Dairy use binds more CO2 in the soil than it emits

If you drive along the long access road to the Van de Hoef family’s farm in the Frisian town of Appelscha, you will immediately notice: the vestibule is full of solar panels. ‘There are 675’, says Jeroen van de Hoef (29). He is part of the partnership with his parents Herman (57) and Lya (55) and his brother Arjan (24). They milk 175 cows and have 100 young animals on 94 hectares.

When it comes to sustainability, Jeroen van de Hoef is the focal point. This is also due to his other work. In addition to his work as a milk producer, he works for Uniform-Agri. This company makes management programs for milk producers. This allows the dairy farmer to smartly combine his practical knowledge from the farm with the development of tools for farmers.

app

Uniform-Agri is also involved in the development of an app that provides insight into all sustainability parameters on dairy farms. Van de Hoef plays a ‘double role’ in this. Together with eleven other companies in Drenthe, Groningen and Friesland, the Van de Hoef family is participating in a project to develop this sustainability app.


Using the app helps keep the cost of sustainability under control

Jeroen van de Hoef, dairy farmer in Appelscha

The app tracks energy consumption (gas and electricity, diesel), water consumption, emissions of CO2 equivalents, CO2 storage per. hectares, green electricity (wind turbines, solar panels or biomass), the share of sustainable agricultural raw materials and grazing.

CO2 negative

During the project, several companies, including the Van de Hoef family’s dairy farm, proved to be CO2-negative. ‘Last year we registered 5,650 kilos of CO2 per. hectares’, says Van de Hoef in his app. »Our CO2 emissions per hectares, which are calculated on the basis of diesel consumption and electricity consumption from the grid, was in 2021 1,066 per. If you separate them, you get the net emission of -4,584 kilos «.

The record of the Van de Hoef family is higher than average. ‘It’s because we exchange land with a farmer,’ says the dairy farmer. ‘We primarily have grass, and it has a higher retention than e.g. corn.’

no gas

Emissions are low because the Van de Hoef family’s dairy farm does not use gas. CO2 emissions from gas are many times higher than for electricity.

Jeroen, Herman and Lya van de Hoef invest a lot in sustainability. © Northeast Press Agency

Net, the company is also energy neutral or better: energy supply. In 2021, the company produced 140,236 kilowatt hours of electricity, while ‘only’ 94,770 kilowatt hours of electricity were used. The rest was returned to the web. Van de Hoef: ‘Fortunately, it is possible. Recently, a company in the area also wanted to supply electricity, but that is not possible now due to overcrowding of the grid. ‘

Energy storage system

The entrepreneur would prefer an energy storage system. ‘Then you can store the energy you have left at the moment the solar panels do not generate any power. Then we should not take more power from the grid. ‘

Partnership of Hoef-Wijntjes has 675 solar panels.
Partnership of Hoef-Wijntjes has 675 solar panels. © Northeast Press Agency

The milk producer also has other parameters ready. Maatschap van de Hoef-Wijntjes used 12,000 liters of diesel in 2021, and the consumption of tap water for the home and rinsing of the milking plant was 1,683 cubic meters. In addition, the company uses spring water for, among other things, drinking water for the cows. It is not known how much this is.

Bunschoten

The family business has a great advantage in making it more sustainable: the farm and stables are still new. The Van de Hoef family has only been located in Appelscha since 2008. Until then, they farmed in Bunschoten in Utrecht.

Due to expansion plans for the neighboring town of Amersfoort, the family was able to sell the business there and build a new farm in Appelscha. An old farm was demolished, and a few hundred meters further on, the Van de Hoef family’s new business was added. “It also provided opportunities to make choices in the field of sustainability,” says the milk producer.

propangas

The farm has never had a gas connection. ‘In the first years, we still had a tank of propane gas, but we no longer have that either,’ says the entrepreneur.

That the company turns out to be CO2-neutral in addition to being energy-neutral was one of the surprises for the Van de Hoef family. “You still have a feeling for energy consumption, but how much CO2 you as a company emit and capture via the crops and the soil is much less clear. I also think that it shows that we, as the agricultural sector, can make an important contribution to the climate problem. It is unique because other sectors cannot do it ‘, Van de Hoef notes.

fertilizer

The only thing that can not be included in the CO2 calculation is the use of fertilizer. ‘Of course, a significant amount of CO2 is also emitted for the production of fertilizer. But that’s not data we can have in the app. We can not translate that to the farm yet ‘, says the dairy farmer.

The Van de Hoef family grows 11.5 hectares of maize. The rest is grass. “Permanent grasslands naturally bind more carbon than grasslands that are torn up,” says Van de Hoef. ‘Grass does much better than corn. If you know it, then you can also make choices. But these are, of course, trade-offs. Because you also want an optimal ration and get as much feed from your own soil as possible. ‘

Bucket on diesel

Another consideration is, for example, the purchase of equipment and machinery. A few years ago, the Van de Hoef family bought a new diesel bucket. ‘Electricity was not yet possible at the time,’ says the entrepreneur. ‘We did the math, and then you look at the purchase price, depreciation and cost of consumption. It may just be that with current fuel prices, electricity is now an interesting option. I think there’s a good chance our next shovel will be an electric one. ‘

The project with the app ran from 2019 to this year. The milk producers exchanged results through meetings. ‘It shows that the experiences you can learn are different in each company. For example, one participant discovered that gas consumption for his home was relatively high. He did not know. By looking closely at electricity consumption, one also begins to think about consumption. The biggest benefit is that I am now much more aware of our energy and fuel consumption. ‘

Cleaning equipment

The Van de Hoef family tries to clean equipment as much as possible during the day, where most electricity is generated via the solar panels. On a net basis, the company returns more energy to the grid than it consumes.

“The three milking robots use a lot of power. Since 2020, we have two new robots of the type DeLaval VMS V300. The old one is of the classic DeLaval type. The new milking robots are again more energy efficient. Sustainability is always a consideration when buying new machines. But we also just look at simple things, such as turning off the lights. Every little bit helps’, says Van de Hoef.

Doing well

According to the entrepreneur, the results in the app mainly show that his company is doing well in terms of sustainability. ‘We’ve been working on it from the start. For example, we participated in the ‘ECO200’ project, which was completed in 2014. Heat released from cooling energy by cooling the milk is utilized as fully as possible. In our case, the heat is used to heat the rinsing water, with which the milking robot and the milk tank are cleaned, and to heat the house ‘.

To achieve this, a heat exchanger is used that immediately cools the fresh milk back. A heat pump transfers the released heat directly to a higher temperature. As a result, much less energy is needed to heat the water.

The project with the sustainability app will probably be continued. Van de Hoef would like if it were possible for information to be automatically read into the app in the future, for example via the smart meter. Dairy farmers are currently introducing these stalls themselves. ‘I am sure that limiting energy consumption and raw materials is becoming increasingly important. It helps keep the cost of sustainability under control. It can even make money. “

Lya (55), Herman (57) and Jeroen (29) van de Hoef, milk producers in Appelscha
Lya (55), Herman (57) and Jeroen (29) van de Hoef, milk producers in Appelscha © Persbureau Noordoost

Arjan van de Hoef (24) from Appelscha
Arjan van de Hoef (24) from Appelscha © Persbureau Noordoost

Business information

Herman (57), Lya (55), Jeroen (29) and Arjan (24) van de Hoef have a dairy farm in Appelscha, Friesland. They milk 175 cows and have 100 young animals on 94 hectares. These are Holstein cows with crosses from the past with Brown Swiss and Norwegian Red Holstein. The company supplies milk to FrieslandCampina. Milk production is approximately 10,200 kilos per. cow. The compensation percentage is 25 percent. No grazing.

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