Today, we visit Juulsgaard in West Fyn, this is a name that will be well known to many Jersey breeders worldwide. Previously owned by Christian Holm Olesen, it was renowned for breeding great bulls, high yields, and leading-edge management. However, today I want to concentrate on the last decade or so when Juulsgaard has been managed and later owned by Niels Ulrik Andersen. More importantly, just how he has been able to impose his mark and influence on this iconic herd and farm.
We can start around 2007, when Niels Ulrik a young man aged just 30, joined Juulsgaard as fodermester (herd manager) This followed 18 months in Agricultural School in around 2001-2003 where he studied Agricultural Economy and afterwards working with a 500 cow Holstein herd. Before Agricultural School, Niels Ulrik had no traditional background in Agriculture, his parents worked as a Carpenter and a Nurse, although his grandfather had a herd of 30 cows until Niels was 18. At this time Birgitte and Christian Olesen were in a co-operative arrangement, Espe-Holm, with a neighbour, Keld Esplund Petersen, and were also beginning to think about their inevitable retirement, after discussing it with their family, each of which had established other successful careers, Christian discussed this with Morten, (son of Keld, the other part of Espe-Holm). Morten suggested a young man, Niels Ulrik, that he had gone to Agricultural School with. After some discussion, Niels Ulrik was engaged as fodermester in 2007.
In the Espe-Holm arrangement, Keld reared all the young-stock on his farm. During 2009-2010 Morten and Christian made some changes to the old buildings, removing some old pig and heifer units, mainly on their farm. Also, Christian enquired of Niels Ulrik if he was interested, or able, in taking on Juulsgaard, he himself came to Juulsgaard in the late 1960s as a fodermester, To make a long story short, after much discussion and planning, everything dropped into place, Niels Ulrik was to take over Juulsgaard in 2011. Complete with house, herd, equipment, and land. Niels Ulrik realized from the outset that he was unlikely to improve on a circular wheel. However, like formula 1 motor racing, with a few tweaks, here and there, he could make it go faster, more efficiently, or take corners better.
Following the changes to the buildings on Keld’s farm, Christian Olesen was able to expand the cow barn at Juulsgaard by 70 metres before transferring the farm, enabling the herd to expand to its current size when Niels Ulrik took over. The farm is situated in an environmentally sensitive area, next to the beautiful Gamborg Fjord and Niels Ulrik is limited, by local agreement, to around 425 cows. These changes also limited the number of pure Jerseys the buildings could cope with and initially, Niels Ulrik bred 30% of 2nd lactation and older cows to Danish Blue, these were sold as calves to local farmers to rear on. This was very successful and produced calves averaging around 8 kgs heavier than pure Jersey calves without any additional calving problems, however, Niels Ulrik now breeds all cows pure, having secured an agreement to supply another Danish Farmer who is setting up a very large dairy unit, possibly up to 4,000 cows.
Breeding and reproduction policy
- Niels Ulrik now uses: –
- 100% VikingGenetic purebred bulls,
- 95% Sexed semen
- 100% Genomic bulls
Niels Ulrik has become very keen on the Jersey breed and the breeding and reproductive work on the farm, He undertakes all the inseminations himself with the local inseminator calling once per week to do all the PDs and examine troublesome cows, also to take over during illness and holidays. Each Thursday, the vet calls to review reproductive problem cows, Niels Ulrik thinks this is a very successful routine and firmly believes the relationship between farmer, AI technician and Vet is crucial to optimise reproductive results.
Like most Danish farms, Juulsgaard makes use of the local VikingDanmark breeding advisor who regularly visits the farm to draw up a breeding plan which uses herd data, combined with data from the National database. This is then programmed through leading-edge computer models. Three breeding suggestions are made in optimal order The system is designed to optimise at an individual animal level, the NTM, whilst avoiding inbreeding. They aim to calve first-calf heifers at 22-23 months. The breeding advisor will also monitor the young-stock growth to ensure this target can be achieved and possibly lowered. Danish farmers do not see this as an interference with their decision making, but more as a valuable tool to which they contribute their opinion, it is also a system they pay for and consider cost-effective. This is also important at a genomic level as bulls are usually only active for 2-3 months. Most Danish farms, Juulsgaard included, do not use daughter proven bulls.
Breeding bulls for AI
Juulsgaard has an outstanding reputation for breeding bulls for VikingGenetics. Two of the notable bulls bred at Juulsgaard, are DJ Holmer and VJ Pick, both of which will be well known to many international breeders. These bulls were born around the time that Niels Ulrik first came to Juulsgaard in 2007/8. Since then Juulsgaard has supplied many more bulls to VikingGenetics, in the current (02.06.2020) top 100 bulls ranked on NTM, 10 were bred at Juulsgaard. Their NTM score spans from 25-16. Some have more Juulsgaard bred bulls in their pedigrees.
STOP PRESS !! Since formulating this list on 02.06.2020 Juulsgaard has another new bull enter this list Namely:- VJ Jiwe who is the new TOP Genomic bull with an NTM of 32 on the latest list dated 07.07.2020, STOP PRESS !!
All calves are genomically tested and each year VikingGenetics ask to undertake three to four ET flushes from the very highest genetic heifers. These are undertaken on-farm and both donors and recipients retained at Juulsgaard, VikingGenetics will then select the very best of the bull calves to add to their bull rearing unit and Niels Ulrik will have some very high index females to add to the quality of his herd. In 2018 Niels Ulrik was awarded ‘Breeder of the Year’ at the Danish Jersey Societies annual meeting.
Juulsgaard was a very high yielding large herd when Niels Ulrik took over. Danish Jerseys have very significantly increased in both herd size and milk yields since then, probably due to genetic gains, advancement in nutrition, and interest in complete feeding. Juulsgaard had to keep pace, it achieved this so successfully it became the highest yielding Jersey herd in Denmark in 2018.
In 2018 the milking parlour was upgraded to a 24/24 fast exit. This enabled more efficient throughput to cope with the extra cow numbers. Niels Ulrik has never believed in increasing herd size, or yields, for the sake of it. He has been focussed on optimising the herd and farm economy and letting productive performance find its place. He prefers to concentrate his priorities on improving the herd genetic level, improving herd health, fertility, and the overall economy.
Juulsgaard is situated in an environmentally sensitive and very popular tourist area, that features around boating, fishing, camping and an internationally renowned bird sanctuary, the farm is currently,
110 Hectares = 272 acres land at Juulsgaard
55 Hectares = 136 Acres of crops fro Neighbour
Cropped as follows; –
45 Ha 111 acres of Grass
120 Ha 297 acres of Maize.
In 2014 the Espe-Holm co-operative agreement was dissolved and replaced with an arrangement with the same neighbour, where Niels Ulrik leases a few building to house his young stock along with an arrangement to purchase cropped fodder to fulfil all the herd’s needs by putting in a request for a given tonnage at the beginning of the year which is then delivered to the Juulsgaard silos.
Co-operation is both common and vital in Danish agriculture and usually works to everyone’s mutual benefit, Niels Ulrik also can also use some of his neighbours land to distribute some of his farm effluents and also to source some of his considerable need for bedding straw.
Anyone that has visited Juulsgaard will be surprised to hear me mention effluent, as all the stock are kept loose housed, on deep straw, bedding is done by a large bale shredder passing overhead distributing chopped straw seven times a day. This creates a lot of manure. This is purchased by a local Bio-Gas processing plant and added to mainly liquid effluent from other farms along with a small amount of abattoir waste, some supermarket food waste and even waste maize silage. The concoction is then processed into Biogas and added to the National grid. The end by-product is a liquid slurry, which is sterile, nutrient enhanced and largely odour free, this is returned to the farms. Therefore, Niels Ulrik ends up with effluent to spread on his and his neighbour’s land during the regulated periods. This two-way process has both costs and benefits however, the end cost to Juulsgaard is approximately neutral, but with added soil nutrient and environmental advantages. Interestingly these biogas plants are largely owned by farmer co-operatives
And of Niels Ulrik and family
Niels is married to Dorte who is a Veterinary Surgeon, they have two children, When able to get away from the farm they can be found enjoying Kayaking on the Gamborg Fjord or swimming, as well as helping Dorte with her hobby, training dogs. They also enjoy playing soccer and when they can get away for a holiday, Skiing.
When you reflect that less than 20-years ago Niels Ulrik had no agricultural experience, no agricultural education, now finds himself very successfully owning one of Denmarks iconic dairy farms and highest yielding Jersey herds. This must be a truly remarkable success story and one that demonstrates to all young people with ambitions to become dairy farmers, that with application and commitment the sky is the limit. Despite the increasing size, and the economic challenges that modern Danish dairy farming today presents, you can realise your dreams.
However, Niels Ulrik would be the first to recognise that his achievements are very much the result of a team effort, with him as the conductor of a team of very talented musicians. From the team of 5 valued employees (plus, Niels Ulrik), the encouragement and support from Birgitte and Christian Olesen, Breeding and economic advisors, the AI technician, the Vet, and not least co-operative neighbours, to mention only a few. If I adapt the words of Eric Morecombe UK, for the very talented orchestra to get the best tune, Niels Ulrik, the conductor, must just ensure they play the right notes, in the right places.