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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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200 homeless families seek Governments’ help to recover their land – KBC

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Hundreds of homeless families in Kinango Sub-county, Kwale County are appealing to the Government to help them repossess their land from a private developer.

The 200 families from Mwamdudu in Bonje area are accusing a private developer of colluding with top Government officials to grab their ancestral land.

Their houses were demolished with the residents saying they couldn’t salvage anything as the demolition caught them unprepared.

They condemned act saying it was inhumane and a violation of their human rights and access to justice.

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Mwamdudu secondary school, a dispensary and a children orphanage were also demolished.

Ramadhan Lewa Kalume a resident in the area dismissed claims that they had entered into a consent with the company associated with the private developer.

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 “I wish to insist that we were never consulted in the sale of the land to the private developer,” he pointed out.

The local resident allege that the demolition exercise was carried out by officers from the General Service Unit [GSU] and not regular police.

Ms. Salama Kenga, a single mother said they are spending nights in the cold with their children and appealed for Government’s intervention.

Mwanahamisi Ramadhan, a 24 years old mother of three said she only managed to rescue her three children including a one day child she had given birth to on the day the demolitions were conducted.

The distraught mother says she is surviving on handouts from well-wishers to feed her young family and is sleeping outside in the cold with her newborn baby.

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PwC lauds ease of Customs tax

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PwC has commended the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) for lifting restrictions on warehousing of goods in Customs bonded warehouses, noting that the action will enhance the competitiveness of Kenya as a global and regional logistics hub.
PWC said the policy will also boost to businesses that utilise Customs bonded warehouses to store goods, defer payment of duties and are involved in regional trade. It however called for consistency in tax law.
“We expect that with Customs having lifted restrictions on warehousing of goods will help contribute to the State’s agenda of reviving the economy in light of the ravages of Covid-19, improve cash flow and stock management for businesses,” said Indirect Taxes Associate Director at PwC Kenya Maurice Mwaniki.
“We expect this will once again enhance the competitiveness of Kenya as a global and regional logistics hub and assist attract inward investment into Kenya.”

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Kenya Revenue Authority

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Kenya: Court Cancels Former Rugby Player Alex Olaba’s Sh300,000 Bail

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Nairobi — A Nairobi Chief Magistrate’s Court has cancelled the Sh300,000 cash bail issued on former rugby player Alex Olaba, after the prosecution said he had committed an offense of conspiracy to murder while he was still face a change of gang rape.

Trial Magistrate Zainab Abdul said the accused committed the offense while he was out on bond and proceeded to threaten the complainant in the case.

Olaba will remain in custody until the two cases are heard and determined. He wull be back in court on June 3 for purposes of taking a hearing date.

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The former Kenya Sevens and Kenya Harlequins player was arrested last month by detectives for allegedly trying to hatch a plot to kill witnesses in the case.

At the same time, the Court has also barred the media from publishing images of the complainant and directed that the matter will be heard in camera.

Olaba was previously charged with Frank wanyama with an offense of gang rape in 2019. They had been found gulty and sentenced to 15 years in jail. They however appealed against the sentence and the same was quashed by the High Court on a technicality.

The duo was later arrested in 2020 and charged afresh

When the matter came up for mention in April 22nd the suspect mulamba did not appear virtually instead he told the court that he was away in Bungoma, but according to the investigating officer he lied to the court he was in Nairobi.

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