Science is crucial for grazing Beemster cow

Science is crucial for grazing Beemster cow

It is an archetypal Dutch scene: cows in the meadow. With spring approaching, hundreds of thousands of cows may go outside again in the coming weeks. But what is the best time for grazing? Beemster cheese has its own approach.

Several scientific studies show that happy cows make for healthier milk. This is one of the reasons why it is important for cows to graze outdoors as much as possible. According to the standard of Stichting Weidegang this is 120 days a year and 6 hours a day. It is very special that the cows of Beemster cheese graze outdoors for more than 180 days a year and at least ten hours a day. That is much longer than the national average. Beemster has its cows outside the most, which does not mean it is automatically the first to let cows out. There are good reasons for that. "When the soil is still very wet, our farmers leave their pastures alone for a while. Just one day of nice weather ahead is not enough either, then the soil quickly becomes too moist again and the cows can go back inside, cows don't like that. They like regularity. So Beemster cows are not automatically the first to go outside, but at a carefully selected moment," says Mark Paauw, livestock manager at Beemster cheese.

Adequate grass, rest and regularity

What is the quality of the grass? What are the weather forecasts? There are all kinds of factors that come into play for proper grazing. Beemster dairy farmer Simon Kwantes knows all about it: "the condition of the soil is an important factor for proper grazing. It has to be dry enough, otherwise the cows will trample the soil. In addition, enough grass must grow so that the grass continues to grow for a longer period of time and the cows have enough to eat."

"Cows need rest and regular. That is more important than the need for grazing. A cow is a creature of habit. It needs to know what is about to happen, then it functions best," adds Nico Vreeburg, veterinarian and trainer of Cow Signals.

Real grass cheese

For farmers, it is exciting every year when the barn doors open for the first time. Beemster farmers and their family members look forward to grazing every year. The timing is crucial. The Beemster cows are checked from day to day to see if they can go outside to graze on the tender spring grass. The cows visibly enjoy this. They make for healthier and tastier milk. The milk they give in the weeks after grazing has a special taste. "We make real Beemster Grass cheese from this with great care. A tasty fresh cheese with extra vitamin A. Our Beemster Grass cheese is only available for four weeks of the year. We cannot predict the date of grazing in advance. The fact that the real Beemster Graskaas is available six weeks after the grazing date is, however. So there is every reason for lovers to be quick," says General Director of Beemster cheese Wim Betten.

Fun cow facts

  • After first grazing, cows love to eat the tops of fresh grass.
  • Cows first swallow their food, then later let it back into their mouths and ruminate.
  • A cow drinks an average of 100 liters of water per day.
  • Cows don't sleep much. With 20 minutes in a day, the animal can get by.