Insight into German farmers’ mindset

VDAJ, the German agricultural journalists’ association, hosted a low-budget press trip for ENAJ members in April 2018. Freelancer Chris McCullough was one of those taking part.

Ivo Hermanussen and his father Jan from Barendonk Holsteins in The Netherlands

Ivo Hermanussen and his father Jan from Barendonk Holsteins in The Netherlands

As livestock farmers come under greater pressure to reduce antibiotic use, the ENAJ trip to Germany in April provided a welcome introduction to some forward-thinking young farmers doing exactly that.

Organised by VDAJ, the German Guild of Agricultural Journalists, the three-day tour starting at Kleve was of sufficient length to include several visits to farms in both Germany and neighbouring Netherlands, together with a research farm, various laboratories and the headquarters of MSD Animal Health.

Tour participants were introduced to a scientists and researchers who are working tirelessly to develop new products and procedures that can help farmers reduce their use of antibiotics.

A major part of this is to change farmers’ mindset away from blanket treatments of mastitis, for example, towards preventative measures and subsequently only treating problematic udder quarters.

While the science and research is interesting, as a journalist I find the real stories come from the farmers themselves. Two of those we visited stood out as being progressive farms run by passionate people.

Barendonk Holsteins, situated at Beers in the east of the Netherlands, was a prime example of a young farmer taking the reins from his father and bringing herd health in line with market demands and EU regulations.

Markus Hubers, from Lima Holsteins, Germany

Markus Hubers, from Lima Holsteins, Germany

We also visited Lima Holsteins, at Rees in North Rhine-Westphalia, run by Markus Hubers. He is another young farmer who strives to keep his herd young and disease-free by structuring 89 per cent of it as second- or third-calvers.

Both farmers demonstrated their own programmes for reducing antibiotic use in cattle and the plans they have for the future of their own businesses.

All in all, this ENAJ trip provided me with many information-grabbing opportunities, as well as photos that my editors were pleased to use.

I must congratulate VDAJ for a well organised and simple tour which was in keeping with the ethos of ENAJ in providing low-budget press tours. I personally find these tours particularly useful as I get to report from both new and common places but there is always a different story to tell.

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