The Modern Dairy Group in China milks 100,000 cows on 17 locations. This makes them one of the biggest dairies in the world.
Joep Driessen from CowSignals Training Company in the Netherlands visited one farm of this mega company in cooperation with the Sino-Dutch Dairy Development Centre (SDDDC). On this particular farm in China, 20,000 dairy cows (and 20,000 young stock) are housed and together with one of Professor Li Shengli, Professor of Dairy Science at China Agricultural University and Chief Scientist of the National Dairy Industry & Technology System, Driessen made some footage that clearly shows the immense size of the farm. Each barn houses 2,000 dairy cows. "This farm has its own processing plant and within half an hour the milk is packed and shipped. Average cell count is 150,000, which is pretty good," explains Professor Shengli.
The farm in China has an average production of 30 litres per cow per day. The Modern Dairy Group, of which this farm is part of, has a total of 17 locations. Total sales volume for the Group amounted to 372,647t for the six months ended 31 December 2013. This represented an increase of 42.8% from 260,906t in the corresponding period of 2012.
Dozens of calves born each day
Regarding feeding on this particular farm, the farm owns 14 mixers to be able to feed 40,000 cattle (20,000 milking cows and 20,000 young stock). The farm has 8 milking rotaries for 80 cows. Every rotary milks 2,500 cows a day. The floor is covered with rubber and the milking barn is equipped with cross ventilation, footbaths and a hoof trimming section. Another impressive number: Every day 30-120 cows deliver a calf. There are six calving areas, bedded with straw. Although they are very large, it is not always enough to equip all the calving cows. The stalls are refreshed with new bedding material twice a day. They use dry manure for this.
China's appetite for milk comes with challenges
The China-based Sino-Dutch Dairy Development Centre (SDDDC) has been established by the China Agricultural University (CAU), Wageningen UR (University and Research Centre) and Dutch dairy company FrieslandCampina. The centre will focus on improving dairy production, safety and quality levels throughout the entire dairy chain in China by sharing Dutch dairy expertise with Chinese experts and decision makers in dairy research and the dairy industry.
At present, China's dairy market is facing major challenges. China is experiencing growing demand for dairy products. At the same time, the limited availability of arable land requires acceleration of the transformation of the dairy sector from a quantity-oriented to a quality-focused model. That is why it is key is to improve the milk yield and milk quality. Besides food quality and food safety have become the main challenges for China.
Still dependent on imports
According to Rabobank, the focus on milk quality in China post-2008 has favoured the rise of large-scale dairy farms, accelerating their rate of growth. The share of production of large-scale farms, with more than 500 cows, grew rapidly from 17% of total milk production in 2008 to 27% in 2011. However, the country's thirst for milk is still bigger than the domestic production. According to Forbes, China was producing 37.4 million tonnes of fresh milk in 2012 and was the world's third largest producer. In this year, 14.3% of the milk was imported, which has increased further since then.
Sources: CowSignals Training Company and FrieslandCampina