Jehannes Bottema, commercial director at Spinder

Between tradition and modern

16 January 2019

Thorough knowledge, sound advice, unique and sustainable products, that is what Spinder Dairy Housing Concepts in Harkema stands for. The company has been a producer and supplier of barn equipment since 1973, and, in addition to quality, the welfare of the cow has played a prominent role since that time. "Our barn equipment can withstand harsh, rough conditions," says commercial director Jehannes Bottema with a smile. By this he actually means that Spinder makes no concessions to the good name the company has built up over the past 45 years.

"Stock availability is the strength of our company"
Our standard products are produced in batches, which means that they can be supplied by Spinder from stock, and that is appreciated by the market. “It is the strength of our company. This enables us to respond quickly to the wishes of the customer." However, in recent years Spinder has also been asked to come up with tailor-made solutions.

"This is not a major consideration for us, but we do see it as a challenge," explains Bottema. "The customer appreciates it and it is also a way for us to see what is going on in the market. Quite apart from that, we keep track of all kinds of developments anyway and respond to them as well as possible." For example, the dimensions of the cubicles have increased over the years, due to the fact that cows are larger in 2018 than they were in the 1970s.

Barn Logistics
Spinder also develops unique concepts, which, for instance, make it possible to achieve the best possible barn logistics. "We look at the interplay between the layout and the activities that take place in the barn, such as milking, feeding and resting, with the calf, young cattle and adult cows in mind," says Bottema. "Of course we do this in consultation with the farmer, since what we strive for are optimal conditions for the farmer and his cattle.”

Although for many years Spinder mainly worked for the Dutch market, more recently the focus has been on increasing sales from other countries. Bottema explains: "In our own country we have plenty of work and a good name, which is wonderful. And particularly when it was announced that the milk quota was being abolished, many farmers started investing. In the years from 2011 to 2015, this resulted in a great deal of work for us. However, the dip came in 2016, when demand suddenly fell dramatically. This volatility has led us to broaden our base with more exports. And that is starting to work. We are also benefiting from the fact that many cattle farmers have crossed the border and are engaging in further development of their farms for which they want cubicles and a feed front from Spinder. This means that we are now doing business in all the countries around us, but we also regularly send goods to places like Canada.”

Cuddle Box
Spinder also been busy introducing new products, such as the Cuddle Box, a system that, after the birth of a calf, ensures simple and safe interaction between the cow, its calf and the farmer. Moreover, this box also allows the natural bond between the cow and its calf to play a bigger role. "We worked with veterinarians and even received a prize for the smart solution we came up with for this problem.”

"We are constantly looking for solutions that contribute to the welfare of animals and people, without compromising on quality, because that's what we do first and foremost." 

This is evident from the fact that farmers come back to Spinder when they want to replace their cubicles with a larger size, for example. "We ourselves recently bought back a barrier from 1976, which will be installed in our new factory in Drachten," says Bottema.

Construction of new premises
At the moment there is a lot of building going on at the industrial estate along the A7. "We are currently in two separate business premises, which is not ideal. In addition, all the urban freight traffic around here is outdated. We are therefore happy to be moving in the summer of 2019. The office staff, the shipping department and the assembly department will be the first to move, and in the following year production will be transferred in stages. Customers, of course, should not be affected by any of this."

Nevertheless, it will be quite a job. Some machines will be purchased new, but existing machines will also be taken to the new factory. "All this will have to be started up again and that's why we're already sorting everything out beforehand," explains Bottema. "This means that we will be building up an even larger stock prior to that time."  Naturally, the new factory will be equipped in keeping with the most modern standards. Bottema adds: "Climate control and ventilation play an important role in this. I also think that cooling the building will end up requiring more effort than heating."  People also felt that more daylight would work better. But based on what other factories have found, management decided to work mainly with LED lighting.

It should be possible for production at the new location to be doubled. "That is ultimately the intention," says Bottema. "At any rate, we will have room for choices over there. We're going to grow, that's for sure, and that is something we can facilitate at this fantastic new location. We are convinced that the future of dairy farming looks good. Unfortunately, a lack of understanding between the farmer and a section of the community often tends to lead to differences of opinion. However, these are not as big as you might think. Livestock farming as a business activity appears to be at odds with concerns about animals and the land, but farmers love their animals and the land, just like the citizens. Reach out to each other and be prepared to listen to each other! In addition to a lot of common ground, the public will surely understand that there must be room for agricultural enterprise."