to take a closer look at the calf rearing process and the related work. The youngest calves are now kept in group stalls bedded on straw, and fed using an Urban calf drinking machine with 2 drinking stations. This allows the milk-drinking calves to be split into 2 groups: from 0 to 4 weeks and from 4 to 9 weeks. "That keeps the younger ones safe from the older calves", explains Alice.
2 days of colostrum and then into the group stall
After 2 days of being fed colostrum, the calves are moved to the group stall, which works well. Alice: "They soon catch on to how it works. Too much time in the individual pen makes them overly cautious." The bull calves and heifer calves which are to be sold, are also moved to a group stall after 2 days. They too have a drinking machine. "That's been one of our best investments", says Alice about the calf drinking machine. Working efficiency becomes very important as the farm grows. As does the structure. "We have a set schedule and routine for nearly all our work. The same applies to feeding the calves, which Jan does at milking time. Not that the other two have 'nothing' to do with the calves. "We can take over at any time."
Calves move on every 4 weeks
Sprayfo Vitesse is fed in both drinking machines. The curves for gradual expansion and reduction of the volumes have been set by rearing specialist Jan Klasen from Sloten. "It's working well, and so we leave it well alone. And if it no longer works optimally, we can always give Jan a call", explains Alice.
The calves move on from stall to stall every 4 weeks. At the age of 3 months, they leave the drinking machine, to move to the flex barn. This is an arched barn with lots of fresh air, where the calves are bedded on straw until the age of 6 months. From 7 months on, they are brought onto gratings in the barn, and moved on a group every month. At the age of 9 or 10 months, they are housed in the young cattle shed, where they still live in groups. From 15 months on, they move into the group where a bull is in among the heifers.
The farm once again has plans for new construction work. The building plans for expansion of the young cattle shed and the barn with cubicles are already complete. However, the youngest calves will stay put under the characteristic red tiled roof, the farm base.