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Reflecting on visit to Denmark dairy farms

Reflecting on visit to Denmark dairy farms

While many differences exist between Canadian and Danish farms, operators in both countries emphasize the importance of family

By Logan Emiry

In the summer of 2018, I travelled to Denmark as part of a working exchange organized between Holstein Canada and Holstein Denmark. A year later, I reflect on my experiences in the exchange.

One of the first things I noticed when I walked into the Danish barn for the first time was how small the cows were compared to an average Holstein in Canada.

Danish Holsteins are generally much shorter, Johnny Nielsen, one of my hosts, explained. Canadian breeders, in contrast, have always bred for taller “dairy-looking” animals.

Interestingly, Nielsen had three Canadian cows in his 230-head herd and they certainly stood out. These animals were taller than the rest of the herd and had slender dairy characteristics.

Nielsen purchased these cows as embryos from Crovalley Holsteins near Peterborough, Ont. “We have a few more embryos from them and we’re hoping they will be in our herd soon,” he added.

My work experience in Denmark gave me a refocused sense of pride in our Canadian dairy industry. Every dairy show I visited, people always spoke very favourably about Canadian dairy genetics, our focus on high-production animals and, of course, how friendly we all are.

Canadian farmers can also learn a lot from their counterparts in Denmark and Europe as a whole. Denmark has progressive animal welfare laws and we will continue to head in the same direction.

Danish farmers must have larger stalls and are no longer allowed tie stalls to increase cow comfort. Canada’s proAction, which is a standard for producing safe and quality milk, is an important step for improved animal welfare and will ultimately also lead to higher production for Canadian farmers too.

Despite these differences, I certainly saw some similarities between Canadian and Danish agriculture.

One thing that really resonated with me was how important family is to both of my host farmers. The Nielsens were a young family who were very passionate about farming. Johnny Nielsen operates his farm near Slagelse, Denmark with help from his mostly retired father. Johnny’s three children –  Johannes, Andreas and Elizabeth – all trained calves for the summer show season. Johannes hopes to take over the farm one day.

The Rasmussens hosted me near Haderup, Denmark where they milk 240 cows and make delicious ice cream with the milk produced on-farm. The Rasmussens manage the operation as a family and see show season as a highlight of their year.

I attended the national dairy show held in Herning with the Rasmussens. The event was a full family affair. They spent every moment of the weekend – ranging from meals at the bedding pack to celebrations in the show ring – together.  

Editor’s note: Emiry wrote this article as part of his flexible internship program at the University of Guelph. For more information about this program, please click here.

Logan Emiry (orange shirt)

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