Bokma-Huitema Dairy Farm
Type of company
Number of dairy cows
For the new ‘Boer On Tour’, we ended up at the Bokma family in the always beautiful Scharsterbrug during this busy period of silage, spreading manure and spreading fertilizer. In November last year, they started separating manure here. Today we’re here to hear how the Keydollar Drybed manure separator demo went. We are curious about what has changed in the meantime and why this machine has become a household name on the farm.
In the period between the first and second cut, dairy farmer Arno Bokma was, fortunately, able to find a spot in the diary to talk to us. When we arrive at the farm, dozens of barn swallows start flying around our ears.
The owner of the dairy farm is already busy behind the barn, first helping a young worker with a lawnmower. ‘Good morning, I’m Arno Bokma’, the farmer introduces himself politely. ‘It looks like half the morning has already flown by since we had agreed to meet at the end of the morning,’ he jokes. Once we have had a chance to look around the farmyard, it is time to continue chatting inside at the coffee table.
‘Would you also like a cup of coffee before we start?’ When the coffee has appeared on the table, Arno starts with the story about his farmer’s pride. In 2019, the family built a new barn so that they can house all the young stock on their own farm. Previously they had the young stock a little further away at a stable that was rented. ‘Since my father has gotten a bit older and I will have to continue on my own in the future, it is convenient that all the animals are a little closer.’ Currently, they work on 50 hectares of owned land here and rent another 18 hectares, so that today around 110 cows can be milked.
Asked if Arno wants to grow with his farm, Bokma replied; ‘The milk price has been the same for 40 years. Only this year the milk price is slightly higher, but then the costs are also sky-high. If you want to remain a bit of a farmer, you will have to grow. Thanks to the renovation, we will have room for 140 or perhaps 150 cows in the future. That is why it is also great that after years everything has been renovated, then we can enjoy milking again, being a farmer and quietly growing’, explains Bokma.
Whether they have taken deep litter boxes into account when building the new barn, Arno answers; ‘We have been thinking for a long time, what are we going to do, what are we going to change and what is really hot among the new farmers? That is why we opted for deep litter boxes for the dairy cows in the new barn. We had already seen this with other farmers. We have now built a solid floor, with rubber and a dump where we can pump the manure to the loose manure bag that is further down the yard.’
‘Only the cost of lime sawdust was so exorbitantly expensive. At a certain point, it got really crazy.’
“With the new deep litter boxes, we started with lime straw and later lime sawdust. That was great in principle, only the cost of lime sawdust was too high. That really went way too crazy at one point.’
‘I don’t like it: shit in the boxes.’
When they opted for deep litter boxes here, they never thought that separated manure would be produced there. In the past, Bokma said the following about it; ‘I don’t like it: shit in the boxes. Just the word… Until your colleague, Klaas started talking about this, because he used to come here as a contractor. Since the cost of the lime sawdust was high, I wanted to try it for a few months. Your 90-day demo is really a solution for that. Then I also looked at other farmers who had this lying around and those stables were often a lot older than ours. At the time we said; if it can be done with those farmers, then it should be possible here.’
‘We started in November, that was a pretty humid period where we had to learn to build up the boxes in terms of bedding. The cows were slightly dirtier during this period, the somatic cell count went up a little more and at first, there was also more udder infection. We then opted for a different udder dip. And later we also started pre-spraying before pre-treating. We only do this in the morning, because they now walk outside during the day.’ says Arno. The fuller the box becomes with thick fraction, the drier the bed, and the cell count is now back to a good level!
‘Your colleague came over every week and that’s why we always had good guidance. The thin fraction now flows nicely via a Kuijpers pump to the manure basin, otherwise, the pits under the young stock will be full very quickly. Now that I’ve been busy for a while, you can also control the thickness of the manure a bit in the dumping pit behind the barn, where I can also let the thin fraction flow in during the separation.’
‘In the evening when the work on the farm is done, the electric mixer has done its job and the separator switches on. When you come back in the morning, you can immediately start scattering, since the cows will be out by then anyway.’
‘Now the cows always lie comfortably, because if some solid fraction disappears into the pit, it will return to the cubicles separated after a few days.’
Now the family can keep the boxes nice and full, since lime sawdust is very expensive, they only sprinkled in once every two weeks. That meant that half the time there was too little under the cows. ‘Now the cows always lie comfortably, because if some solid fraction disappears into the pit, it will return to the cubicles separated after a few days. We now scatter the separated manure twice a week and once a week if they are out all day long and that is going great now.’
After reading this Farmer on Tour, are you also curious about the benefits of manure separation at your business?
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