In Huize Ruijter in Tollebeek (Noordoostpolder) little Ivan would rather look at beautiful grazing cows on his mother's phone than at cartoons. "He loves cows," say Erwin and Ludy-Anne Ruijter. It is not surprising that the interest in cows is already high. Together with his parents and brother Stefan, Erwin runs a dairy farm with 120 dairy cows and 90 young cattle. They are real cow farmers who focus on optimum cow health and welfare. This ensures that the average age of the cows is high on the farm and the Ruijter family is in 9th place in the list of the top 25 best performing robot fanciers. At the kitchen table, Erwin enthusiastically talks about the family business.

"A lot has changed within our company in the last 7 years. In 2013 we built a new barn where two milking robots are now running. In recent years, too, from our own breeding, we have risen sharply in the number of dairy cows. "From 60 cows in the old situation, the Ruijter family grew to 120 cows after the relocation. The old dairy farm is located in Urk, where Erwin's parents live, and is still the place where the young cattle are housed.

Get used to so many cows

With the construction of the new barn and the growing number of dairy cows, a lot has changed for the family. "We had to get used to so many cows," Erwin says. In 2013 the Ruijter family switched to automatic milking. The goal of automatically milking 120 cows has now been achieved for the Ruijter family. "We are currently very satisfied. Our cows are healthy and the business is doing well. Our objective now is to further increase milk production from 11,500 to 12,000 kg of milk per cow per year. "They want to achieve this goal through good management and good nutrition. An increase is certainly possible, "Erwin firmly states. With the new stable and growth in livestock, the Ruijter family now focuses primarily on optimizing the company. "It is still uncertain about the number of cows that we will be allowed to milk later, so our goal now is to run a good return."

More than 1000 kg of milk with milking robot

Three years ago, the Ruijter family exchanged the herringbone milking parlor for a milking robot in the new barn. With the arrival of the milking robot, they saw milk production increase by 1000 kg. "We were first at 10,000 kg of milk per cow and now we are at over 11,000 kg." According to Erwin, the biggest advantage of automatic milking is contact with the cows. "With the milking robot I walk among the cows much more often to see how things are going and I have more time to monitor cow health."

Nice cows

Erwin is a real cow farmer. Working with the cows has therefore been the deciding factor in also entering into the partnership of his parents. "I am happy with a beautiful cow that produces a lot," he says enthusiastically. The interest for breeding is great with the cow farmer. Erwin is consciously choosing the right bull for every cow. "I look carefully at the right balance when pairing. The frame properties are very important here. What I mainly pay attention to is the construction of the cow, pedigree, good udders and the contents. "According to Erwin, it is precisely the different strong frame properties of the cow-bull combination that complement each other, creating a strong cow.

Sustainable cows

With an average age of 4.11 years of cows on the farm, Erwin scores above average. According to the farmer, good care for the cows is the basis for sustainable cows. "This starts with the calves," says Erwin. "The initial period of the calves is extremely important. They must be healthy and grow well. Good nutrition means healthy calves, "says Erwin. The ration of the calves on the farm includes concentrates, minerals and hay.

Healthy cows are the basis

The oldest milking cow in the stable of the Ruijter family is 17 years old, Erwin is proud to announce. "Healthy cows are the basis," says the top fancier. He regularly walks through the stable to check the cows. "Regularly walking through the barn to see if all the cows are chewing, shining in the fur and being well rounded is of great importance." The most important aim at the farm is and remains good animal health. "Before I walk into the stable, I carefully check the attention list on my Management program T4C (Time for Cows) to check whether there are any specifics." In this way, Erwin has more control over the herd. In addition, the dairy farmer indicates that he will continue to take sick cows for longer, so that the average age is higher. "But," he adds, "the average age of our cows has sometimes been 6." That the average age is currently lower than usually on the farm can be explained by the substantial growth in the number of dairy cows in recent years.

Efficient roughing in and out of roughage is essential

The right diet is also fundamental for healthy cows, Erwin says. The cows of the Ruijter family are supplied with fresh silage and leave little residual feed behind. Securely covering and closing the silage is, according to the cattle farmer, essential for better feed quality. "I am very careful when it comes to sealing the silage. This keeps the pit fresh and results in no heating. The cows eat well and leave little residual feed. "The ration of the dry cows consists of corn supplemented with minerals and calcium binder. "We deliberately do not feed the dry cows so that they start and calve without any problems."

Company details

Erwin and Ludy-Anne Ruijter live together with children Vienne and Ivan in Tollebeek. Here they run a dairy farm with 120 dairy cows and 90 young cattle, together with Erwin's parents and brother Stefan. The average production is 11,400 kg of milk with 4.31% fat and 3.50% protein. The average age of the cows is 4.11 years old. Average life production in the stable is 32,700 kg milk. The number of milkings per cow per day is 2.8.

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