Approximately 80% of the dairy farms in the Netherlands practices grazing. However, grazing is often not the main focus of the farmer and grazing efficiency could be improved. We therefore discussed farm mapping and optimal farm infrastructure to support effective grazing in the Netherlands and took a farm in Heeten, Gelderland as case study. The topic was introduced by Bertie Troy, an expert from the Grasstec Group, Ireland. Every farmer who would like to increase the grazing efficiency of the dairy cattle, should work on the following items:
- Paddock system: A good paddock system ensures control of animals and protects regrowths of grass. Factors to consider are the net area to walk cows to, the grass demand of the cows and the ability of a farm to grow grass.
- Roadway system: A good roadway system is necessary to avoid trampling and increase animal welfare. Ideally hard turns should be avoided, curved roads are better. Roadways should be 4 meters wide for herds smaller than 120 cows, 5 meters for 120-250 cows, 6 meters for 250-350 cows and 6.5 meters for 350-450 cows.
- Water system: Key aspects are the water pump, water pipe and trough. Fast flow valves are useful. The peak demand of cows is 90 minutes after milking. 150 cows require 75 litres per minute.
Taking paddocks, roadways and water into account an ideal farm map can be created. When changes in infrastructure are needed, the ideal order would be: 1. Install water, 2. Construct roadways, 3. Reseed, 4. Fence installation. Investments are needed for fencing, roadways and water system and will depend on the local conditions.
It was concluded by the farmer that setting up an optimal farm infrastructure would be highly beneficial for efficient grazing. The costs in the short-term would be a disadvantage, but the benefits in the long-term would be higher.