A healthy meadow is more than a patch of mowed grass.
We like to see cows grazing in a lush meadow of grass, clovers, flowers and herbs. Between the grass, a variety of ground insects and above them the buzzing sound of bees, bumblebees and dragonflies. Above the meadow, plenty of birds come to rest, forage and nest. Surrounding the meadow are healthy ditches with waving reeds and blooming water lilies. Where no water flows, we see varied field edges in the form of flower strips, hedges, wooded banks and unmown fences, in which a wealth of animal species live and find safe passage and shelter. By designing our meadows, water and field edges in this way, we provide a dairy farm that works in harmony with nature and promotes and protects the biodiversity of our agricultural landscape.
Welcome to the world(s) of Hooidammer!
Everything starts with soil quality! Without a healthy soil, there is no healthy meadow, water or field edge. It has been scientifically proven that a rich soil life ensures that soil processes run optimally, nutrients become available for plants and the soil structure remains airy and moist. Frequent and deep ploughing damages soil life. Hooidammer farmer Jakob and his son Feitze tell us that they have not ploughed their land for about 15 years. This is also visible above ground. Their plots are much more colourful than those of their neighbours. Buttercups, dandelions, cuckoo, sorrel, etc. make for a colourful meadow. "A meadow as a meadow should be."
Cows graze in the meadow and dump their patties, a source of life, directly into the meadow. This creates small oases that attract all kinds of creatures that feed on them. Dung beetles and birds then distribute the flans across the meadow, providing nutrients in a natural way to grass, clovers and herbs as well as soil life. The insects, in turn, are a source of nutrition for the birds and rodents, which, in turn, are food for the predators, and thus a beautiful ecosystem is created. Hooidammer farmer Remco is an advocate of natural farming and is testing early grazing after the winter. By allowing cows to graze in a low density in very early spring, the faeces attract insects which are important food for the young meadow birds. His land is part of the Fochteloërveen, the protected breeding area of the Crane.
A lot of life takes place in and near water. Ditches on agricultural land play an important role in water management and biodiversity. Ditches drain off excess water and thus prevent flooding. Moreover, rough ditch banks form a habitat for all kinds of animals, which feed on snails and insects that live in and around the water. These small water creatures are also an important part of the food chain. Aquatic plants in turn produce oxygen, which helps break down pollutants. Cleaning the ditch itself requires attention. Hooidammer farmer Marten: "You take all the life out of the ditch with a dredge. No fish can survive that. By cleaning only about half of the ditch with a mowing basket, you create a natural balance in and around the water."
Field edges exist in many forms and can serve different purposes. Flower strips, for example, are good for increasing general biodiversity on and around the farm. In combination with trees and shrubs, a field edge acts as a natural link between nature areas for larger animals such as roe deer and hares. In addition, a field edge can play a role in improving water quality. Because the field edge forms a buffer between the field and adjacent surface water, there is less erosion and washing out of fertiliser. Hooidammer farmer Carla is very pleased with her sown flower strips. She regularly sees cyclists and tourists dismounting to take photos. The fear that the strips would lead to a loss in yield has proved to be incorrect.