Bart van den Bosse is only 20 years old, but he knows his family history as well as he knows his farm’s milking parlor. He proudly tells his story, though he has shared it many times before. His grandfather settled in Kerkwerve, a village in the municipality of Schouwen-Duiveland, in 1959. “He was able to start a completely new farm here thanks to changes in the way land was organized. He started out with four dairy cows and didn’t own any other animals,” he says. His grandfather milked the cows himself until he turned 81, by which time he had a herd of more than a hundred Holstein-Frisians. He was still doing all kinds of work on the farm up until 2013. His father took over the farm in 2000 and has gradually expanded it over the years. “My grandfather was able to see all that.”
When his grandfather stopped milking, the change affected everyone. “Today, we use three robots to milk 155 Holstein cows,” says the budding agronomist. “That was a conscious decision, because my father didn’t have the time to milk them himself, and I was too young at the time.” Annual milk production on the farm averages 10,500 kilos per cow on average.
In the future, the family wants to increase the herd from 175 to 200 cows. With the current milk prices, they can acquire phosphate rights and so increase their herd. In a year, Bart von den Bosse will finish his studies and then wants to work on the farm full time. “I already have some ideas,” he says excitedly. Protein, he says, is a big problem in feeding. He plans to grow soybeans in order to buy as little as possible. At the moment he is trying mixed cultivation of soybeans and wheat. When placed in silos, more protein is available to the farm, which means the family can cut down on one additional purchase. “I would also like to take on more of the work myself,” the farmer says. “We employ a lot of contract labor and often use the services of a cooperative. We can also save some money here, too, by doing the insemination and more farm labor ourselves.” In the future, he hopes to work more self-sufficiently, with the goal of keeping the farm running for many generations to come.