Let's talk about cows!

By: Henri Willig
29 apr 2024
± 4 minuten

50 years ago, Henri and Riet started their cheese factory. In the beginning, Holstein (black and white) cows walked around on the meadow and the milk from these cows was used to make the cheese. Now years later, there are no Holstein cows on our land, but Jersey cows. And that is a conscious choice.

On our farm in the Katwoude polder, where the marsh was reclaimed about a thousand years ago, we strive for a harmonious and sustainable existence for our cows. With 65 hectares of land, our animals have plenty of room to graze and thrive. Here, we have not only chosen a way of farming that embraces nature, but also a special breed of cows: Jersey cows.

Why Jersey cows? It started with an encounter, a story of four thousand Jerseys in America, told by a Dutchman with a vision. This was absolutely the most economical cow you could find, he proclaimed with great firmness. Henri became intrigued and immersed himself in this special breed. He discovered that this farmer in America was right and Jersey cows would be a perfect match for us.

Our choice of Jersey cows, with their lighter weight and more efficient food digestion, suits our soft pasture perfectly. And these cows are not only attentive and nicely shaped animals, but also produce milk with a high fat and protein content. As a result, the milk is very creamy and rich in flavour.  

One of our most innovative practices is the concept of 'endurance milking'. Here, our cows do not give birth to a calf every year, but we let them calve every few years, allowing them to live a long and healthy life without the excessive stress of frequent calving. Calving for the cow is the toughest moment in her life and always risky. By allowing her to calve fewer times in her life, we expect her to live healthy and with good milk production for years to come. We have been doing this for 6 years now and the practice looks very good and is therefore promising. It also gives much less work and far fewer calves are born. If the cows actually age a lot, we can also keep fewer young stock, which is good for the environment and the economy. We are a pioneer in this and the first farm in the Netherlands to apply it.

Not only is caring for the cows essential to us, the way we raise their calves is at least as important. These do not stand among the adult cows in the large cow barn. Our experience has taught us that there is an increased risk of infections in the cowshed, which can make the young calves sick and even kill some of them.&with the current system in a separate clean barn, this goes very well without illness and death. This separate stable for the calves results in healthy and strong animals.

To also minimise the use of antibiotics, we rely on preventive healthcare with natural and homeopathic remedies. Thus, we ensure that only the strongest and healthiest animals remain on our farm and, as a result, our milk is a high-quality product, free of antibiotics.

What is special about our approach is the holistic approach to farming. We are one of the pioneers in the Netherlands in organic farming, not fertilising the land with artificial fertilisers and not using herbicides and pesticides. This promotes rich soil life, which is essential for the health of our land, crops and animals.

We call our barn a potting shed and this is where the cows rest in the straw. There is a lot of extra space in the barn which allows the cows to assert their natural behaviour of ranking without cows getting crowded. Because there are no other cubicles in the barn and there is space, there is always peace and quiet in the barn.

We muck out the barn 4 times a year with a shovel. The straw manure is then composted and is ready to be spread on the land for fertilisation.

Sustainability is central to everything we do. We get the drinking water for the cows from a rainwater storage tank and generate about 30% of our electricity ourselves with solar panels.

On our farm, guests get the chance to experience farm life up close. Visiting our cows in the potting shed and meeting our calves and heifers is a unique experience that will not soon be forgotten.

In short, we are all about caring for our cows, respecting nature and striving for sustainability. We are proud to be one of the first farms in the Netherlands to operate in this holistic and organic way.

To see and experience for yourself how we care for our cows, everyone is every day welcome to our organic Jersey farm at Hoogedijk 8 in Katwoude.

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Is this article already making you hungry?

Check out Henri Willig's delicious recipes below.

Pizza toast from the oven with Jersey cheese

1 pers
30 min

Incredibly delicious and easy pizza toast! Ideal for brunch, for example! Spread the tomato paste on the buns, slice the courgette and grill in a pan. Drizzle the cheese over the buns, then top with the grilled courgette, tomatoes and Italian herbs. Bake the toast on the grill setting of the oven for 5 minutes (until the cheese is melted) Serve hot and enjoy!   Thanks for your delicious recipe with our Jersey cheese @fitfood.dioon 

Making Dutch savoury pancake wraps with Jersey cheese

2 pers
20 min

Preparation:  In advance, grate the cheese for over the pancake. (You can also shave the cheese if you don't have a grater)  Put the flour in the batter bowl and add a pinch of salt and half (400 ml) of the milk.  Stir with a whisk or mixer to make a smooth batter. While stirring, add the rest (400 ml) of the milk and the 3 eggs. Let the frying pan get well hot.   Toast the pine nuts briefly in the hot pan until they turn light brown. Then heat a dash of oil in the pan. Make sure that each pancake  a little oil in the pan so the batter does not stick.  Pour batter into the pan with a spoon, let it spread out over the bottom and fry the pancakes on one side until golden brown. Turn the pancake over, and sprinkle the grated Jersey cheese over the pancake. Fry the pancake until the cheese is nicely melted. Place the pancake on a plate.   Top the pancake then with some arugula, the toasted pine nuts and the date balsamic dip. Roll up the pancake, cut it in half and secure with a skewer. Then it's a pancake wrap and looks totally festive.  Cold also delicious!