What falls under the concept nowadays?
“Since 2000 we do around 150 training days per year, divided between myself and our team of 5 freelance CowSignals trainers from the Netherlands. Up until now this is over 2,500 training days! The trainers are all veterinarians and specifically trained in housing, feeding and management. The training we do nowadays is based on (mostly) full day trainings, with groups of 5 to 20 people. We also do many lectures at large conferences around the world. Since 2007, we have trained 400 certified CowSignals trainers in 55 countries. They are using the concept to train and advise dairy farmers and colleague advisors. Some do one workshop per year, others do 50. And last but not least, we have a great book series about the concept (next to CowSignals, there is HoofSignals, YoungStockSignals, Dry to fresh, Udder Health, Fertility, Building for the cow, Robotic Milking, FeedingSignals, Stress-free stockmanship). The first book CowSignals sold over 200,000 copies and has been translated into 35 languages since 2003. So it is fair to say that we have reached around half a million dairy farmers with all these products under the flag of CowSignals. Still 10 million to go.”
Looking at cows seems fairly easy, or am I underestimating?
“Of course, looking at a cow is easy, but you have to know what to look for and how to interpret the signals. Dairy farmers often do not see the obvious, such as waiting cows and wounds. They do not understand cows well enough. A cow is a prey animal and also an animal that lives in herds. Many farms have dead end roads in barns for example. This means stress for a cow as she feels she has no escape route when needed. Another thing; farmers do not realise how important it is for cows to be able to rest. A resting cow can produce one litre of milk more per extra hour of resting.”
Can it be used on every type of farm and cow?
“Yes, certainly. We do these trainings on dairy farms around the world, but we do adapt for the type of farm and circumstances. For example, we have a special training for grazing herds (to be found in New Zealand, Chile, Ireland, Costa Rica). But we also do workshops at beef farms and even have a tailored programme for sheep. We work with small herds of ten cows in Austria, Switzerland and Kenya, to herds of 20,000 in China and Saudi Arabia. We started off on family farms in the Netherlands and Europe and also gained a lot of experience with cows that are milked by robots. Farms are different but the concept is universal.”