September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
The couple, who milks cows on their farm near Goodhue, Minn., were asked to go on a trip to China as part of the Governor's Trade Mission, which celebrated it's 30th anniversary this year. About 53 business people - ranging from store owners and farmers to teachers and lawyers - from across the state traveled together from Minnesota to China, June 9 to 17, to tour different aspects of the Chinese economy.
"It was a good opportunity," Dave said.
Although they saw many other aspects of Chinese business during their trip, the Bucks were most intrigued with the agricultural aspects.
The group made a visit to a dairy processing plant in Shanghai called Bright Dairy, which brings in about eight million pounds of milk each day from nearly 60,000 cows. The herds that send their milk to Bright Dairy had rolling herd averages around 18,500 pounds of milk. It is by far the biggest dairy processor in China.
"It was a very modern plant," Ann said.
Bright Dairy did not do any cheese processing because the Chinese culture does not incorporate much cheese into its meals. Half of milk is used for fluid milk while about 20 percent is used to make yogurt.
"Yogurt, especially the drinkable yogurt, was big over there. We saw a lot of it," Ann said.
The Chinese also use and consume a lot of milk powder; however, China has also been importing milk powder from Australia and New Zealand.
"The melamine incident really hurt the Chinese dairy industry," Dave said. "The melamine was in milk powder, not fluid milk, so the Chinese consumer doesn't want to buy milk powder from the Chinese plants."
The Bucks also said dairy products are harder to market to the Chinese people because 40 percent of the population is lactose intolerant.
"But younger parents are starting to introduce their kids to dairy products, especially cheese, because they said they want to be like the United States," Ann said.
The China Dairy Industry Association, which is similar to Dairy Management Inc. in the United States, is trying to promote the use of dairy products. One area they are really trying to push is milk consumption in school. Six flavors of milk in nice, bright containers are offered to kids at school, Ann said. The government also requires school milk to be whole because it offers more nutritional benefits. There are also dairy products marketed towards women, and for the heart.
"They're way ahead of us in that nutritional marketing aspect," Ann said.
Although the group was not scheduled to visit a dairy, the Bucks made plans to visit one near Hohhot, China. The Bucks compared this city to Madison, Wis. - a larger city with many agricultural influences.
"Biosecurity is huge over there," Dave said about visiting the farm. "They made us wear coats, hats and boots."
During the tour, the Bucks noticed many aspects of the dairy that were the same as ones in the United States.
"The facilities were pretty similar," Dave said about the double-18 swing parlor that also had computer identification.
Bunkers for storing feed on the farm were also similar to dairies in the United States. The Bucks said the corn silage they saw was well fermented and had a good smell.
Similar to the Midwest, dairies in China also use byproducts to feed their animals; however, instead of distillers, this Chinese farm used tofu soybean meal for protein. It was delivered daily because it was wet.
Management of the dairy differed from what the Bucks are used to at home. This particular dairy started as a cooperative. Farmers with smaller dairy herds can bring their cows to the farm. They did this to get a better price for their milk and were guaranteed money for a set amount of milk. It also benefited the cooperative because the profit from milk sold above the set amount of the farmers went to the cooperative.
"It was a win-win for each side," Ann said.
The 4-year-old dairy is built for 500 cows, but only had 300 cows milking at the time. Twenty employees helped maintain the day-to-day responsibilities.
"I thought that was a lot of people for that size of farm," Dave said.
Cows had access to outside lots or a freestall barn. Although the stalls were sand bedded, the cows preferred to be outside in the 80-degree sun with no shade.
"Some of the stalls had rocks or they might not have been full enough," Ann said. "We couldn't understand why the cows wanted to be outside. It was too hot in the sun."
Manure handling also differed. Waste was pushed out of the barn with an old tractor and loaded into a spreader by hand.
"That was eye opening," Dave said. "We had just seen a computer ID system in the parlor and then saw manure being loaded by hand."
Manure is composted and not used on fields, because the farm did not own any land. Other than corn silage, which they harvested up to 18 miles away, the farm bought its feed.
"They have a ways to go for management," Dave said about the dairy farm. "They're not particular about feeding time either. At 2:30 p.m., there was no feed in the bunk and they weren't going to get to it until later."
The dairy averaged 48 pounds of milk per day.
Surrounding the 20-acre dairy complex was a solid brick wall about 10 feet high.
"When we asked what it was they said it was for theft," Dave said. "That's not like Goodhue, Minn."
The dairy the Bucks visited was, considered small since many dairies have about 4,000 cows or more, Dave said.
Being able to tour the dairy farm and the processing plant gave the Bucks a different perspective of the dairy aspect.
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