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Hans Vetketel - "The size and versatility of Agritechnica make a visit an unforgettable experience"

Interview by Erminia Ciarleglio, DLG

Hans Vetketel manages his farm "t' Maatkamp" with 100 dairy cows in the Netherlands. He likes to share his experiences of sustainable farming. Furthermore, he gives practical lessons at vocational school, which includes letting the students visit his farm and learn about the work processes.

One recommendation from Hans Vetketel is: "Look at what suits you and your business. Look closely at the costs of your business and make sure you have the right contacts for your questions or problems."

Mr Vetketel, you run a conventional dairy farm that stands for progress and growth?

Yes, by growth I mainly mean the growth of grass, which I want to improve. In my business, I have focused on reducing costs.

I do this by adding magnesium chloride to the manure, which increases its coefficient of action. I also emphasise species-rich grassland with lots of herbs and think about what strategies can be used to improve grazing. In this way, I try to improve profitability and compensate for losses due to the droughts of recent years. In my dairy herd I breed to a robust Holstein cow via the aAa system.

What is your farming strategy?

I am enthusiastically committed to sustainability and nature conservation.

I look at where opportunities for environmental measures are and what certain regulations are for. For their implementation you can get financial compensation and at the same time make your farm more sustainable.

Why is knowledge sharing and consultation important for your farm?

In my opinion, the most important point in adapting a way of working is the follow-up process. If something is not going the way you are used to, you need guidance. For example, I communicate with other farmers through a "pasture" app group, about difficulties that can be encountered, and I invite other dairy farmers as well as students and people active in politics to visit my farm. I want to keep a close eye on further developments.

What is the aAa system?

The aAa system is a mating aid for cattle originating from the USA. For this purpose, cows and bulls are divided into six basic types on the basis of their external characteristics and given a coding from 1 to 6. These numbers then express physical traits and type characteristics (e.g. large or small) and refer to the whole animal. Cows with identical aAa codes can thus be of different qualities. A cow is coded in the order of the three least desired traits. Then a bull can be searched for that best compensates for these traits.

What advice do you give to dairy farmers who want to become more sustainable?

It is important to exchange ideas with other farmers who are already practising sustainable agriculture in order to see what is suitable for you and your business. Then try it out yourself, sometimes in small steps. If you already start to change your way of thinking, you are often already on the right track...

What are the big challenges in agriculture?

If the climate targets here in the EU go too far, the priority will be more on food supply again.

Now the cost price is still far too high. That's why a lot of food comes to the EU. And that is a pity, because here in the EU it is possible to make good agreements with farmers to protect nature. There are many possibilities for individual and economically interesting solutions for agriculture, but these have been difficult to find so far.

Which DLG trade show will you visit next and what fascinates you about the fairs?

The next trade fair I will visit is Agritechnica in November 2023. The size and versatility of the fair make the visit an unforgettable experience .... and of course you may not forget the beer and the currywurst!

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