The road towards reducing emissions in the calf husbandry

Veal farmers must quickly and significantly reduce energy consumption and emissions, especially of ammonia and methane, between now and 2030. However, current stall systems are not designed for this and suitable techniques are not sufficiently available.

15-10-2021

Within the Region Deal Foodvalley the VanDrie Group works together with agricultural entrepreneurs, governments, knowledge institutions and the business community in the region on innovation in agriculture. An important project in this Region Deal is focusing on emission reduction in livestock farming. Jan Workamp, affiliated with the Livestock Emission Reduction Practice Centre, is the theme leader for this component. In the ‘Boer aan het Roer’ (Farmer at the helm) testing ground he works with livestock farmers to test out innovations in practice. In 2020, many livestock farmers signed up for this. The veal sector was well represented.

Jan Workamp: “It is estimated that around 70% of the ammonia on a veal farm is released from the manure pit. For the veal sector, the biggest gains in ammonia reduction can therefore be achieved in the stall. This requires systems that separate manure and urine, for example, so that emissions do not occur. Currently, only stall systems with air washers are registered for the veal sector. This filters the outgoing air to remove ammonia and odour, thereby benefiting local residents and the environment. It’s an end-of-pipe solution. However, this does not change the indoor climate in the shed, even though there is much to be gained from it. The benefits include a healthier working environment for veal farmers and better animal health and welfare for their calves.”

An integrated approach was an important criterion in the selection of the innovations for the testing ground. Other criteria were feasibility and affordability, and preferably that the innovation is applicable in existing stables. In 2020, we received a relatively large number of applications from the veal sector. We see an enormous willingness among veal farmers to take part; many of them even come up with an idea or make their own farm available as a pilot farm. Some have even developed a particular technique on their own initiative, which they would like to have tested.

“TO DETERMINE EMISSIONS, WE ARE OBLIGED TO TAKE MEASUREMENTS IN THE STALLS AT LEAST DURING A FULL YEAR."

When innovating, the duration is always an issue. We often want it faster than it can be done in reality. In order to determine emissions, we are obliged to take measurements in the stalls for at least a full year.” We need to know what reductions that system achieves under different weather conditions and at different ventilation capacities. Only then will we know whether a new system will actually deliver the promised reduction in emissions.

In January 2021, the ‘Calf stable Ammonia Reduction' pilot project started on a veal farm where an innovative system had been installed. Throughout 2021, the ammonia concentration on this farm will be measured. This is being carried out in cooperation with Wageningen University & Research and Utrecht University. In addition, we are further expanding the number of pilot farms. The aim is to take measurements at four veal farms by the end of 2021.”

Read more: In 2020, Marijke Everts, Director Corporate Affairs at the VanDrie Group, was closely involved in selecting the innovations

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