Mieke Vander Schueren Busy Bee. In addition to working on the farm, she has a full-time job as a dairy inspector for CRV. With her mother Regina, her brother Peter, his girlfriend Han and her friend Frederick, she receives the commercial press at the beginning of December at Valeriushoeve, their pretty square house with holiday homes in Zandbergen, near Geraardsbergen. Shortly thereafter she spent a week in faraway India for her employer.
“Since that win in the dairy cow competition at Agriflanders 2019, Annelies has become an icon of our company,” says Mieke. “Annelies literally and figuratively put us on the map.”
The family business continues
One and a half kilometers from Valeriushoeve, in Idegem, is the arable cattle farm Den Ighemkouter, owned by the Vander Schueren family. Guido Vander Schwern, husband of Regina de Smit and father of Mickey and Peter, was practicing as a veterinarian. When he had the opportunity to take over parent company Den Ighemkouter in the late 1990s, the couple started raising livestock, both dairy and beef cattle, in addition to the veterinary practice.
Regina then retired as a nutritionist to support her husband. “Guido especially loved his white-and-blue cattle and the associated cow competitions. We used to participate in the Belgian white-and-blue Agreflanders Championships,” Regina recalls. “Many Guido trophies adorned the room where the press was received. From an early age, Mickey was more interested in With dairy cows.Brother Peter is the machine man in the family.In the early 2000s, nearby Valeriushoeve was purchased.Over the years, the farm has been refurbished into a lovely bed and breakfast.
“In 2011 we lost a father to cancer,” says Mickey. “It wasn’t a clear period, but Dad was the driving force to carry on with this company mixed together. And that’s what we did.” The whole family has daily tasks in taking care of the animals. Peter does the mechanical feeding mainly, while Regina looks after the calves and mics the dairy cows.” Regina also pampers the B&B’s guests. At the two sites together, some 200 animals are currently raised: 140 dairy cows (with small stock) and 60 cattle.
Love of dairy cows
Because of her penchant for dairy cows, Mickey has invested more and more in the dairy genes herself. She bought Anneliese as a calf. She became her favorite cow. She didn’t stay under the radar with it. Together with Annelies, Mieke has already won about 25 championship titles and achieved seventh place in the European Championships. Therefore, Mickey is one of the popular participants in the competitions.
In addition to being a participant, you can often see Mieke at work as a jury member or presenter in competitions. Education is also no stranger to her. “I like to teach young people to look better at their livestock. I am also closely involved in ‘Kijk op Keuren’, also through my job.”
Emotional roller coaster
However, in 2018, in the run-up to Agriflanders in January 2019, Regina became seriously ill… “While my mom was in the hospital with cancer, we couldn’t get all the work done. So we literally had no time to prepare for the National Agriflanders Product Competition Dairy this time.But when my favorite cow Annelies was born 3 weeks before the examination, it was an extra incentive for me to prepare her for the competition in Ghent.
It worked out in the nick of time and I won the championship title handsomely! My mom was also leaving the hospital at that time. When I was selected by the jury as the winner of the Young Cows, I burst into tears as a result of the rollercoaster we had experienced in the previous months. It was all very emotional and Anneliese hugged so tightly… The photographer on duty captured this scene in this very sweet photo. I am therefore very proud to have chosen this special moment as the campaign image for this edition of Agriflanders.” The slogan “Embrace Agriculture”, chosen by the organizers, is perfectly in line with this.
Proud of the farmer’s craft
The family itself also embraces this sector. “We try to spread that out as much as possible,” says Regina. “Our area has a lot of shops. On our farm we try to bring the sector closer to the consumer with all kinds of activities – for young and old. We also offer short-chain products to our B&B customers as often as possible. In nearby Vianne, beer is produced in former slaughterhouses. Show Our Anneliese is even on the blond slaughterhouse beer label.”
Regina feels very sorry that the agricultural sector is going through such a difficult time. All support is welcome. To emphasize this, she hung a farmer’s red sash on all the chairs in the parlor, symbolizing support for the sector. In addition to all the nitrogen stuff, we also have to deal with another threat here in Geraardsbergen. The future barracks wants to take over our fertile agricultural land. We will also lose 5 hectares, which are essential for our company, in this prestigious defense project. Half of his land is taken by a fellow, while defense positions are in other places vacant… In addition, a shooting range will be built near the residential areas. The local population does not like it either, but at the same time it has already been decided that the barracks will be in our commune … We are looking forward to seeing again how these plans will be realized. ”
in the wedding photo
Winner Annelies will forever remain Mieke’s favourite. She now has a quieter life in Den Ighemkouter. “We are now participating in competitions with its successors, also ‘Anneliesjes’. We will be there again at the next Agriflanders. We think it is very important to be there, even if we don’t win.”
Mickey and her fiancé, Frederick, will tie the knot in February. Annelies also plays a prominent role there… “Annelies can join us for our wedding photos!” Mieke laughs.