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Floating cows thrive in the harbor of Rotterdam

Floating cows thrive in the harbor of Rotterdam

It is an unusual view, dairy cows on a floating platform on the water. It is no fiction, but reality instead.  Located in the harbor of Rotterdam, The Netherlands, it produces dairy products very nearby the consumer. The aim is to also produce in a sustainable and circular way, using solar energy and byproducts in the feed.

By Ad Bal

The floating farm is not a fairy tale. It is quite uncommon, however. The farm was founded by a group of investors with the aim to show to the world that it is possible to produce food in an urban area, very nearby the consumer. Currently it is not so much a cash cow yet, but a pilot project instead. It will be crystal clear that this type of farming activity will need much trial and error, in order to find out the best possible way of implementation in various situations.

From the moment it was built last year, there has been much interest from many parts of the world, particularly from Asia. This is logical, as megacities in this part of the world are growing bigger and bigger. Hence, finding new and alternative ways of food production nearby urban areas is a challenge. A floating dairy farm can be such an option.

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A herd of 32 red and white colored MRY dairy cows are populating the floating farm

Existing herd

Since last May, a herd of 32 red and white colored cattle of the MRY breed, are populating the floating farm. “It was a surprise to see what would happen once they came in”, says herd manager Albert Boersen. The young farmers’ son was born and raised on a dairy farm in the Province of Friesland in the Northern part the country. From history, this is truly a “dairy area”. Hence, Albert very well understands the art of managing a dairy herd.

“The MRY breed was chosen for various reasons”, Albert continues. “First, it is a dual-purpose breed. It is both a good milk producer and has good growing properties as well. Another characteristic is its calm behavior, which of course is very important in this situation. After all, the herd came from a farm where they were kept in a relaxed atmosphere. Then the herd was transported to an industrial area in the sea harbor, which was quite stressful of course. In that context, the MRY breed possesses another good characteristic, namely they are strong animals. They are able to withstand external stressful factors.” The entire herd was sourced from a farm in the in the Southwest of the country, which was ending its business.

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All feed is mixed and sourced from the lower deck

The cows are kept under a roof on the upper deck of the farm on a slatted floor. They have individual boxes in which they can relax and ruminate. Milking goes through a Lely milking robot. From the lower deck, hay and other feed ingredients are mixed and fed to the herd via augers and a belt.

Apart from hay that is sourced from a natural reserve, Albert is using all kinds of other alternative feed sources. Such are byproducts from nearby located beer and potato processing plants and grass from the playing...

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