Farm Ireland

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Chinese dairy farms target 'elite' cows

Customers shop for milk powder in front of shelves displaying imported baby products at a supermarket in Beijing. Reuters
Customers shop for milk powder in front of shelves displaying imported baby products at a supermarket in Beijing. Reuters
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

The number of dairy herds in China with over 100 cows has increased to 45pc with 'elite' cows being imported from abroad, according to a leading dairy professor in the country.

An extra three million tonnes of milk were produced in China last year as national dairy production intensified

Since 2008 the number of herds of over 100 cows have increased from 19.5pc to 45pc of all dairy herds last year.

"An important development for the industry has been the increase in large-scale dairy farms, with more than 100 head of cattle, leading to 90pc of Chinese raw milk now produced with a mechanised system," said Professor Li Shengli, the chief dairy professor with China Agriculture University in Beijing. "It is very important for milk to be affordable in China."

Professor Li was speaking at an event in Alltech's European headquarters in Co Meath to mark a number of Chinese students finishing internships on Irish dairy farms.


"While Chinese consumption of dairy products is very low compared with Europe, I predict this will increase with reform of the one-child family policy," said Professor Li.

The 2008 melamine scandal had resulted in slower increases in dairy production in China and an obsession with the safety of dairy products.

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Professor Li pointed out the imports of milk powder increased from 143,000 tonnes to 1.05 million tonnes between 2008 and 2014, with an average annual increase of almost 40pc.

However, Chinese demand for dairy has slumped this year, with the US signalling it expected the Asian country's import forecast to be down by a third for this year.

Ireland is faring better - Brendan Gleeson, deputy secretary general in the Department of Agriculture, said Irish dairy exports to China had increased this year.

"We continue to make significant progress with market access to China for Ireland's agricultural food and drink products," said Mr Gleeson.

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