‘The bond we have with our cows is really special’


‘Ever since I was a child, my family helped out on the farm: my brother was on the tractor, my sisters helped with the cats, goats and rabbits, and I loved being among the cows. I’ve always enjoyed helping out with the cows. And I’d say that is still the case, even now that I co-own the farm with my parents and we work together every day. We know all of our cows individually. Even from a distance, we can see exactly which cow is on heat or which one has something wrong with her. We know the pedigree and milk yield of each cow off by heart. The bond we have with our cows is really special and that is what I believe makes the job so rewarding.’

Name: Pieter D’Hooghe
Age: 32
Location: Nieuwkerken-Waas
No. of cows: 150
education: agro- and biotechnology specialising in farming at Sint-Niklaas

Rapid takeover for new barn

‘Half of the farm has been in my name for three years, but I have been working on it full time since 2015. I joined the business quite suddenly because we wanted to build a new barn with a milking robot. It turned out to be more economically advantageous if financed by a young livestock farmer, so things suddenly moved very quickly. The plan had always been for me to take over the business though, and I have lived with that responsibility all those years.’
‘I spend most of my time among the cows and feeding them. My parents tend to spend more time on things like bookkeeping, and milking in the old barn, where we still have a parlour. We also have plenty to keep us busy with our sidelines. For instance, we have school visits and the children get to go with me for rides among the cows on the tractor and the trailer. We also grow potatoes and blueberries that we harvest ourselves and sell in our farm shop.’

Dreaming of hundred-tonners

‘My dream has always been to have a hundred-tonner. Sustainable, long-lasting cows: that’s what I want to keep working on. After a few occasions of having cows that didn’t quite make it to the hundred thousand litres, we have now had four for just over a year! By the way, as I see things, it’s not just about litres of milk, but at the moment, now that the milk price is so high, it’s definitely worth achieving high yields. Our costs are going up just as quickly though, and I sometimes find that quite worrying. In principle, it should be the case that if the cows are doing well, the finances will follow. And making sure our cows are healthy and long-lasting is what I enjoy doing most.’