In the 1999-2000 housing period, Vetvice came up with the concept and name of CowSignals. The aim was to provide training courses teaching livestock farmers to observe their cows more closely and reduce their farm blindness. Nico Vreeburg and Bertjan Westerlaan helped to develop the concept and organised workshops from the outset.
The Vetvice vets noticed that livestock farmers and advisory experts missed a lot of information, simply because they didn’t take the time to look at the cows. But also because too little knowledge and structure was available.
In October 2000 the Dutch Organisation for Agriculture and Horticulture (LTO) started to offer the CowSignals workshop to some of its students. From 2003, we organised large-scale presentations. By then we had enough photos for a whole evening of talking about cow signals.
The CowSignals concept brought with it lectures, training courses and books including Hooves, From calf to heifer, Udder Health and Fertility.Plus a wide range of projects concerned with dry cow management, welfare and individual farm problems.Both in the Netherlands and in other countries. At the last count, we had provided training, lectures and/or advice in more than 30 countries. CowSignals the book has now been published in more than 15 languages, and the other books are following its lead.
If you’re dealing with cows, you also have to deal with barns and organising the work to do with the cows. 2005 saw the start of our partnership with Canadian barn design expert Jack Rodenburg. We brought him over to the Netherlands to make his knowledge of designing and building efficient barns available to Dutch dairy farmers. Until then, virtually all barn builders thought only in terms of cubicles and milking parlours. No-one had heard of special-needs cows or work efficiency…
With his characteristic accent and sense of humour, Jack brought a great deal of expertise, experience and wisdom back to the country of his birth. The part about “what the cow needs from her barn” we filled in ourselves, of course.
A few training courses and a few topics in two or three countries became a whole lot of training courses in a whole lot of countries. The Barn Design days prompted a huge demand for barn design advice. Simple advice in general terms turned into in-depth and detailed support. Areas covered included sand boxes, barrier design and positioning, and the Vetvice/DairyLogix robotic milking barn.
The number of staff increased to 7 vets and 2 agricultural engineers operating within a large number of international partnerships. For example, the Vetvice Certified CowSignals Trainers Project is very well-received in many countries and enables us to train and support livestock farmers and their advisers even in countries where we don’t speak the language.
Still driven by our own ambition and curiosity, we are on a continuing quest for improvements and greater knowledge. Virtually unceasingly, we are conducting research, hosting students on work placement, taking stock of knowledge the world over and converting it into practical, usable concepts for our presentations, training courses, books and all sorts of other information products.
If you’re building a barn, you’ll also have to organise the work in that barn.Many farms are taking on staff or are having to maximise the efficient use of their own labour in order to continue running the farm the way they want to. That is called “ambition”. You then have to gear the barn and work to each other, recruit staff and break them in, and draw up a schedule. It’s best to do this before you start to build. We wanted to help farmers in this respect and started up the Future Farming project to offer training and advice on methods and techniques, work efficiency and the organisation of the work. Once again this work took us to a variety of locations, from the robotic milking farm in the Netherlands to the farm with 2,000 cows in Indonesia.
In 2007 we did the groundwork for splitting Vetvice into different divisions and, as from 1 January 2009, the Vetvice Group became a reality. It comprises four independent businesses which operate together under the Vetvice banner: the CowSignals Training Company, Vetvice Stallenbouwadvies, Future Farming and Vetvice Boeken en Informatiedragers.