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Investing in sustainable calf husbandry

Innovation and investment are a must, even in calf husbandry, and veal farmer Bart Logtenberg knows a thing or two about this. That's why we gladly accepted his invitation to visit his stall.

09-03-2021

A long road winds out of the small village of Nijbroek, in Gelderland, with a poplar-lined lane leading us onto the polder. 'Panoramic' is the first adjective that springs to mind when it comes to describing the view, with our destination hard to miss. Bart Logtenberg's farm lies along this road, and we've made an appointment with him to see his commitment to sustainable calf husbandry first hand.  

Bart had already got to us once we reached the back door. “Ah! It's great to have you here!". Behind him is his son Sander, who unfortunately broke three metatarsals and is hobbling along on crutches. He’s also really looking forward to our chat.
 
With a cup of coffee and a slice of freshly baked cake in hand, Bart gets his story underway. "You drove in from the south, didn't you? Then I guess you've seen the roof?" We certainly did. The stall roof is brimming of solar panels: no less than 560 units in total. “These solar panels on the roof mean I generate huge amounts of electricity; minimising my fossil fuel consumption in the process. I also have a solar water heater, from the company G2 Energy; and with this I can cut down by annual CO2 emissions by at least a good 40,000 kg." That’s comparable to the emissions from an average car that’s driven around the world nearly seven and a half times.  
 
The captured solar energy is used to heat liquid. This liquid transports heat through a pipe system to a storage tank, or boiler, which is where the pipes heat the water. This is then used to heat the stall, and to ensure the water used in preparing calf milk is always up to temperature in no time. We tell Bart that the system is really is a fine thing, and natural. “Definitely," he agrees. "I'm always trying to improve things.In the stall, for example, we also have LEDlighting, which saves me 50% on power consumption." 
 

Bart Logtenberg says he also opted for a biological air scrubber about three years ago; although not one of those systems tackling emissions at source, which have been in the news quite a lot lately. "However, there still aren’t enough source-oriented stall systems on the market, and this was the best solution for me at the time. It’s doing a great job anyway, by the way," says Bart in his defence. The biological air scrubber means ammonia emissions are down by 85%."Switching to another system any time soon isn't yet feasible from a depreciation and investment point of view."  

Veal farmers are eager to innovate go further with sustainable working, but it has to be feasible

We head towards the stall, Sander hobbling along behind us. "Sander's also getting started," Bart remarked casually. The 17-year-old has recently proved himself a veal farmer in the making, having rented his own stall and now occupied with his first batch. “But of course, I've had to take on a lot of his work now,'' his father chuckles, pointing to Sander's plaster-wrapped foot. “What words of advice do you have for your enterprising son?’’, we enquire. You should be willing to spend money, as long as it’s invested into your own business.” Bart continues: "Veal farmers are eager to innovate go further with sustainable working, but it has to be feasible, and must always remain affordable. That's why we need a firm policy that business owners can rely on, and not one that changes with the seasons. However, as a business owner, you definitely have to keep on investing to just to be able to work, and to enjoy your profession too.”
  
We take a walk through the stalls and check out the boiler, the air scrubber, and the calves – crossbreed Belgian Blues from the Netherlands. With a smile on his face, Bart says: “Once you get to know people, you start loving animals."

 

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