Except for the missing Alps, the Southern Eifel looks almost like the Allgäu: pastures and milk production everywhere. This hilly terrain requires special skills to optimise the cultivation of this grassland, which is an important prerequisite for successful milk production. Alfons Göbel, farmer, Chairman of the Grassland and Fodder Production Committee of the Chamber of Agriculture Rhineland-Palatinate as well as member of the corresponding DLG technical committee, is an expert for this.
Two well-cared for tractors are standing on the left in the farmyard: a 2014 Fendt 512 Vario, which is rented for training, and his own 2012 Fendt 724 Vario. The quiet breathing of the cattle can be heard from the opposite stall and every so often also some loud mooing. The building is connected directly to the house; in front is a paddock for the young cattle. The family-run farming business also has 75 ha of arable land and grassland, which lie on the outskirts of the municipality of Ehlenz in the southern Eifel. This property has been used for farming for more than 100 years. First just part-time, since the founder, Theodor Gilen, was a teacher in the village school from 1895 to 1935. He had four cows and two pigs for his own family’s use. After all, he raised 15 children. “My father then expanded the farm to 25 dairy cows,” says Alfons Göbel, explaining the history of his grandparents’ and parents’ farm. The accurate looking middle age man explains that he now has 40 dairy cows and their offspring. He does not want to increase the number just now, since the successor for the farm is not yet clear at this point in time. What Alfons Göbel is constantly developing further is his knowledge and experience in grassland management.
“Everything was actually developed out of necessity,” sums up Alfons Göbel. He is sitting at the kitchen table. Through the window, you can look out into the garden with the old fruit trees. He grew up here in this house. “Only 15 years ago, the grassland was very poor. The grass only had 2,000 to 3,000 shoots/m2 and large gaps, where only sorrel, dandelion or other less valuable herbs grew. We only harvested 50 to 60 dt/ha dry mass of low quality per year,” he recalls. The farmer did not want to content himself with this problematic situation. He searched for solutions and asked the Chamber of Agriculture Rhineland-Palatinate for advice.
After an appraisal, he put together a plan with the consultants, for optimising the quality and yield of the sward. With success. Today the business harvests 100 and 110 dt/ha DM grass with the same amount of fertiliser, because the grass now grows with 8,000 to 10,000 shoots/m² on Göbel’s grassland. “That is a density similar to that of an English lawn,” he compares proudly. It has a tremendous affect on the profitability of the milk production: before, 1,000 to 1,500 l milk/cow were produced from the staple feed. Today it is 5,000 l and more per cow and year, which means an overall annual milk production of 8,250 l/cow. That saves on costs for concentrated feed.
Alfons Göbel learned farming from the bottom up. As the youngest of six children, he helped his father in the stable and in the field at an early age. “It was a lot of fun. But I actually wanted to study mechanical engineering,” he says. But that didn’t turn out. His childhood experiences form a good foundation for his agricultural training, the vocational school, the examination for the master craftsman’s certificate, and finally his studies for business administration, where he specialised in the area of grassland improvement and management.
Now, as the Chairman of the Grassland and Fodder Production Committee of the Chamber of Agriculture Rhineland-Palatinate and member of the DLG Technical Committee for Grassland and Fodder Conservation, he gives lectures on successful grassland cultivation for colleagues. For this, he travels throughout Germany and Poland. “Why should I keep my knowledge to myself? When I’m buried in the cemetery some day, my knowledge will go with me,” he laughs. One reason why his lectures are always well attended is surely not only that he imparts theoretical knowledge, but because he also applies this knowledge himself. “Step out of your boots and get in front of the monitor”
As he steps out into the farmyard, he is met by Elena Keller, 1st year trainee for farming, coming the other way. She is in the process of completing her oneyear practical training and had to work in the stable. The company has been offering a training programme since 15 years. Today, however, some other pupils will be coming to Ehlenz. The Chamber of Agriculture Rhineland-Palatinate has sent them to learn how to teach grassland management. Alfons Göbel, whose farm has also been a training business since 10 years, does not need long to prepare.
He only has to get the machinery ready: his Fendt 724 Vario, the 6-m wide Vertikator pasture renovator for sowing and turf maintenance and the mower. A hay rake is attached to the Fendt 512 Vario. Then he is already on the way to meet the young people on the grassland before the gates of the village with a population of 490. The twelve trainees come from Bad Kreuznach. Last week there were students from the District Eifel there. Soon-to-be accredited masters of horse management also visit his practical training course. The group listens to the lecture about grassland yields, optimising quality and maintenance work with great interest. But they can’t get away with passive listening only, they must also answer tricky questions. Elena drove out with them. She likes her training post and uses every chance to learn something new.
The annual 900 machines hours of the Fendt 724 Vario are not only spent on his own land. A third of the hours he provides grassland maintenance services to his colleagues: stock-taking, hauling, grooming, sowing and rolling. Each year he visits 40 to 50 farms, from Saarbrücken to Aachen and from Bad Kreuznach to Luxembourg. Often he has to stay overnight. “I always have a suitcase in the tractor for this,” he says. In any case, he likes driving the Fendt 724 Vario in the ProfiPlus equipment version. “I’m looking forward to working with this machine, because it offers so many options and everything works with the precision of a Swiss clockwork,” he says proudly and admits that he has already read through the operating manual six times. Not because it so complicated. No, Alfons Göbel wants to exploit everything the Fendt is capable of. He has been a loyal Fendt customer for decades already. The well cared for 1984 Fendt 309 LSA and a 1966 Farmer 2D standing in his machine shed are proof for this. “It was a giant leap switching from my 1997 Fendt Favorit 512C to a Fendt 724 Vario; it actually has twice the power. I am fully satisfied. It was the right decision,” he sums up and explains why:
Thanks to the pneumatic cab suspension, he no longer has a backache after work, the ergonomics are super, that all elements are easy to operate and the hydraulic lateral stabilisation enables safe work in the hilly terrain of the area. This is all rounded off with the active steering on the 724 Vario, which reduces the time for headland manoeuvres by 40 percent. The automatic climate control works perfectly and plays an important role in the well-being of operators during warm weather and long operations. The fuel consumption is sensational with an annual average of 11.3 litres of fuel per hour.
Ten years ago, Alfons Göbel began making farmers in the southern Eifel aware of the need for good grassland management. As a result many farms have clearly improved both quality and quantity and have become more profitable. The use of Fendt tractors made it possible for Alfons Göbel to extend his circuits. The profitability and, not least, the comfort of the Fendt 724 Vario help the popular grassland expert to meet the expectations and demands placed on him.
The collaboration with Fendt deepened, when he presented his work to the AGCO /Fendt management and Fendt staff three years ago in Marktoberdorf. For some time now, he also has a family tie to Bavaria: Göbel’s son Maurin, a technology enthusiast, is studying mechanical engineering within the dual education system (work/study) at Fendt. It is quite possible that soon even more practical expert knowledge from the southern Eifel will find its way into tractor production in the Allgäu.