from the January 2012 issue

12,000 liters milk per cow!

High-tech agriculture in Israel is producing record yields in both animal and field crops. And in the case of dairy cattle, they also have the highest production in the world - some 12,000 liters of milk per cow per lactation of 305 to 310 days. That's 40 liters of milk per cow per day.

In comparison, the Philippine dairy farmer is making just about 10 liters a day per animal. A former senator who has a dairy farm in Laguna says they are getting an average of 9.7 liters per day per cow. There are a number of reasons why milk yield is high in Israel. One is superior genetics. The Israelis have developed their own Israeli Holstein which is claimed to be adaptable to harsh and varied climatic conditions. Most of the cows are inseminated artificially with semen from proven sires.

Research in feeding and nutrition is contributing to the economical production of milk. Dairy cows are raised in confinement and are fed a diet based on a total mixed ration (TMR). The milk cow's TMR contains around 33 to 35 percent of forages (dry matter basis, mainly wheat silage). The remainder, 63 to 65 percent, is concentrates (grains and meals) and byproducts. The fact that the diet of Israeli cows contains relatively high percentage of agricultural and industrial byproducts lowers feeding costs. At the same time this reduces environmental contamination.

At a kibbutz there is a wide planting of wheat. We were told that it was planted not for the grains but for silage for cows.

Advanced technologies developed in Israel are also making a big impact on the efficiency of dairy farming in the country. One example is a flow meter which is attached to the milking equipment. This automatically measures the milk flow and milking duration. It is also used as a means for early detection of mastitis and udder infection.

Another is a tag containing an "activity meter" which is used to identify the cow and transmit the information to the computer regarding the cow's general activity, detecting the sick cows as well as those that are in heat and that need to be inseminated immediately.

Other recently developed tags can detect daily rumination-duration and lying duration, supplying information about a cow's nutritional and welfare status.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, linear programming software developed in Israel assists in formulating the lowest cost rations for optimized feeding and production programs. A feed controller is a mobile unit attached to the mixing wagon which stores group-feeding data, and downloads it to the main computer. Data are interlinked with the herd management software to generate intake reports per head or group.

Also, cooling systems developed in Israel and based on Israeli-made equipment, are used in most dairy herds to help maintain relatively high production and fertility levels in summer, and reduce production seasonality.

Israel produces enough milk for its growing population. It could produce much more than its present production but dairy farming is regulated by means of production quotas. These quotas are set by the Dairy Board and prices are controlled by the government. According to special government regulations, no dairy farm may produce or market unprocessed milk.

This procedure helps to maintain the balance between supply and demand in the sector, while allowing continued growth and reasonable profitability.

Milk consumption in Israel has increased tremendously since the country was established in 1948. In 1950, milk consumption in Israel was about 90 million liters. By 2008, total milk consumption reached 1,280 million liters. Each Israeli, man, woman and child, now consumes an average of 180 liters per year. That's about half liter a day.

Milk produced in Israel is made into many processed products. After milking, the milk undergoes a laboratory and quality test. It then continues through the pasteurization process, after which it can be manufactured into butter, yoghurt, cheese or other dairy products through totally automated systems. There's a wide range of over 1,000 dairy products.

At the Afikim (Afimilk) dairy farm, the milking cows are really pampered. They are given feed throughout the day and are milked three times daily. The animals feed in a lower portion at the edge of the house where they also defecate. Each day, a contractor who brings it to a biogas company collects the manure. Afikim pays the manure contractor $140 per animal per year. The biogas company, on the other hand, uses the manure to generate methane gas for the generation of electricity.

Afikim's Daniel Hojman estimates that their high-milking cows eat $8 worth of feed everyday. That's small compared to the value of the milk produced. On the average, after deducting the expenses on the non-milking animals (the replacement stocks and dry cows), the estimated profit is between 23 and 25 percent of gross revenues.

Afikim employs a user-friendly software called AfiFarm Management Program developed specifically for the dairy farm. In a herdsman's hands, AfiFarm is a powerful analysis tool used for the management of daily operations and long-term strategic planning. The program processes automatically gathered real time data and provides a wide range of analysis reports covering all the many different factors that the herdsman must know about the herd - yield, health, fertility, nutrition and more.

Afimilk's Rojman said that AfiFarm supports strategic decision-making by using scientific models for individual and herd milk yield prediction, planning of cow replacements and strategic planning of nutrition.

AfiFarm also supports import/export data to and from external sources and features self-diagnostic and control capabilities.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report January 2012

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