“We try very hard on the farm to ensure good milk quality, we meet high standards and have recieved certificates, including the globally recognised GAP certificate,” says Ma. “All staff follow the standard step-by-step procedures which are carried out in other countries. Also the feedstuffs are tested for mycotoxins, for instance aflatoxins. Then there is a control of mastitis at milking, especially for the Jersey cows. If we find something, these cows are taken out of the large group in the milking parlour and antibiotics are administered. The milk quality is then tested, if this is OK, then the cows can go back into the group.”
At the farm a raised glass corridor walkway allows visitors an overview of the 138 ha (340 acres) of land which houses the 11 cow sheds and the milking parlour. The further infrastructure of the farm includes 180 calve islands, 3 total mixed ration (TMR) mixers and 2 disinfection vehicles. However, what seems like a large facility the output barely scratches the surface of what is needed of the product.
Domestic milk dilemma
In a country where domestic milk consumption has risen to 30 kg per year from 7 kg per year in just a matter of years, the capabilities need to be in place to meet the growing demand. As Wang sees it there are three ways to solve the problem. Firstly, one solution is to enhance the average output of milk on each dairy farm currently in operation. Here there is a lot to gain, Wang says. At First Farm the milk output per cow per year is 10 tonnes whereas the national average, and indeed at other farms of the CAG group, this is substantially lower. If every farm were to raise their standards with improved infrastructure, management and technology, the milk output per farm could be a lot higher.
Another solution would be to build more dairy farms, however, as Wang explains, “The problem in China is that not a lot of land is suitable for dairy farming, and the most suitable land is already in use.” Also, it is very expensive to produce milk in China compared to other countries because the dairy farms do not own the land where their farms are located, instead the land is rented. This is then calculated into the cost of production. In value terms this means that the cost per kg of milk produced on First Farm is 3.5 RMB (€0.46), whereas in Europe on a farm of a similar scale this would be 2 RMB (€0.26). “This is an area where Chinese milk producers would never survive on a competitive export market,” Wang explains.