meta During a semester at UW-River Falls, a Dutch student is exploring America’s Dairyland. :: The Bullvine - The Dairy Information You Want To Know When You Need It

During a semester at UW-River Falls, a Dutch student is exploring America’s Dairyland.


Inge Lugtenberg is a student from the Netherlands who lives in Luttenberg. She is 21 years old. She is part of an exchange programme between UW-River Falls and the Aeres University of Applied Sciences in Dronten, the Netherlands. The programme is about dairy management and entrepreneurship.

She said that the exchange programme is helping her think about her family’s dairy farm and learn about future opportunities and problems in the dairy industry. She has been thinking about taking over the farm her parents run one day.

The Lugtenberg family owns and runs a farm with 177 cows near Luttenberg. Each cow makes about 21,000 pounds of milk with 4.7 percent fat and 3.7 percent protein per year. They also farm about 220 acres and raise about 100 young animals.

The public’s criticism and talk about a plan to cut down on ammonia emissions from the dairy industry are two of the biggest problems Dutch dairy farmers have to deal with. The government of the Netherlands wants to cut nitrogen emissions by half by the year 2030. According to the New York Times, most of the nitrogen pollution in the Netherlands comes from the manure left behind by the country’s estimated 1.6 million cows.

Under the plan, farmers would have to reduce the number of animals they own. If farmers can’t handle these cuts, they may have to shut down. There will be some money from the government to help farmers change their ways to be more environmentally friendly, but some Dutch farmers see a dark future. A study done by Wageningen Economic Research and paid for by the FrieslandCampina dairy cooperative says that the number of dairy farms in the Netherlands will drop by 33 percent by 2030. Part of the reason for the expected drop is that farmers are getting older and leaving the business without anyone to take over.

The study did show that the climate agreement goals could be met if the country’s herd size dropped to about 1.48 million heads and the dairy industry stayed within the limits for phosphate and nitrogen waste. But the study also said, “It seems like we need to take more steps to reach our goals for ammonia emissions.”

Environmental concerns could also lead to new chances. The Lugtenberg farm is part of FrieslandCampina, which works to meet government and consumer demands for sustainability. All of the farmers who are members of the cooperative have to meet basic requirements for sustainability and grazing. The cooperative keeps track of progress through milk testing and physical farm audits.

The cooperative just updated its sustainability programme to help farmers who want to take more steps to make their farms even more sustainable. It wants to give rewards to dairy farmers based on how well they do on indicators related to the climate. Lugtenberg said that farmers in the “Plant Proof” programme can earn up to 4.50 euros per 100 kilogrammes of milk, which is about $2.10 per 100 pounds, depending on how much greenhouse gases are reduced.

Program gives a lot of different kinds of information

The Aeres University programme also focuses on the different kinds of entrepreneurship to help students deal with an uncertain future. Lugtenberg said she is learning what else she could do as a business owner if she needed to find other work or diversify. When she gets back from Wisconsin, she will work as an intern for an accounting firm in the Netherlands.

The exchange programme is also teaching her how to talk to her parents and brothers about what they want and need from a plan for taking over the family farm.

She said, “I’m learning about a five-year plan and what to do before, during, and after change.” “It’s a good idea to start the talk.”

Through the exchange programme, she was able to visit some dairy farms in Wisconsin. Many things about Dutch farms and Wisconsin farms are the same, like having 100 to 200 cows and being family-owned. She said that she has also seen differences.

She said, “I thought there would be more grass here.” I’ve seen more tiestalls as well.

Most Dutch farms have barns with freestalls. The Netherlands has banned tiestalls because people have talked about how bad they are for animals.

She has also been to farms in Wisconsin that use lagoons to get rid of manure. Most Dutch farmers have more floors with slats and manure pits. Because they give off ammonia and smell bad, the country doesn’t allow open lagoons.

She said, “We need to be more aware of space.”

The person in charge of livestock and business at Aeres University is Jeroen Nolles. He said that Aeres University has exchange programmes with universities in France, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, and Germany, as well as with UW-River Falls.

Kirsten Clark went to school in the Netherlands from August 2019 to January 2020. She graduated from UW-River Falls in 2021. She grew up on a dairy farm near Birnamwood, Wisconsin, called Schairer Farms. About 1,300 cows are used to make milk on the farm.

“Even though being far from home was hard, I really grew as a person,” Clark said. “Seeing the similarities and differences opened my eyes to the dairy industry and made me want to learn more. That trip also made me believe in myself and gave me the courage to go to graduate school to study dairy nutrition.”

She is an advanced student at The Ohio State University right now.

Clark said that Dutch dairy farms are smaller than those in the United States. Because of rules, the Dutch dairy industry pays a lot of attention to how it affects the environment. The country is also small, which makes it hard for the agricultural sector to grow. Dairy farms are part of this.

“In Wisconsin, the number of farms keeps going down, but the number of cows stays the same,” she said. “Dutch farmers focus on efficiency and new technology because they can’t grow their farms.”

Professor of animal and food science at UW-River Falls Steve Kelm said that the exchange programme isn’t just for dairy science. In December 2021, the UW-System Board of Regents gave UW-River Falls permission to start a new undergraduate programme in international food operations management. It’s a joint programme between UW-River Falls and Aeres University that leads to two degrees.

Dale Gallenberg, who just left his job as dean of the UW-College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences at River Falls, said that the programme will give students the chance to get degrees from both UW-River Falls and Aeres University.

Students in the four-year programme at UW-River Falls will spend the whole third year of the programme in the Netherlands. The second year of the programme at Aeres University will be spent in Wisconsin. Students should learn about food processing technology and operations management from both an international production and a marketing point of view through this programme. There are internships, work placements, and independent study courses as part of the programme.


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