New research location for Klaremelk
Since this year Klaremelk has had a new testing facility. Of course, trail work has been done continuously on the regular Klaremelk farms, but this testing facility is fully equipped and more important staffed with highly experienced and qualified people; The Calf Research Centre Winssen.
The Calf Research Centre is run by Erik and Caroline Vonk and their permanent employee Matthieu Lam. The farm can accommodate about 500 calves and besides the farm Erik and Caroline also have a farm site camping, camping “de Muk”(www.campingdemuk.nl)
The history of the farm goes back to the sixties, where Erik’s parents started a veal farm in Beuningen. Erik’s father also worked as a livestock trader.
After the early death of Erik’s father the trading activities stopped and the veal farm had to move over for residential building. In 1983 Erik and his mother started a new veal farm on the current location in Winssen. The farm was reconstructed in 1992 and fully equipped as a test site for calves.
Erik, Caroline and Matthieu have also obtained the diploma caretaker for testing animals, so they are licensed caretakers.
The outside of the farm doesn’t show that this is a testing facility. But after entering the feed kitchen through the hygiene gate it becomes clear that it’s not a regular farm. The first thing that catches the eye is the spacious feed kitchen with a large stockroom for the test feed attached. The feed kitchen has two special, mobile mixers wherein three types of feed can be prepared and dosed.
The farm also has a skybox and a so called "catwalk"from where visitors can view the calves without contacting them directly.
The calves on the farm are divided in seven sections where they can be further divided into groups, depending on the tests that are running. The sections are completely separated and are connected by a tiled central corridor. The feeding passages are coated and are easy to clean, this in perspective of the hygiene.
Besides the tests with feed and milk replacers, there have been many different tests done in the course of years e.g. with medications, diarrhoea and even with buffalo calves.
A standard day begins with the feeding of the milk. This is done by two people and takes about two hours. The milk has been prepared batch by batch and dosed with the mobile mixer. The roughage is being fed by hand, every testing group separately. This is to be able to work as flexible and accurate as possible. The feeding will be followed by a round of manure and health assessment of the calves. After that the roughage is being mixed and prepared for the next feeding.
Then the calves will be weighed and blood samples will be taken, when necessary for the tests of course. At the current test this is once every four weeks.
In the afternoon they take the feed residues out of the troughs and weigh them, so they can keep track of what the calves have been eaten exactly . Once a week everything, including the feeding passages, is being cleaned.
“It all comes down to painstakingly work in the daily routine” emphasizes Matthieu “you have a certain way of working of course but it’s crucial to keep your head at it and to note everything you do. When you make even one tiny mistake a whole test can be lost. Everything, even the smallest thing, has to happen in consultation with each other in order to make the variables within the tests as small as possible. Again, key is painstakingly work”
At the moment they’re testing two kinds of milk replacer with two types of concentrate. “Easy” Erik laughs, “we’ve had tests in the past where we were working with even 27 different types of milk replacer”
What will happen in future testing is not relevant right now. “it’s about getting to know each other better and to fine tune the cooperation between Klaremelk and the Calf Research Centre”
One thing that is clear is the great enthusiasm with which both parties have teamed up together and look forward to the cooperation. To be continued.
Check our the website of the Calf research Centre Winssen at www.kalveren.info
From left to right: Eric, Matthieu, Caroline and Jelte