A German milking group is using New Zealand and Ireland's pasture-based dairy model for their unique outdoors operation near Berlin.
Kiwi technology features at the centre of a new farming operation which aims to be the only full-time, pasture-based dairy operation in Germany.
Dairy cows in Germany are traditionally farmed indoors but in Netzen, south west of Berlin, cows are enjoying the outdoor life, all year round, just like their New Zealand counterparts.
The company leading the pasture-based initiative is The RealGrass Group, which recently held an open day at its Netzen property to showcase its new dairy operation.
The technology forming the centre piece of the dairy is from New Zealand.
It's a 60-bail, Centrus Composite Rotary Platform, made in Horotiu just north of Hamilton by Waikato Milking Systems.
It's now milking the farm's 950 cows, equipped with technology designed to reduce labour and make milking, breeding, handling and sorting the animals easier.
RealGrass' Vicky Lynch said the Centrus was a major drawcard at the open day.
"We have so many visitors wanting to take a look at the milking system because no one in Germany has seen a rotary platform as robust, hardy and user friendly as this."
Lynch said the animals loved the milking platform as much as the staff.
"Milking is so calm and easy now, it's boosted overall team moral ... we were amazed by the lack of noise and the overall chilled vibe of the animals".
A veterinary platform was added to make artificial insemination and other animal health related operations easier.
Lynch said the RealGrass farm was the only dairy in Germany where cows were outside 365 days of the year.
She said other dairy operations had their cows outside for 120 days a year, for six hours a day, to qualify as "pasture milk" production.
"We feel we are offering real grass milk to the consumer as our cows are outside every day of the year and producing milk off the pasture."
Lynch said RealGrass carefully selects the right mix of grasses to suit the soil composition. The pasture is analysed every week across all of its paddocks.
She said keeping the cows outside during winter had not been a problem.
"In Germany, we have cold dry winters, the cows cope perfect in this climate, they have a winter coat for extra warmth and they have no lameness issues, no health issues and are fit for calving."
Wind breaks helped reduce the winter cold where needed. The farm had housing so if the conditions became extreme, the animals would be looked after.
Lynch is from Galway, Ireland. She said like in New Zealand, dairy cows in Ireland are farmed outdoors.
RealGrass used the two countries as a model to set up its Netzen property in 2014. It fenced off 400ha of pasture, installed water and roadway systems and reseeded grass.
It also switched from its herd from Holsteins to a Jersey-Cross animal, using genetics from New Zealand.
"It's amazing to see something that's normal to us, like feeding 400 calves at one time to milking on our Waikato Milking System platform, it really has the German people interested and willing to learn about the pasture system."
Opportunities in agriculture
Lynch primarily works on animal health and reproduction for the RealGrass Group.
She became involved with RealGrass via a student placement from the University College Dublin, when she was studying to become an animal scientist.
RealGrass accepts students from all agricultural colleges in Ireland, about 10-15 per year.
It also takes students from other countries and Lynch now handles the placements.
She's keen to hear from any Kiwis who might want to work at the Netzen farm.
Lynch spends about 50 per cent of her time in Germany, the other half in Ireland and the UK.
In Germany she's sharing knowledge around animal health and pasture-based farming, which is still new.
But she said it'll open up dairy product marketing opportunities, using animal welfare, sustainability and the benefits of milk made from pasture-based farming as an advantage.
"It's amazing to see how far we have come. We feel we are giving the consumer true pasture-based produced milk."