Reinink’s farm: believers in intensive rearing

Gesine Reinink and Klaus Bürsken have known and respected each other for years. The common theme that bonds the farmer from the Grafschaft Bentheim and the AGRAVIS Product Manager for Calves Calves is intensive livestock rearing. On their farm in Emlichheim, the Reininks look after 150 dairy cows and their female calves, and their focus is firmly on the health of the animals.

Bildmaterial zum Content
Gesine Reinink (r.) and Klaus BürskenReinink’s farm: believers in intensive rearing
Gesine Reinink (r.) and Klaus Bürsken

“We have never had anything but extremely healthy, happy livestock here,” says Gesine Reinink. However, she and her husband are not ones to rest on their laurels and so a good three years ago they switched their feed concept over to metabolic programming, a step they have not regretted – quite the contrary. Yet the intensive rearing of calves is often viewed with criticism, especially with regard to falling producer prices on the one hand and higher feed costs on the other.

Many points in favour of metabolic programming

This is a discussion AGRAVIS consultant Klaus Bürksen also has to engage with regularly as part of his job, so he has done his sums on this very carefully. It is a fact that milk consumption goes up. This means that around 25 kilograms more milk replacer is required per calf, as the animals consume an average of 10 to 12 litres of milk a day. This is the case on the Reinink’s farm too. Previously the calves could take a maximum of 7 litres from the automatic feeders during their first weeks. The farmer and the consultant both agree that the results all speak in favour of metabolic programming: “The animals are thriving: they’re fit and they’re growing well.”

Better quality animals

Where daily growth reaches around 400 grams in extensive farming, the Reininks are recording growth of up to 1,000 grams a day during the first 16 weeks. The calves continue to build on this head start after the milk phase. “This is primarily apparent from their higher feed intake after four weeks,” says Klaus Bürksen. For him this adds to the evidence for the theory that intensive rearing in the first three to four weeks of life has a positive effect on the quality of the animals. “In the first 15 months intensive rearing does cost more per animal, but the cost per kilogram of growth does not change.”

Better health and lower costs

The Reininks have noticed some other positive side effects which have had a financial impact: their use of medicines has dropped considerably. “Now if the vet has to come to the farm it’s because there’s a real emergency,” stresses Gesine Reinink. The number of cases of diarrhoea requiring treatment has been minimal since metabolic programming was introduced. The intensive feeding does not affect the frequency of infection among the calves. “But once infected, the calves do acquire greater immunity and are better equipped to cope with other infected animals,” explains Bürksen. The health and quality of their animals mean the farm has a first calving age of 25 months and a conception rate at first insemination of 1.3.

“It just couldn’t be any better.”

Stock losses run at less than one percent, so the Reininks cannot understand criticisms of the cost-benefits involved in intensive calf rearing. “The price of a sack of milk powder or even the cost of losing a calf is nothing compared to the vet’s call-out fee and treatment charges,” says Gesine Reinink. She adds that this type of feeding also results in a less rigid allocation of time for all employees and generally frees up their work processes: “It just couldn’t be any better.”

More information about intensive rearing (metabolic programming) is available from Klaus Bürksen, AGRAVIS Product Manager for Calves, tel. +0049 172 5306363,