Quite an operation: this week, cattle farmer Dennis Smit from Ursem moved his 93 cows to the new farm on the other side of the village. The family business in Polder Mijzen has been bought by the province because nature is needed. “I’ve had some bad nights.”
The cattle trucks turn up in the yard early in the morning. Another cup of coffee is drunk before the operation starts. You can read the tension on Smit’s face. “They’ve never been transported.” With more than 90 cows and also the young stock, 160 animals have to be moved. The journey is only four kilometers but that doesn’t make it any less stressful. “They were spotless, but shit all over each other.”
At the end of 2019, they discover that there is a claim on their land. Fifty of the sixty hectares of land must become a nature reserve. Dennis: “If that is all nature, you can no longer earn a dry bread as a dairy farmer and the company is also unsaleable.”
Nature network in the Netherlands
Since 1990, 238 hectares of land have been allocated in the Mijzen polder to be set up as a Nature Network. The Nature Network ensures that nature areas are connected and that plants and animals are not isolated and become extinct.
After the purchase of the land from farmer Dennis, the province still has to acquire and furnish several tens of hectares of land in the Mijzen polder. It is still unclear what exactly the province will do with the land of farmer Dennis.
The province of North Holland is proposing to buy the entire farm. “The company was appraised and we got the market value for it. Not a penny more or less for goodwill because I’m leaving here voluntarily. It’s a six-figure figure, we could buy the other company for it.”
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Smit did not want to put up a defense with the potential consequence of an expropriation procedure. The fact that he can continue his business nearby, in a modern stable, is worth more to him. “And the children can now also stay at school here in Ursem, we are happy about that.”
That doesn’t make the move any less emotional. The company has been in the family for 48 years. “My father has farmed here for 24 years, and so have I, and the children were born here. You won’t be disappointed.”
Obviously it was not that Smit could continue his business around the corner. “We also looked at other provinces. At the end of November last year, this farm came up for sale and that accelerated everything.”
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It is still a bit of work: the new house is not ready yet. Only the cows are left now. In connection with grazing, the ladies have to get used to the new stable for a few weeks. Moreover, the 25 cows taken over from the farmer who was there before are already there. “My wife and children will stay until the renovation is finished. I will sleep at night on the new farm, because I don’t want to leave the cattle alone. So that will be ‘latting’ for a few weeks,” Dennis jokes.
Daughter Fiene (11) and son Tim (12) find it exciting, but are happy with the move. They both often help on the farm. Tim: “We are improving, of course, with an automatic feeding system and milking robots, which is quite handy.”
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