Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lessons from the Chinese Dairy Scandal

Travelling in Russia, as I am now, has given me the opportunity to reflect on some of the lessons that the US dairy industry might learn from the recent Chinese dairy scandal that I continue to update on in my blog posting. 

Bruce McLaughlan is a columnist in the Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch, and he has a business consultancy based in China. He recently wrote:

"Adverts in China give us the image that China's dairy giants control huge green fields full of happy, healthy cows, which troop into gleaming dairies where their milk is efficiently turned into yoghurt, ice cream or formula. The reality is somewhat different. While each of the big-name dairies has its own model farm with a few thousand cows, these account for a tiny proportion of the milk used by these firms."

The US dairy industry has this same kind of image of "happy, healthy cows, which troop in gleaming dairies" that's used in promotion. The California dairy industry uses precisely this kind of false vision in their "Happy California Cows" television ads, most of which can be found on YouTube.

We all know that the cows in California are not managed in this fashion, so when the reality is brought out, as in a PETA video and PR blitz, the industry takes another black eye.

How long does the dairy industry wish to willingly put itself into a postion of accepting black-eyes?

Just a thought, and I hope that helps.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Russian Dairy Products

A wide variety of dairy products are now available in Russia. Most are produced locally, some with major international labels. Photos to follow.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Unusual 'Cow in the News' Story

I know it's not Friday, which is going to be my usual day for a 'funny cow post' in Dairy Adviser's Coffeeshop, but dairy advisers often get asked about the validity of news items. There was a recent news item distributed by UPI that is quoted below:

"Farmer Graham Vallis said by conducting a meditative mooing session with his cows for five minutes before each milking session, he has been able to increase the amount of milk he gets from them, The Sun reported Saturday."

The Sun
is a reputable newspaper in the UK, and UPI news items are often used on the local radio stations that dairy producers and advisers listen to.

If you get asked about this, look back on this post and I'll try to upda
te the post with research-based support that I find on the topic. This photo is from the Wisconsin Historical Society and has a interesting story behind it.

A recent Hoard's Dairyman article (November 10, 2005; page 757) by Mary Beth de Ondarza discusses if cows are psychologically comfortable, and this may be the key to the success of the UK farmer's mooing. Hoard's is available on-line, but requires a subscription to access archive articles.

One recent research article on a related topic is at:

Title of Journal:  Applied animal behaviour science.

Vol/Iss/Month: 53/June
Date: 1997
Page(s): 175-182.
Title of article(s): Effect of music on voluntary approach of dairy
cows to an automatic milking system.
Author(s) of article: Uetake,-K.; Hurnik,-J.F.; Johnson,-L.

This is from a search of the Dairy-L archives.
If you're not a part of the
Dairy-L discussion group, check it out.

Hope that helps.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

"The Churning Point"

Today's Washington Post Food Section had an article by Jane Black entitled "The Churning Point." Ms. Black writes:

"Bobby Prigel seems like a poster child for the local-food movement. A fourth-generation dairy farmer, he wants to build a creamery to make organic butter, yogurt, cheese and ice cream. He wants to sell those products to consumers in nearby Baltimore instead of shipping his milk out of state. He wants to make enough money to pass on the farm to a fifth generation."

This article describes the problems faced by a Maryland dairy producer as he tries to establish a new niche marketing alternative for products from his newly-certified organic dairy farm. This farm is just outside of Baltimore and is surrounded by 'city and suburban-types' who bought land and were a part of the 'white-flight' out of Baltimore. The Prigel's are surrounded by neighbors with influence upon governing systems, and they are organized in the Long Green Valley Conservancy. It pits neighbor against neighbor.

The local county Board of Appeals has yet to rule on the zoning request. The Baltimore Sun has an article on the issue also, and that article was in a recent ChickenFlicker blog post.

Most of the legal argument revolves around whether churning butter, pasteurizing/homogenizing milk and making ice cream or yogurt is an agricultural enterprise. The Prigel family sold their farm's development rights to the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation over a decade ago, so the farm can't be developed. Agricultural enterprises are allowed, however, and as the phrase goes 'therein lies the rub.'

Many people across the US and around the world will face similar issues as urbanization increases. It's just that we're facing them sooner in the urban Mid-Atlantic region. If you're ever faced with giving advice to a farmer, a good resource is New Jersey's "Farmer-to-Farmer Advice for Avoiding Conflicts With Neighbors and Towns."

In the interest of full disclosure, I've known the Prigel family for decades, and have enjoyed meals in the family home. I have not, however, been an adviser to the family on this current project, nor have I visited Bellevale Farm for some years.

Hope that helps