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Psst! Robots at work – Daily Nation

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By MICHAEL ORIEDO
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The Dutch love cheese, and ghee, and milk. They love their milk cold, which they take separate from tea or coffee.

The dairy products come from some 1.7 million cows spread on 17,500 farms across The Netherlands and they produce about 15 billion litres of milk annually.

Most of the dairy farms, interestingly, have no workers, with robots calling all the shots when it comes to how and when to feed the cows, clean the sheds and milk the animals.

The machines have literally kicked workers out of Dutch dairy farms, with the farmer monitoring all activities in the barn on phone and issuing out instructions by the click of a button.

At Farm Landleven, brothers Adrie and Bert Vollering keep over 300 Holstein-Friesian animals, 220 which they milk and the rest are heifers and calves.

The 1 million Euros (Sh119 million) worth of investment farm was started by Adrie and Bert’s forefathers somewhere in Vlaardingen, in the south of The Netherlands.

“They would milk cows and sell the produce in the city. Ourselves we are the eighth generation farmers in the Vollering family. Our father started the process of modernising the farm in 1966 by moving it to the current location in Waarder,” says Adrie.

Adrie and Bert have then continued with the modernisation of the farm that sits on 70 acres, with pasture standing on half of it. They built modern barns in 2011 and automated them for efficiency.

“We have no worker on the farm. My brother and I take turns to monitor activities, which are performed by robots. Occasionally, we have a volunteer but the farm is fully automated.”

Visitors admire the sophisticated milking robots at the farm in The Netherlands.

Visitors admire the sophisticated milking robots at the farm in The Netherlands. The machines have literally kicked workers out of Dutch dairy farms, with the farmer monitoring all activities in the barn on phone and issuing out instructions by the click of a button. PHOTO | MICHAEL ORIEDO | NMG

As others in The Netherlands, the farm hosts dozens of automatic machines that include a milking system, cow separation gate, feed slide, concentrate box, slurry scraper, energy monitoring system, ventilation gadget, 24-tonne milk tank, feed mixer wagons, loader and silage cutter, among others.

“All these machines are connected to the system and they work seamlessly. I monitor everything on the phone and issue instructions that include the machine not milking a particular cow, for instance.”

NO PHYSICAL HANDLING OF THE MILK

As Adrie recounts the happenings to a group of Kenyan journalists, a cow walks to the milking machine earlier than its scheduled time. The robot rejects the animal, opens the gate and it walks out.

On the other side of the farm, the slurry scraper moves around the shed sprinkling some water as it cleans it, periodically as instructed.

“Each animal is fitted with a chip from which the robot picks information about it and performs the task instructed. The machine cannot milk a sick teat or that which is hurt as long as you instruct it,” he says, adding there is no physical handling of the milk, which flows directly to the solar-run cooler once milked.

The system normally detects every activity of the animal including if the cow is on heat, if sick, if its chewing too much or less and there is need to change the feeds.

“These machines allow me to do other tasks that include going on holiday and attending to family issues,” Adrie quips.
He offers the animals grass silage (65 percent), corn silage (17), beet pulp (10 percent), potato fibre pulp (5 percent), straw (1 percent) and flour and minerals (2 percent).

“Each cow produces an average of 28 litres of milk a day and this rises to 50 litres during the peak season. Annually, I get 9,500 litres from each cow or 1.8 million litres from the entire herd,” says Adrie.

The farm, as others in the country that is below the sea level, sells the milk to FrieslandCampina Dairy, the largest co-operative in The Netherlands.

Some of the dairy cattle in the two brothers' farm.

Some of the dairy cattle in the two brothers’ farm. Their modern system normally detects every activity of the animal including if the cow is on heat, if sick, if its chewing too much or less and there is need to change the feeds. PHOTO | MICHAEL ORIEDO | NMG

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“The co-operative collects the milk from our solar cooler after every three days and pays an average of 35 Euro cents (Sh42) per litre. The price fluctuates depending on a number of things including the weather and production. In 2017, we earned 40 Euro cents (Sh48) per litre and in 2015, 25 cents (Sh30),” he says, noting his break even price is 34 Euro cents (Sh41) per litre.

Campina checks the milk for quality and any violations that include detection of antibiotics is punished, including by being banned from the society.

“They check a number of things which include fat and protein concentration. In our case, it averages 4.10 percent and 3.4 percent respectively,” says Adrie, adding they get lessons on farm management and new practices through the co-operative.

The farmers are paid 3 Euro cents (Sh4) extra at the end of the year per litre of milk delivered if they graze their animals.

“Every year, the cows should graze at least six hours a day, for 120 days. Grazing is natural behaviour for the cow and it is healthy. Young stock is kept 24 hours a day outside during the summer,” offers the farmer.

Once they are born, the calves are allowed to stay with their mothers for two days, but within the first 30 minutes after calving, the must receive four litres of colostrum.

“A heifer calf is housed for 3-5 days in individual straw cot, a bull calf for 14 days. After five days, heifer calves are housed in groups and for two months they receive milk replacer through the automatic system, besides feeding on hay ad lib, lucerne, concentrates and water,” says Adrie, noting the farm’s breeding is computerised.

They use sexed-semen, with Belgium blue going for 350 Euros (Sh42,000) and Holstein-Friesian 100 Euros (Sh12,000).

Adrie Vollering discusses a point with a visitor in their farm called Farm Landleven, in the Netherlands.

Adrie Vollering discusses a point with a visitor in their farm called Farm Landleven, in The Netherlands. The brothers, Adrie and Bert have continued with the modernisation of the farm that sits on 70 acres, with pasture standing on half of it. PHOTO | MICHAEL ORIEDO | NMG

Tys van Balen, the Business and Market Development Advisor, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation, says there is strong collaboration between farmers and government, as well as research institutions making the Dutch dairy industry to thrive.

“Growing demand certainly offers opportunities for Dutch dairy, but technology plays a crucial to meet increasing demand for dairy products and sustainable production, with a minimum impact on nature and the environment,” he offers.

Adrie, together with his brother Bert, is currently working on passing the farm to their sons.

However, there is a challenge as the sons are not interested in farming like their parents and forefathers.

Their option is to sell the farm but finding a buyer would be difficult because of the huge price.

Another challenge the farm is grappling with is erratic weather, with rains becoming scarcer thus affecting pasture production.

“This is what I love doing. I love farming,” says Adrie as he taps a solar cooler full of milk that is awaiting collection, with the produce going to make the next cheese, ghee and pasteurised milk, some which he serves us — warmer though, upon request.

Facts and figures about the Dutch dairy industry

The dairy sector in The Netherlands employs 45,000 workers.

Most of them, however, are not on the farms.

About 35 percent of the milk produced and the resultant products are sold in the country, while the rest are exported to China, Algeria, Japan, Germany, Belgium and France.

About 50 percent of dairy farms save energy by utilising the natural heat from milk.

Dairy’s contribution to the Dutch trade balance is 8 percent.

The bulk (52 percent) of the milk produced in the country is used to make cheese and 15 percent milk powder.

The Dutch government is regulating the emission reduction of the dairy sector as part of environmental regulation.

Source: Agriculture Department



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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