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Canadian producers’ take on China’s dairy industry

Progressive Dairyman Editor Walt Cooley Published on 27 February 2015

Progressive Dairyman Editor Walt Cooley was in the company of Canadian dairy producers on his trip to China. After returning home, he asked a few of them what they found to be most fascinating about China and its dairy industry. Here are their responses:

john and debbie AartsJohn and Debbie Aarts
Chilliwack, British Columbia

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The piece that intrigued us the most was the “social experiment” of taking a rural agricultural population that has functioned for hundreds of years and enforcing 21st century dairy practices.

There seems to be very little, if any, thought given to moving the entire rural population with all of the social intricacies of a small community to large high-rises in an even larger urban center.

This was driven home to us by a final comment at the final dinner of one of the employees that had family members dairying in a small rural community. He pleaded with those present “not to forget the average farmer” in this race to expand, mechanize and modernize.

The other thing that stood out for us was that they are going to modernize the dairy industry in one generation. In Canada, it took us approximately three generations to achieve the same modernization.

The significant and rapid changes that are being implemented will be difficult for the traditional Chinese dairy producer to survive. In fact, we wondered if the opportunity really exists for them to continue in dairying at all.

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Lastly, the rural countryside has so much garbage of every sort imaginable on the roadsides, streams, back yards and alleyways, it was mind-boggling to learn that these same community members were very intolerant of the new, mechanized, dairy farm in their rural neighborhood.

How they plan to feed their ever-increasing population without embracing some modernization of the dairy (agriculture) industry will be interesting to watch.

matt langelaanMatt Langelaan
Richmond, British Columbia

It was interesting to see how modern their dairies were on one hand, in terms of parlours, stalls, lockers and ventilation. And on the other hand, watching as all feed concentrates and bedding were hauled in 50-pound sacks.

It was intriguing to see how these large 3,000-plus-cow dairies were able to do this, what seemed like a very inefficient process, due to the availability of relatively cheap labour.

This is quite contrasting to the labour situation facing farmers back here in Canada. As Canadian dairy farmers, we are constantly looking for more efficient ways to run our farms.

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raymond and julie poolRaymond and Julie Pool
Langley, British Columbia

We were honoured to visit China and learn about its rapidly accelerating dairy industry. In rural China, we witnessed the divide between the use of self-propelled harvesters and machete-harvested corn silage hauled away on donkeys.

China heavily relies on foreign dairy expertise; however, they are making great strides towards self-reliance by creating a state-of-the-art dairy education facility in Harbin.

The large scale of production China expects to reach in an unprecedented time frame left us with lingering questions about the impact on demand of world grain, forages, fertilizers and clean water supply.  PD

Click here to read more about Walt Cooley's trip to China.

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