Agricultural nature management interwoven into farm operations on Hupperetz farm

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18 January 2021

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Nieuws

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In recent years, livestock farming has often been mentioned in the same breath as environmental problems. In Schinveld, the Hupperetz family has a different approach on their farm. On this mixed farm, beef cattle and arable farming are combined with agricultural nature management. The various components are interwoven in the pursuit of circular agriculture, and nature and the environment are fixed focal points in the business operations. Nieuwe Oogst interviewed Tim Hupperetz (31) about the choices that are made in this family business.

The work at Farm Hupperetz is divided among the family members: mother Jeanine Hupperetz takes care of part of the administration, father Wiel Hupperetz is responsible for the arable farming, and Tim Hupperetz focuses mainly on the beef cattle business. Tim studied engineering and worked as a technical draughtsman, but was also always actively connected to the farm. "My parents are both 62 now, so I got fully into the business in good time."

Meat cattle

Awareness of nature and the environment and thus contributing to a healthy living environment is in the DNA of this farm. That means on the side of the beef cattle farming that they use a straw yard system, which ensures significantly less ammonia emissions than regular barn systems.

The family runs the French breed Blonde d'Aquitaine, known for good meat output combined with a frugal ration. "We feed calves eight to 11 months old and they stay on our farm for about 10 months," says Tim Hupperetz. "We have hardly any health problems. The animals are on straw and the stables are well ventilated."

The food for the animals comes mainly from the farm's own arable land. "We also feed residual streams from the potato processing industry and brewery-derived brewers. The next step is to get those supplements to the feed from the immediate area and thus further reduce the number of transport movements."

Both the procurement and marketing of the beef cattle is in the hands of the cooperative Beef Select. The 75 participating farmers feed mainly home-grown food and use almost no antibiotics. "In addition, we all comply with the 2 stars of the Beter Leven quality mark of the Animal Protection Agency," Hupperetz says.

Farming

A large part of the feed for the beef cattle is grown within the own company. This includes sugar beets, winter wheat, winter barley and corn. In addition, one third of the cultivation plan is dedicated to the cultivation of alfalfa as part of the agricultural nature management. In South Limburg, the primary concern is to protect the corncob, which was in danger of becoming extinct on the loess soils.

"We mow alfalfa in strips, so that the corn wolf always has a place to hide, but birds, deer and other animals also have a place here," Hupperetz observes. "We're really filling in a nature objective, and for that we get a payment that comes close to growing an intensive crop plan."

The fields are fertilized in the spring with straw manure from the farm's own potting shed. Straw manure contains important plant nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphate. After delivery to the fields it increases the organic matter content in the soil. Together with the crop residues on the field, a fertile and humus-rich top layer is created. This humus layer extremely limits the leaching (sinking) of the minerals into the soil.

The straw used for the daily bedding of the stables for the beef cattle is also partly grown within the company and partly purchased in the immediate vicinity. In this way the transport distances remain limited, which contributes to a lower CO2 footprint.

Few worries

The young entrepreneur has just hung bird nest boxes in the stables and solar panels provide the necessary energy for the company. "Nature and the environment are increasingly important to consumers and we want to respond to that as much as possible with our business operations," he says. "The fact that today's consumers are increasingly leaving meat behind does not worry the young entrepreneur much. "The development is also that people want good quality meat, tasty, locally produced with an eye for animal welfare. We can deliver that."

More examples of circular agriculture in Limburg can be read in this background article. The full interview with Tim Hupperetz can be found at the website of New Harvest.