Ulrich Westrup, Farmer
Around 4,400 milk producers work together with DMK. We are proud and grateful that we work with them in such a trusting manner - in some cases for decades. We talked to farmer Ulrich Wentrup about sustainability, the challenges in agriculture and young talent.

Hello. What's your name, how old are you, where is your farm and how big is it?

I am Ulrich Westrup, 51 years old and one of 5 partners of Westrup-Koch Milch GbR from Bissendorf near Osnabrück. With 5 partners, 3 trainees, 5 full-time employees and a few part-time workers, we farm a good 700 hectares, feed 600 cows and their offspring, and operate a biogas plant.

How long have you been supplying DMK?

We used to be a supplier to Milchhof Osnabrück, which then merged with Humana Milchunion. Which in turn, as you know, merged with Nordmilch and became DMK. So actually, we always have been.

What are your specific challenges on the farm at the moment? What are you working on?

That's what's so exciting about farming. There are always new and different things to focus on. We just finished implementing the requirement to transport calves only at 28 days of age. And now we are working on making some major repairs to our silo system. At the same time, we are also focusing on the further development of the farm, together with the next generation. What is very challenging is the volatility of political ideas that are often associated with sustainability. There is a big word in the mouth and yet often only one pillar is considered, namely ecology. More expertise and thinking through to the end would do a lot of good when making decisions.

To keep the CO2 footprint smaller, DMK is developing energy-saving measures in the company or on the farms with the Net Zero project. As a farmer, how important is it to you that these initiatives are implemented? Which measures do you think are best?

Since it is important for both industrial and private customers to know what climate impact our actions have at the counter, I think it is the right step to shed light on this along the entire value chain. I consider the establishment of the climate check for farmers within the bonus program to be a very important step towards making the potential that every farm has in terms of its CO2 footprint visible to us. Because I can only manage what I can measure.   

Why is it so important to operate sustainably as a company?

Long-term agriculture without sustainability is simply inconceivable. Here are just a few ways of thinking about the topic. Let's take the building block of ecology. Soil conservation tillage, for example, is a vested interest in preserving soil life and fertility. Nutrient-conserving application of substrates is not only a clear ecological contribution, but also an economic one. This also applies to many aspects of climate protection, which is particularly important to us, since we are the ones most likely to notice climate change, whether it is that we are reaching our limits in water-conserving tillage or that the effort required to regulate heat stress in cows is constantly increasing. This also brings us to the agriculture-specific 4th pillar of sustainability, animal welfare. Cows are very grateful animals when it comes to increased animal welfare. For us, the health of the animals, their activity and behavior is just as much a measure of their well-being as their performance. Working hours, payment, training and the involvement of the next generation are just some of the factors of social sustainability that are particularly important to us. 

What do you yourself do to operate sustainably? How do you do it and where do you see difficulties?

I have already answered many points in the previous questions, and one could extend the list. The difficulty lies in the conflicting goals that make prioritization necessary. Example: In the Milkmaster bonus program, longevity is included as a positive factor. In the first moment, it is a legitimate and good tool from the point of view of the social requirement. On closer inspection, this point can have fatal negative side effects. After all, it does not make sense for every cow to stay on the farm longer, even from an animal welfare perspective. Another important point is the question of whether the non-productive time, for example the rearing period, is extended. This would work against climate protection. Therefore, the life-day performance would be the much better value, but this is not so easy to market in terms of communication.

What could convince young people to work as farmers?

A few decades ago, young people found their way into agriculture because they had an agricultural background from their parents' homes. This has changed. In the meantime, more than half of the trainees, and thus also the later employees, no longer come directly from the farm. In order to show young people the diversity of the profession, but also how modern the work of a farmer has become through precision farming, both in field cultivation and in the barn, we are happy to give school interns the opportunity to get a taste of what it's like to work with us.

Does sustainability play a role in this?

At first glance, social sustainability probably plays an important role. The other factors only really become clear when you compare them with other companies. This was the subject of a conversation with a former apprentice, who told me how she really got to know the differences in production and thus also in sustainability in her next year of apprenticeship on another farm.

Who applies to work on your farm?

It varies a lot, and ranges from word of mouth to former interns or apprentices working for us. 

How do you recruit employees? What is your desire and what is different about your attitude than it was ten or twenty years ago?

We are no longer always looking for the all-rounder who can do everything, does everything and works as much and as long as the boss. Rather, we are looking for specialists in certain areas who are also passionate about it and want to develop this area further with us.

What do you wish for agriculture in general and for your farm in particular?

What do you wish for agriculture in general and for your farm in particular?

That agriculture retains its status as a food supplier in Germany. An overly regulated agriculture will lead to the relocation of production to the economically more favorable locations of the world. In many areas of "basic supply" from FFP2 masks to IT chips, we have been made aware of our dependence on foreign countries in recent years. We should not repeat this mistake in the food sector.