Chinese farm managers come to Israel for a three-month course to learn advanced herd-management technologies from industry leader AfiMilk.
By Avigayil Kadesh
When China’s second largest and rapidly expanding dairy corporation contacted Israel’s AfiMilk to build cutting-edge milking parlors at its newest sites, the management discovered that Israel’s dairy-farming experts could also provide intensive training for future farm managers.
The Chinese trainees learned about bovine
nutrition from Israeli experts
That’s how eight Chinese dairy farmers employed by Mengniu – six men and two women — ended up taking an 11-week course in Israel. They learned how to use AfiMilk’s computerized systems for dairy farm and herd management, visited the most advanced Israeli dairies and covered many other topics including animal welfare and efficient operating procedures.
The course, held at the Galilee International Management Institute (www.galilcol.ac.il), was so successful that another Chinese dairy decided to send a group for training in February and March. The six-day-a-week program milks every minute out of the schedule.
“Each week, they spent three days working at dairy farms that use our equipment, and three days hearing lectures or going on tours,” says Pinhas Gur, head of professional services at AfiMilk.
A former dairyman himself, the New York-born Gur devised the syllabus and taught some of the lectures – speaking in English, with Chinese-speaking Israeli residents or students serving as translators. All the reading materials were translated into Chinese by AfiMilk’s staff in Beijing.
“About two-thirds of the lectures were given by our people, and we also brought in a lot of top Israeli experts to talk about [bovine] diseases and nutrition. So they got training in our system and gained good animal husbandry knowledge as well.”
Four of the trainees had already completed three years of veterinary studies in China, while the other four had some experience working on a dairy farm.
Computerized and hands-on herd
management was covered in the course.
“Unlike other courses, where we give a general certificate at the end, this time each student was certified for a specific job, like managing fertility, managing health or managing baby calves,” says Gur. “We were very thorough.”
All expenses were covered by Mengniu, including a year of follow-up support and supervision by one of the two AfiMilk advisers living in China. The Israeli company has a staff of 15 at its Beijing office.
AfiMilk equipment is used at 105 milking parlors in China. Gur explains that milk consumption is still low in China compared to Israel or to Western countries, but demand is growing. The average milk yield per cow in China is between 5,000 and 6,000 liters per year, while in farms equipped with Israeli technologies the average is 11,500 liters per year.
AfiMilk provides solutions for optimizing cow and heifer health, monitoring changes in cow behavior, increasing fat and protein levels in the milk and identifying milking problems in real time.
“Israeli dairy farming is highly considered all over world for its high production per cow,” says Gur. Owners of private, state and corporate dairies in China frequently approach AfiMilk to help them plan and implement new farms, says Gur.
Back in 2001, the Israel Foreign Ministry’s MASHAV agency for international development cooperation installed a complete demonstration dairy farm in Beijing using Israeli technology.
Now China’s most efficient dairy farm, it serves as a training center for thousands of dairy producers in China and neighboring countries as well. Last year, a new dairy company in Vietnam contracted with AfiMilk to devote five years to setting up its ambitious dairy farm project.
“When Mengniu first got in contact through our office in Beijing, they found out what other services we can provide, like teaching local farm managers,” says Gur. “So they proposed sending their trainees to Israel.”
Gur arranged to hold the November 6 to January 20 course at the management institute, which provides housing and classrooms for trainee delegations from many different countries in areas such as advanced agriculture. “We did it at Galilee because they take care of everything: work permits, insurance, visas … they’re very experienced with that,” says Gur.
The second group of eight, from another Chinese company that uses AfiMilk equipment, is taking a two-month version of the AfiMilk course. “The first course got fantastic feedback, so others heard about it,” says Gur.