News & Advice

Scott McDougall’s Consultancy Visit to Chinese Dairy Farms

May 30, 2024 | Cognosco, Dairy, News

Scott McDougall, a veterinarian with Cognosco and Anexa, recently undertook consultancy visits to Chinese dairy farms, aiming to enhance milk quality. His work involved analyzing milk quality data, including bulk milk somatic cell counts, herd test results, and microbiology data. He also assessed milking processes, as well as bedding and feeding management practices on the farms.
One notable visit was to what is believed to be China’s largest dairy farm, housing 25,000 lactating cows on one site. This farm features eight 100-bail rotary parlors, milking cows three times daily. With each cow producing nearly 40 liters of milk per day, the farm approaches a remarkable daily output of one million litres.

Biosecurity measures on these farms are stringent. Visitors are provided with disposable overalls, hairnets, facemasks, gloves, and gumboots, and staff are required to shower in and out of the facilities.

Chinese milking management practices differ significantly from those in New Zealand. Pre-milking cleaning and disinfection of teats and the use of teat dip cups are standard, unlike the teat spraying commonly used in New Zealand. To maintain these high standards, the farms employ a high staff-to-cow ratio, with approximately one staff member per 50 cows. As a result, large farms can have hundreds of employees, many of whom live on-site in apartment blocks.

A striking aspect of Chinese farms is their small milking platform footprint, with all feed imported, including lucerne (alfalfa) sourced from the United States. The use of recycled manure solids for bedding leads to a different bacterial environment than in New Zealand and Nocardia associated with mastitis, with a higher prevalence of Gram-negative bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Klebsiella, Serratia, and Nocardia.

During his time in China, Scott was also an international guest speaker at the 10th Boehringer Ingelheim technical meeting, attended by over 200 senior farm managers and veterinarians. He presented a technical update on optimal mastitis treatment protocols, highlighting the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like meloxicam.

Scott remarked, “The production systems in China are very different from those in New Zealand, but the improvements in the Chinese dairy industry over the 15 years I’ve been visiting are impressive. Although the Chinese dairy industry faces disease challenges not present in New Zealand, significant efforts are being made to manage these issues. However, production costs, particularly due to the need for imported feed, will remain a challenge for the Chinese dairy industry.”

Scott McDougall presents
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