Connected to the past, committed to the future
The family of Arla farmers Robert and René Dhur has more than 600 years of farming tradition
Robert and René Dhur
Burg Reuland, Eifel, Belgium
The farm of brothers Robert and René Dhur is located in Belgium’s Eiffel mountains, which has long periods of annual frost. This mean that relatively frost-sensitive crops like corn or grain are only grown on a small scale. The farm is almost all pasture and grain is only grown occasionally when the soil needs to be regenerated with crop rotation. Conventional farmer Robert is determined to keep the use of chemicals to a bare minimum. As he says, “My family has been living here in this village for more than 600 years and we have a clear interest in taking good care of our land.”
It’s all about grass
About 80% of the feed for the cows on the farm is grass – grazing pasture, silage and hay - with concentrated feed making up the rest.
Robert and René tries to keep the grass height at around 7 cm, which is where it contains the most protein because there is the highest amount of leaf in proportion to the stem. Robert believes this is a relatively cheap and efficient method for producing milk of a high quality. He says, “The first cut of the season is usually the very best, but the second and third cuts are also of very good quality.”
A high proportion of grass land is also good for soil fertility.
The farm has chosen to farm this way despite probably being able to produce more milk by using a higher proportion of concentrated feed. Robert comments, “To me sustainability means as much outdoor grazing as possible so I only use limited quantities of concentrated feed.”
“I’m sure that we have never worked more sustainably and on my farm we probably have never been closer to nature than now.”Robert Dhur, Burg Reuland, Eifel
Good farming is knowing “when” as well as “how”
A certain amount of concentrated feed is still important to provide the cows with a balanced diet. A productive dairy cow gives around 40 litres of milk a day. This requires a significant amount of energy that is difficult to source from grass alone. Robert comments, “Concentrated feed is used very specifically at the right time when the animals need it. That’s very normal…it’s like an engine that needs gasoline to perform.”