The organic dairy farmer thinks big

The organic dairy farmer thinks big
Mads Helms with one of his 700 cows.

The organic dairy farmer thinks big

Every morning during the summer the Sommerbjerg milking cows walk up to 5 kilometres to their grazing fields. According to Mads Helms this ensures healthy animals and high animal welfare.
 
At first glance Mads Helms is the prototype of a 53 year old Danish farmer. Solid of build, strong hands and an easygoing manner. He knows his job and thinks of his cows and fields most of the waking hours of the day. However, he also has clear ideals for his farm ”Sommerbjerg” and he does not compromise, when it comes to animal welfare and sustainability. This is part of the explanation why he decided to become an organic farmer.
 
Grazing is a must
During summer (April-October) the organic farmer sends all of his 700 milking cows on a hike of up to 5 kilometres, before they reach the day’s grazing field. Due to the energy consumption this hike costs up to 2 litres of the daily milk yield.
”In return we have healthy animals that calve easily, have strong legs and hooves and are rarely ill” explains Mads Helms.
 
Big scale operations provide opportunities
Sommerbjerg has been organic since 1996.
“Back then you only received insignificant subsidies for organic products, which are, of course, much more expensive to produce. So it meant a lot to join The Them Dairy co-operative, as they, also back then, understood how to get the best out of high quality milk and thus pay a better price for the good milk,” says Mads, who started out with 100 cows. The farm has expanded and today counts a dairy herd of 700 cows.
“Our location is privileged as most of our land is gathered around Sommerbjerg, enabling us to meet pasture requirements. And I believe that big scale provides optimal dairy operations as regards our cows and our economy” comments Mads Helms.
 
Barns with composting system and resting comfort
The desire to test new, modern production forms is not only indicated by the size. The latest of his barns with room for 350 cows is a so called composting barn, where the barn floor consists of 80 cm wood chippings or other organic material.
”This ensures the cattle a high level of comfort when lying down and resting, and means that we do not need stalls. I think this matches our ideals as regards animal welfare,” the thriving organic farmer explains. Mads Helms also finds time for his position as vice chairman of the organic farmers’ national interest group, Organic Denmark.