Robots replace expensive labour
In 1970 the farm was merged with the company of the kibbutz Galed. The joint milk quota is 6.4 million kg. At location 'Mishmar Ha’Emek', 240 dairy cows are housed, divided over four groups. Each group has a Lely Astronaut, generation 2 from 2005. In Israel, there are only three companies of this size using robots. All others use cheap workers from Thailand. The kibbutz’s philosophy does not allow external staff. The farm must be run by people from inside the kibbutz, but Israelian salaries are high and increase the cost price. By using robots, four people are sufficient, instead of 8 to 10 as in the past, says Shapira. Before 2005, labour costs were 1 million shekel per year (€235,600), now only €117,700. "In four years' time we had earned the robots back.”
Cows are pure production resources
Beautiful Holsteins, easily recognisable by large numbers branded on their backs with nitrogen, live in the stable. Just like elsewhere in Israel, milk production is high. Shapira proudly names a few key figures: the pregnancy rate is 43%. Average milk production has been 12,000 litres per cow since 2008. The average milk production over 2014 and 2015 is even 12,300 litres per cow. Fat content is 3.9%, protein content 3.35%. According to the Israeli Dairy Board, the Israeli average is 12,083 litres with a fat content of 3.64 % and 3.27% protein content. On average a cow has a daily milk yield of 42 litres, although this drops to 32 litres during the hot summer months due to heat stress. Shapira regards the cows as production resources. Annually at least 30% of the cattle is replaced. When a cow is not pregnant after the second insemination attempt, or the milk yield drops, the cow is culled immediately. “If a cow’s milk yield is below 25 litres, it costs money.” On average a cow remains only 2.5 lactating years on the farm. Most cows don’t go beyond 31,000 litres in their productive lives. Shapira can’t relate to the fact that some Dutch dairy farmers throw a little party when a cow reaches 100,000 litres.
Mishmar Ha’Emek supplies its milk to the leading dairy processor in Israel: 'en Tnuva-Dairy'. Israel has a closed market and has a milk quota. Governmental regulation extends even further. The milk quota is even set by the government. Currently the milk price amounts to 45.9 euro cents per liter. For this price, the job can easily be done, says Shapira. Per litre almost 9.4% profit is made. Per cow this amounts to a profit of €1,159.
Using Tama's profit to safeguard kibbutz ideology
The agricultural kibbutz Mishmar Ha'Emek, which counts 1,100 inhabitants, also owns Tama, producer of bale nets and rope for balers. Tama was founded in 1950. In 2015 turnover was €420 million. The average growth between 2010 and 2015 was 12.5%. Mishmar Ha'Emek uses Tama's profit to finance the socialistic lifestyle of the kibbutz. Both the CEO and the cleaner of the shared kitchen live in the same type of house and earn the same salary. Ego and status are irrelevant. Kibbutz members are taken care of by the community, from birth till death. Profit maximalisation of Tama on the one hand and socialism on the other hand do not coincide with each other, but Aviv Linn, commercial director of Tama and convinced kibbutz resident sees this differently. "Socialism is a noble idea for a life rich in terms of quality, but socialism without money will not live very long. Our kibbutz applies an idelology that is based on socialism that embraces capitalism. Thanks to Tama's profit, the kibbutz is able to finance this ideology. Classic 'farming' kibbutzim without a profitable company on the side are all defunct.