Veal Calves, Beef Cattle and Sheep
Friday 13 July – Northern tour
Beef, veal and sheep farming are less well-known sectors in the Netherlands. Yet they are sectors of significance. In terms of production volume, Dutch veal calf farming is one of the largest in Europe. The meat and sheep sectors are more modest in size. Due to expensive production factors, entrepreneurs in these sectors often excel in creativity, distinctive character and production for niche markets.
Veal calves farm Ruhenberg B.V.
Leo de Hans and Marloes Luijerink have a company that they have developed steadily over the years. The company Ruhenberg B.V. has about 3,200 calves for the production of rosé veal.
The entrepreneurs grow roughage for the calves on the 70ha of land near the farm. Luijerink is planning to invest in solar panels and mono-fermentation in 2018.
Luijerink initially started with beef cattle, but that did not yield enough. This was followed by a switch to rosé veal calves. The company grew from 200 beef cattle to 3,200 rosé veal calves in about 15 years.
The entrepreneurs pay a lot of attention to animal welfare and work together with the animal protection organization. They also pay close attention to the environment by framing the company with green circles so that the company is not disturbing the beautiful scenic landscape of Twente. These entrepreneurs also have a hospital for the animals that cannot join the couple, they get extra attention here. Almost weekly they have visitors from all over the world to tell their open and honest story. In addition, Hans is the foreman for veal farming in the Netherlands, a columnist for the agricultural trade journal De Boerderij, and chairman of the association for veal farmers.
Erfgoed Bossem is a company that combines beef farming with recreation and catering.
‘Our entire business operations are focused as much as possible on the natural cycle in order to preserve and pass on the heritage for future generations,’ says Dennis. ‘Among other things, we keep rare red-coloured Cattle, in Dutch we call them Brandrode runderen, which provide a lively landscape and a fair bit of meat on the plate. We choose to keep the suckler cows specifically for the Brandrode Rund because we see the farm as a total concept where guests who stay on the farm can see that quality of life for people and animals is central. We use the organic beef we produce in our own kitchen, and we sell it through our own sales channels, for example through the Natuurboeren label. All business units are geared to each other and to the environment in such a way that the recycling principle is as close as possible. Educational activities work as an extra binding factor.
Erfgoed Bossem keeps approximately 150 Brandrude runderen. In addition to a few dozen hectares of agricultural land, the entrepreneurs manage several hundred hectares of natural soil with their cattle.
In addition to raising cattle, Dennis and Annette receive guests on their farm. The guests come from all corners of the world. The link between the cattle and the guest accommodation is the food, on Saturday evening they organize a ‘table d’hôte’. During dinner, guests can enjoy local produce from the local Op Erfgoed Bossem, nine safari tents, eight star cubes and nine rooms in the farm, a total of 80 beds. Twente country and the cattle are also processed into delicious delicacies. Everything that is served during ‘table d’hôte’ is biologically obtained and made by hand without additives – pure nature.
Jehan and Bernice Bouma keep meat sheep in Oldeboorn (Fr.). Their company is called De Lammesprong . They live there with their 3 young children. Around the farm is five hectares of their own land. They hire as needed. The number of sheep varies strongly, but Jehan indicates that they average about 1,000 sheep. Jehan has also been managing a franchise company with chickens for the last year.
The entrepreneurs keep sheep from the Swifter breed. Jehan: ‘Everyone said: you cannot live on sheep alone. But if you are creative, you will succeed. My first sheep I bought from my grandfather, when I was thirteen. At the end of my study at the agricultural college, I had 300. My main goal then was to earn an income from farming without money from the family. And I love sheep. I especially like the period in which lambs are born. All that new life!’
‘In order to keep the company profitable, we always have to respond to the market. For example, we supplied for years for the Islamic feast of sacrifice: an average of 800 rams per year. Muslims even came to Oldeboorn to find their animals. We made sure that they were slaughtered in the way they wanted and brought them to Amsterdam themselves. We had built up a nice clientele in it, but now it’s getting less. That is because the festival of sacrifice is 10 days earlier every year. Next year it will be on August 21 and our largest customer group will be on holiday to Morocco and they will buy their rams there. This phenomenon will last for a number of years and so we have to look for other markets again. Currently, the ewes are mainly sold as breeding material to other (hobby) farmers. And many of our sheep are used for nature maintenance. For example for the Fryske Gea, a nature conservation organization.‘
The biggest change in recent years is that Jehan has taken over the management of his father’s chicken business. He is now much more at the office and leads many more people.
Veal production in the Netherlands
The Netherlands has over 2,000 veal farms and around 1.5 million calves are farmed and processed each year. Around 95 percent of this veal is exported.
The Netherlands has long been a dairy country and suitable for dairy farming, with ideal meadows and an ideal climate. Many farmers make a living from the production of milk. In order to facilitate the production of milk, you need a cow, yet a cow can only produce milk once it has given birth. Cows also have to have a calf every year to be able to produce milk. For the first two weeks, calves stay on the dairy farm After this, some of them remain with the farmer, so that he can expand or replace his dairy stock, while the majority go to veal farms. In addition, the Dutch veal sector annually imports more than 800,000 calves.
The Netherlands is a forerunner in veal farming in the world. Especially in the animal welfare area, but also logistics are well organized, especially the collection centers, communication between dairy farmer and veal farmer, specialized veterinarians and feed specialists and the most modern calf slaughterhouses.
Sheep farming in the Netherlands
The Netherlands has a total of about 800,000 sheep in some 8,000 farms. The sheep sector is very diverse in character. On the one hand there are several hundred specialized companies, dedicated to the production of meat or the management of nature. On the other hand, there is often a second branch on, for example, dairy and arable farms or care farms. From a European perspective, the Netherlands delivers one of the best pieces of lamb: good quality and pure nature. Part of the meat is exported, with Belgium and France as important destinations. Sheep play an important role in the management of nature and landscape.