Year in, year out

The Schmitte family farm near Brilon in Germany has two very different lines of business - raising bulls and growing Christmas trees.

August 20, 2018

Alfons Schmitte has raised Christmas trees for decades in and around Brilon, in Germany’s Saurland region. “In 2002 the 42-year lease ran out on our former operation near Meschede and we moved to our current Brilon location, which we purchased,” he explains. Recently his two sons Ludger and Hendrik, the latter of whom has a farm business administration degree, joined the business and in 2017 founded a bull-raising company. “We now have 250 head,” says Ludger Schmitte proudly. “In 2012 we started with just six bulls.”

One line of business: raising bulls
To feed the bulls, the two sons grow 20 hectares of maize and 20 hectares of grain, and have another 22 hectares of pasture. They also buy 5 hectares’ worth of maize. “We get the animals when they’re two weeks old, and they stay here until slaughtering at 18 to 22 months,” says Ludger Schmitte. “In the next five years we want to make room for 200 more,” he continues. “But it depends on whether we can lease more growing land.”

Another line of business: Christmas trees
Their father Alfons has a whole different set of issues to contend with. He has around 500,000 Christmas trees on over 60 hectares. “It’s a seasonal business that comes back every year,” he explains. “Bull-raising naturally gives us much more even income.” Right now, he says, prices for trees are at rock-bottom. Production costs for trees are about a euro a year, meaning that a seven-year-old tree - which is a little over 1.5 meters tall - costs over seven euros to grow. But with the current overproduction and imports from Denmark, Poland, Hungary etc., even that small outlay is almost impossible to recoup. Many producers are unable to sell their trees and are getting out of the business. “That gives us hope that things might improve in two to three years.” Alfons Schmitte doesn’t want to get bigger. “But I need to come up with better direct marketing for the trees.”

All-purpose machines
With these different lines of business, plus the contract forestry work the Schmittes also do, they naturally need all-purpose machines. Earlier they had a Superfex 800 manure spreader that they were very happy with. “Right now we have a TDK 1600 tipper,” says Schmitte. “We use it for all kinds of haulage, from silage to manure to gravel. So it’s in use twelve months a year,” he says. It definitely earns its keep. The Schmittes have known Farmtech dealer Kussmann from nearby Bestwig for 40 years, and done business with him for 30 of those years. “When Alfons Kussmann took over the dealership twelve years ago, we decided to go with Farmtech products.

High satisfaction
“It’s a great machine.” Both generations are in agreement. “It’s very durable. The tipper is incredibly stable even when it’s heavily loaded.” They have more and more heavy materials to haul, so they’re thinking about getting a dump tipper. “And naturally we have a Farmtech Durus in mind,” says Alfons Schmitte with a wink.

A profitable sideline: photovoltaic
Alfons Schmitte looked around for other sources of income some time ago, and so the farm has 165 kWp of photovoltaic panels on the roofs of its buildings. “That was a wise investment,” he says proudly. Although energy feed prices have changed. The first investment tranche in 2010 gives him 38 cents per kWh, but he only gets 28 cents per kWh from the panels he installed in 2012.