Archive for News

Is China Buying Up Worldwide Agriculture Interests? USDA Says Yes…

China’s need for agricultural resources and technology and the country’s considerable financial clout are driving rapid growth in Chinese investment in agriculture and food sectors abroad. The trend reflects the growing global ambitions of Chinese companies, and it is attracting the attention of business and government leaders around the world.

A 1964 poster promoting homegrown ag in China

According to Chinese investment statistics, overseas ventures in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries soared from $300 million in 2009 to $3.3 billion in 2016. But these totals understate the magnitude of Chinese agricultural-focused foreign assets because the statistics exclude the acquisition of food processing and trading companies classified in manufacturing and service sectors. A more complete count issued by China’s Ministry of Agriculture said the country had over 1,300 agricultural, forestry, and fisheries enterprises with registered overseas investments of $26 billion, at the end of 2016.

An initial wave of investments during 2004-12 was focused mainly on crop production, fishing ventures, and acquiring raw materials for the Chinese market. Most such ventures have targeted eastern Russia and neighboring Asian countries, attracted by relatively cheap, underutilized land. Chinese investments in Southeast Asia have focused on tropical crops like palm oil, cassava, sugar, fruit, and lumber, prompted by strong domestic demand and a regional free trade agreement with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Asia accounts for about half of China’s foreign investment in agriculture, forestry, and fishing.

More recently, some Chinese companies and officials have shifted the thrust of their strategy from farming overseas to acquiring established agribusiness companies based in Europe, North America, and Oceania. These include ChemChina’s $43-billion acquisition of Syngenta, a Swiss farm chemical and seed company, Shuanghui International’s purchase of U.S.-based Smithfield Foods, and China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation’s (COFCO) purchase of two major agricultural trading companies—Noble Agri and Nidera. Chinese companies have also acquired companies or formed joint ventures in New Zealand and Australia, focused on meeting China’s growing demand for dairy, beef, and lamb.

A column chart showing Chinese direct overseas investments in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries from 2003 to 2016.

A pie chart showing regional shares of China’s overseas agricultural investment in 2014.

China’s Strategic Considerations as an Agricultural Importer

The surge of agricultural investment reflects an alignment of interests between Chinese companies and political leaders as China’s imports of agricultural products grow. The Ministry of Agriculture reported that agricultural imports exceeded $125 billion for 2017, up from $41 billion 10 years earlier. The growth reflects greater import volume of particular commodities like soybeans and pork as well as a broadening menu of imported commodities. Chinese consumers’ escalating demand for product variety—from staples like rice and wheat to premium products like olive oil and infant formula—stimulates commercial investments in land, brand names, and technology aimed at profiting from market growth. At the same time, the Chinese Government seeks to steer investors toward ventures that achieve national goals by offering various incentives, arranging deals, and setting up strategic plans.

As Chinese authorities have loosened national food self-sufficiency objectives, they have encouraged companies to gain greater control over the supply chain for imported agricultural products. Their “two markets, two kinds of resources” strategy calls for China’s demand for agricultural commodities to be met by a combination of domestic and foreign supplies. The strategy encourages Chinese companies to engage in each link of the supply chain for imported commodities to earn profits and gain influence over prices.

Lotus seeds and roots are a major crop

The strategy is reflected in encouragements to invest abroad by various documents and articles issued by Chinese leaders. For example, a series of annual “Number one documents” from China’s communist party authorities stating rural policy have contained increasingly specific strategies for investment. A general exhortation to invest in agriculture overseas, issued in 2007, was followed by an initial surge in overseas farming ventures. In 2010, authorities called for supportive policies to encourage investment abroad.

The 2014 document included a more specific mandate to create large grain-trading conglomerates, designed to give Chinese companies greater control over oilseed and grain imports. That was the same year COFCO acquired Nidera and Noble Agri, making COFCO one of the largest trading companies in the world based on value of assets. The 2015 document specifically called for policies to support facilities, equipment, and inputs for agricultural production in foreign countries. The 2017 document broadened the encouragement to include all types of agricultural conglomerates. The 2018 document repeated the general endorsement of overseas investment and instructions to create multinational grain-trading and agricultural conglomerates.

The incorporation of agricultural investment into broader geopolitical objectives is reflected by the prominence of “One Belt One Road,” a recent Chinese development strategy for connectivity and cooperation among Eurasian Countries, in policy directives on agricultural investment contained in 2015-18 rural policy documents. In these documents, Chinese officials emphasize the role of agricultural investment, technical assistance, and agricultural trade as a crucial part of the initiative that targets agrarian countries in Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe for closer relations in trade and investment.

China’s aspiration to be a leader in international technical cooperation is reflected by an instruction to build agricultural technology parks overseas, issued in 2015. Early examples have been constructed in Tanzania and eastern Russia. Many projects associated with these initiatives appear to function both as foreign aid projects and as ventures giving Chinese companies access to agricultural raw materials.

Strategies for agricultural foreign investment announced in Chinese Communist Party Rural Policy Documents
Year Strategic statements related to foreign investment in agriculture
2007 Accelerate the agricultural foreign investment strategy.
2010 Set policies to support and encourage companies to invest abroad.
2014 Accelerate the agricultural foreign investment strategy.
Foster large, internationally competitive grain and oils enterprises.
2015 Promote foreign science and technology demonstration parks. Implement policies to support facilities, equipment, and inputs needed for foreign agricultural production.
2016 Strengthen agricultural investment with countries along the “One Belt One Road” path and bordering countries and regions.
Foster international grain traders and agricultural conglomerates.
2017 Support multinational agricultural businesses that are developing foreign production bases, processing, storage, and logistics focused on “One Belt One Road” objectives.
Foster large internationally competitive conglomerates.
2018 Actively support agricultural foreign investment.
Foster large, internationally competitive grain-trading and agricultural business conglomerates.
Note: Drawn from “Number one documents” issued by China’s central communist party committee that summarize rural policy priorities for the year. Translations from Chinese to English by USDA, Economic Research Service.

Many of China’s Investments Fall Short of Expectations

Rapid growth in investment does not necessarily mean success. Many of China’s overseas investments never reach their intended scale, and quite a few have been abandoned. While a handful of prominent ventures and acquisitions have benefited from bank loans or deals negotiated by political leaders, surveys by Chinese scholars have found that most overseas agricultural investors receive little Government assistance.

An agricultural park established in Laos by the Chongqing Municipal Government illustrates the disappointing results achieved by many projects. According to Chinese news media, the planned 5,000-hectare park was expected to produce flowers, aquaculture products, and other items, but it never grew beyond 50 hectares. While 200 Chongqing companies expressed interest in the Laotian park, only 4 actually invested. The most prominent business venture planned for the park in Laos intended to ship rice back to China.

A farmer plows in Yuxi, Yunnan China (Photo by Vmenkov)

However, rice seeds brought from Chongqing proved unsuited to the local climate and soils. After several years, a viable hybrid variety was developed, but the company discovered that costs of transporting rice to China would be prohibitive. The company concluded that additional investment in irrigation and roads needed to make the park viable could not be justified. By 2013, the original four investors had pulled out of the project.

More recent investments by some of China’s largest agribusiness companies have also encountered difficulties. China’s Bright Group sold Weetabix 5 years after acquiring it, reportedly due to disappointing sales of its products in China. Both Bright and COFCO discovered financial irregularities in companies they had acquired.

China’s investment strategies and policies, however, are responding to problems and new priorities. Many companies have shifted from overseas farming to acquisitions of existing companies and assets in marketing and processing. To support investment, Chinese Government organizations are setting up training courses, information clearinghouses, and subsidized insurance and are upgrading ports of entry and building overseas agricultural technology parks.

Responding to concerns voiced by many countries experiencing Chinese investments, Chinese Government leaders have advised companies investing overseas to give more attention to building goodwill in the host country. One Chinese company provided financial support to a dairy research institute in New Zealand and another cofounded a food safety initiative in Australia to allay concerns about Chinese investment in those countries.

Another strategy is to emphasize “win-win” projects that give poor farmers technical training and access to new markets. Mutual benefits of disseminating new techniques and opening new markets in exchange for greater raw material supplies is a theme of China’s agricultural investments in the regions of Asia and Africa. For example, a manufacturer of a traditional Chinese medicine derived from donkey skins sponsored an international conference on donkey breeding and farming as a strategy for fostering new suppliers in poor countries where raising the animals is still popular.

More Growth on the Horizon?

While China’s spending on foreign agricultural ventures appears large, it is modest compared with the country’s agricultural imports: In 2016, the country’s foreign agricultural investment equaled just 3 percent of the value of its agricultural imports that year. Moreover, agricultural investment has lagged behind other sectors in China’s foreign investment surge. Agriculture, forestry, and fishing accounted for about 1.7 percent of China’s foreign investment from 2012 to 2016. By comparison, agriculture’s share of China’s gross domestic product is about 9 percent.

More growth in Chinese investment appears to be forthcoming. Political leaders in China are endorsing agricultural investment as a core component of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative. More Chinese investments in Europe and North America could offer access to agricultural technology, processing, and logistical know-how to support China’s ambitions to modernize its domestic farming sector. China’s goals of gaining more control over supply chains for its imports and increasing its influence on global commodity prices could drive further investment in trading, logistics, and commodity markets.

China’s investments are likely to have impacts on global agricultural trade, just as a similar stream of Japanese investments did in earlier decades. Japanese companies played a role in Brazil’s emergence as a soybean exporter and China’s rise as an exporter of vegetables and poultry. Japanese agricultural trading companies have a prominent role in sourcing grains and oilseeds. There were concerns that Japan’s agricultural and food investment during the 1970s and ‘80s were a threat to U.S. agriculture. However, the United States remains the leading supplier of Japan’s agricultural imports, and Japan’s ownership of U.S. farmland and agribusiness remains modest.

China’s investments may influence patterns of trade at the margins, but resource scarcity, production capabilities, commodity prices, exchange rates, and other fundamentals will remain the dominant factors in the country’s growing agricultural imports. Nevertheless, China’s investments will create new opportunities and present new threats for particular industries, companies, and regions toward which they are targeted.


Texas dairy farmer takes trade mission trip to Mexico

Relationships are just as important as the people making them

Larry Hancock, Texas dairy farmer and chairman of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), traveled to Mexico, the United States’ number one importer of its dairy products, on a trade mission trip. Hancock was joined by four other U.S. dairy farmers to learn about the dairy industry in Mexico, observe how U.S. dairy products are being utilized in the country, and discuss how the two countries can continue working together to advance the dairy industry and demand for its products.

To Hancock, the trade mission was especially important for two specific reasons: to witness the importance of current and future relationships with Mexico and to see how the dairy industries in each country can learn from and help each other.

Relationships are just as important as the people making them.
Larry Hancock, Texas dairy farmer and chairman of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), traveled to Mexico, the United States’ number one importer of its dairy products, on a trade mission trip. Hancock was joined by four other U.S. dairy farmers to learn about the dairy industry in Mexico, observe how U.S. dairy products are being utilized in the country, and discuss how the two countries can continue working together to advance the dairy industry and demand for its products.

Creating a “win-win” relationship is of utmost importance to Hancock, as dairy supply is very important to Mexico – a country that has a 60% dairy deficit.

“We don’t want to take their market; we want to help it grow. And what they can’t produce, we will supply,” Hancock said.

Annually, Mexico imports approximately $1.4 billion in U.S. dairy products, comprising of nearly 90% of its total dairy imports.

As part of the mission trip, USDEC arranged for U.S. dairy farmers to have opportunities to see their checkoff investment at work. One of those opportunities included touring grocery stores in Mexico to see how dairy products are marketed to consumers. Dairy products from the U.S. carry a sticker noting their origin location, aiming to increase the value of the product and meet the goal of greater demand for U.S. cheeses in Mexico. There is a difference in the cheeses, from the cheddars of the U.S. to the queso cheeses of Mexico.

And that difference, Hancock notes, is part of another grassroots checkoff effort: educating entry-level chefs on how to cook with cheddar cheeses. The goal is that more chefs will incorporate cheddar cheeses in restaurant recipes, thus showing consumers ways to incorporate cheddars in their meals at home. Increased usage of U.S. cheese in both restaurants and at the family table helps meet the goal of pushing demand for U.S. dairy products.

Hancock was adamant that U.S. dairy farmers need exports, stating that 95% of the population is outside of the U.S.; and in that population, the growing middle class desires more protein on their plate. To Hancock, that need for protein will be met with dairy and meat products.

Growing exports is obviously important, and in Hancock’s opinion, it needs to be done in a way that’s “not just dumping excess product at commodity price, but instead by selling higher quality products.”

In the end, Hancock comes back to the importance of relationships.

“Government leadership changes, but the dairy farmer suppliers do not,” Hancock said.

He believes in the value of farmer-members of the Mexican dairy industry meeting American dairy farmers. The two groups share many similarities, including concerns about trade, animal welfare activists, and milk alternatives. Discussions about those concerns and other industry issues provides opportunity for dairy farmers to find solutions together, thus helping to meet supply and demand goals.

From deliberations with Mexico dairy industry representatives, a joint statement was written and signed by both countries. The statement had 12 points, which included addressing shared concerns between the countries. Hancock summarized as the main goal being for the U.S. and Mexico to work together on dairy supply and demand.

Moving forward, Hancock reiterated the importance of trade missions. As a U.S. dairy industry leader, he sees his leadership efforts best spent driving U.S. dairy products “all the way to the consumer and doing it in a way that’s profitable.” And trade missions to tremendously valuable trade partners, like Mexico, fit the bill. Visit to learn more about the work being done to increase demand for U.S. dairy products.


What can the financial sector learn from dairy farmers?

Nobody would travel with an out-of -date passport, so why should the world of finance be any different?

And yet, many major institutions are at great risk of acting on outdated information as they navigate through the increasing complexity of modern-day markets.

With so much out-of -date information out there, it is imperative to know where data comes from and where it ends up. But despite the increasing importance of pure data to a bank’s wellbeing, numerous companies are still struggling to become data-driven businesses. 

According to research that we carried out across 15 tier one and tier two US and European financial institutions, 60 per cent said that poor quality and inconsistent data was a major barrier. 

Given the era we operate in, this is a staggering finding.

What is even more staggering is that other industries which are far less complex than finance have proven that there is no need to carry the burden of poor data on their shoulders. 

For example, did you know that every cow in the UK has a passport? From this, dairy farmers know who the cow’s parents are, how many farms it has grazed on, which fields it has stood on, where its milk has been processed and by whom, even which batch of milk and cheese has ended up on each restaurant table. 

Why is this so important? Well, one only has to look at the global rise in veganism to understand how concerned people are with what they put into their bodies.

Perhaps the financial industry should be taking a leaf out of the dairy farmers’ book. 

The question is: could a financial institution be 100 per cent confident of where its data comes from? Do they really know what other data has been linked to the original source, and who has manipulated it? 

Banks are not just looking for the provision of a commodity like milk. The data affects their entire reputation as a business.

It is now paramount that a bank can see where the information has been. Data needs to be digitised, with no manual intervention on the content. The information also needs to arrive in the right format so that it can integrate easily into tools and workflows.

There is, however, no overnight utopia. Data will continue to be expensive, and with the market dominated by just a few firms, financial institutions need to ensure that they are getting maximum bang for their buck. 

Having survived successive waves of technology-fuelled disruption, firms are finally adapting to change.

The sheer scale of information may not be something that the markets can control, but the provenance and traceability of data, including where it comes from and where it end up, very much can be. 

After all, if a dairy industry can recognise the importance of customer health through in-depth data insights, so too can financial institutions. 


Gay Lea Foods Announces Acquisition of Thornloe Cheese

Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Limited confirmed today that it has completed an agreement with EastGen to acquire the operations of Thornloe Cheese.

Located on the outskirts of Thornloe, Ontario, Thornloe Cheese has been a respected local producer of cheese and cheese curds in Northeastern Ontario for over 75 years. Today, the business employs approximately 30 people and is celebrated for its specialty cheeses, as well as for introducing the first butter and cheeses made with milk sourced from Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO) Verified Grass Fed program.

“Thornloe Cheese has a long and storied history in Northern Ontario and holds a special place in the hearts of Northern dairy farmers and consumers alike,” said Gay Lea Foods Chair, Rob Goodwill. “We are pleased to keep Thornloe Cheese in the hands of a wholly Canadian dairy farmer-owned co-operative and help keep Northeastern Ontario’s rich agricultural legacy alive.”

Thornloe Cheese operates one retail store and services a wide range of wholesale customers in Northern Ontario and Quebec.


  • Thornloe, Ontario is approximately 520 km north of Toronto, in the New Liskeard/Temiskaming region.
  • Gay Lea Foods is a Canadian farmer-owned co-operative with members on more than 1,400 dairy farms across Ontario and Manitoba, more than 4,320 producer and investor shareholders

DeRuyter & Son Dairy accused of not following federal cleanup order

DeRuyter & Son Dairy has been hit with a complaint in federal court alleging it has failed to implement environmental safeguards required by a federal consent decree.

The 36-page complaint was filed Monday in U.S. District Court by two environmental groups, the local Community Association for the Restoration of the Environment and the Center for Food Safety.

Named in the complaint are DeRuyter & Son Dairy, its affiliate D&A Dairy and George and Margaret DeRuyter. The complaint alleges the dairy has yet to install double liners in seven animal manure storage ponds, has installed new storage ponds without any oversight and continues to over apply manure to fields as fertilizer.

The complaint requests the dairy be held in contempt for failing to abide by the decree and pay attorney and expert fees in the matter.

Yakima attorney Brendan Monahan, who is representing the dairy, said the DeRuyters have initiated new technology — a nitrification denitrification system — approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Denitrification removes nitrogen from discharge through a biochemical process and bacterial degradation.

The system meets requirements under the decree and has led to reductions in animal waste in storage ponds, irrigation water and soil, Monahan said.

“This should be a success story and it’s being characterized as a failure because of CARE’s arrogance to EPA science,” he said. “This is really disappointing.”

Environmental attorney Charlie Tebbutt said the dairy’s move violates the consent decree it has with the environmental groups and Lower Valley residents.

“They have a settlement agreement with EPA and they also have a settlement agreement with the citizens and they have not met compliance with the citizens’ agreement,” Tebbutt said.

EPA spokesman Bill Dunbar said his agency has approved the nitrification denitrification system instead of lining manure ponds.

“They’re in compliance,” Dunbar said.

DeRuyter & Son Dairy was one of a handful of dairies known as the “dairy cluster” that entered a federal consent decree after being sued by the environmental groups, which blamed the dairy operations for high nitrate concentrations in Lower Valley drinking water.

The dairies entered the decree after a study by the EPA linked dairy practices to groundwater contamination. Under the decree, the dairies agreed to install double synthetic liners in manure storage ponds to prevent waste from seeping into groundwater and follow a stricter nutrient management plan when applying animal manure to fields as fertilizer.

The lawsuit prompted the Groundwater Management Area, which spans the Lower Valley from below Union Gap to below Grandview. The GWMA involves federal, state and local officials, environmental groups and farmers seeking a plan to clean up Lower Valley groundwater.

The dairy cluster entered consent decrees with the environmental groups and the EPA. Monahan said the decrees are separate but overlap in requirements.

The complaint says the dairy repeatedly sought extensions of deadlines to install the liners from EPA but not the environmental groups. Under the decree, the dairy was to install liners at a rate of two ponds a year but has only completed work on two since the May 2015 decree.

“All of the other seven remain in the same state they were over five years ago, when the court ordered DeRuyter to line its lagoons,” the complaint said.

The environmental groups in the complaint took issue with the dairy for only seeking EPA approval for the nitrification denitrification system.

Monahan said the EPA approved the new technology as a substitute to liners, and the system utilizes the latest technology that promises to reduce nitrate in storage ponds by 80 percent.

“This is an extraordinary and innovative investment designed to protect the environment and EPA has approved it and CARE doesn’t like it,” he said. “CARE thinks it has better science than EPA.”

Tebbutt said the technology isn’t proven.

“That they chose to try a different technology does nothing to obviate their requirement to install synthetic liners in their lagoons that are proven to leak,” he said.

The complaint also alleges the dairy has failed to submit an updated plan to handle manure, a stipulation under the consent decree, continues to over apply manure to fields and has provided inaccurate information about the applications.

The complaint identified several fields alleged to have had hundreds of thousands of gallons of manure applied that exceeded safe thresholds the previous year.

“Under this administration, the dairy industry has run crying to EPA to give them some relief from the settlement agreement, but they can’t do that and haven’t done that with our consent decree,” Tebbutt said. “We have a federal court order which they agreed to.”

Monahan said he had yet to review the more than 1,000 pages of supplemental documents related to those allegations.

“We will roll up our sleeves and get into this,” he said.


Dairy Farmers of Canada Shows a Side of Santa Rarely Seen in a New Campaign For Holiday 2019

To celebrate the holidays, Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) has launched Santa Surprise, a sentimental campaign that connects the quality and care of Canadian milk with the magic of the Christmas season.

The multimedia campaign centres around celebrating the central role milk plays in many Canadian Christmas traditions: the glass of milk left out for Santa on Christmas Eve.

Children of all ages associate Santa with his drink of choice on Christmas night: a glass of milk – and Dairy Farmers of Canada is bringing that to life this holiday season. The campaign aims to show consumers that when they choose products marked with the blue cow logo, they know the milk they’re pouring for Santa is produced with quality and care from Canadian Dairy Farmers.

Presented in video form, the campaign shows real, emotional reactions of children experiencing the moment when Santa comes to visit and captures the wonder and excitement that they feel in catching him in the act. The result is an emotional moment when the children see Santa in action and drinking milk for the first time.

“Leaving milk out for Santa is such a timeless tradition that naturally connects Christmas to dairy,” explains Pamela Nalewajek, Vice President, Marketing. “In showing this moment with Santa, we’re linking the tradition of a glass of milk for Santa with our producers’ traditions of providing high-quality dairy to Canadian families all year long.” 

The campaign breaks on December 2nd with television and digital placements across Canada. Media is focused on channels that consumers rely on for holiday content at this festive time of year to reach families of all ages from coast-to-coast. Campaign placements will include social media, online video, television, cinema and digital platforms and will run until December 29th

Dairy Farmers of Canada is the national policy, lobbying and promotional organization representing Canadian dairy producers. DFC strives to create stable conditions for the dairy sector in our country. It also seeks to maintain policies that promote the sustainability of Canadian dairy production and promote dairy products and their health benefits.

NY Family Forced to Sell Farm After 240 Years, 7 Generations

A New York family is forced to sell one of the oldest family farms in the country after 240 years and seven generations.

Hull-O Farms in Durham has been in the Hull Family since John Hull started the farm 240 years ago. For half a century, Frank Hull 71, and his wife, Sherry, 67, have owned and operated the 280-acre farm in the Catskills. The family is being forced to sell because they can no longer handle the physical labor needed to make enough money to pay for the rising costs of the farm, according to an extensive profile in the New York Times.

“We don’t want to leave the land,” Sherry Hull told the Times. “But we’re running out of options.”

The Hulls have kept farming to honor their family’s legacy, but say they haven’t taken a vacation in nearly 50 years and have very little savings.

“If Frank stops working, he feels he’s letting his relatives down and that the whole family line is broken,” Hull said to the Times. “I know it doesn’t make sense because they’re dead, but you feel like you have a commitment to carry on what every one of them has done successfully in the past. We have one nostril above water and nothing to live on.”

Hull went on to tell the Times, “We have no pension because we’ve put every penny we’ve made back into the farm. I tell people, ‘We’re standing on our 401(k).’ And now, it looks like the farm has to close so we can survive.”

For many decades the Hulls were mostly dairy farmers. By the late 1980s, the family sold many cows and changed up their business model. They offered guests a farm-vacation. Vistors would stay on the farm, eat meals from the farm and also help with chores.

Guests hand-milk cows and goats, feed the pigs, bottle-feed a variety of small farm animals and collect eggs on a farm, according to the farm’s Facebook. In the fall there is a corn maze on the farm and a Christmas farmhouse in December.

The farm was built in 1779. It features a three-story center hall, a second house and barn complex on 286 acres, over 3 miles of frontage, four-acre pond and generates over $300,000 in income, reports.

The Hulls’ four sons all grew up working on the farm, but none want to take over running the farm, the New York Times reports.


Ontario introduces bill that would protect farmers from animal rights activists, raise trespassing fines

The law would increase fines for trespassing on farms and food processing facilities and make it illegal to obstruct trucks carrying farm animals

New legislation introduced Monday in Ontario would create so-called “animal protection zones” with increased fines for trespassing — a move applauded by farmers but roundly criticized by the animal rights activists who say it targets them.

Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman said the bill — dubbed the Security from Trespass and Animal Safety Act — would hike fines for trespassing on farms and food-processing facilities and make it illegal to obstruct trucks carrying farm animals.

The legislation comes after livestock producers pressed the government to take action to prosecute those who trespass on their properties and demonstrate at processing plants.

“Ontariofarmers and agriculture workers deserve to be able to carry out the important work they do without fear for their safety,” Hardeman said. “These are the people who produce the food we eat every day, and I’ve reflected on their experiences and concerns when drafting this proposed bill.”

Under the legislation, fines for trespassing would be set at a maximum of $15,000 for a first offence and up to $25,000 for subsequent offences, compared to current maximum trespassing fines of $10,000.

The bill would also allow a court to order restitution for any injury, loss or damage caused as a result of an offence.

The proposed law would also increase protection for farmers against civil liability from people who are hurt while trespassing on their property.

Hardeman said the proposed law would help ensure the biosecurity of the province’s food supply while also striking a balance which ensures the right to protest.

“People have a right to participate in legal protests, but this does not include trespassing on farms and agriculture businesses or interfering with livestock in transport,” he said.

Ontario Federation of Agriculture spokesman Keith Currie said the farming community has been dealing with aggressive protests for years, and action was needed.

“As farmers, we respect the right of people to protest, however, when it encroaches on private property, endangering the safety of families, (and) farmers, … something needs to be done,” he said.

The executive director of animal protection group Animal Justice, however, said the legislation is “utterly chilling” and would restrict free speech if it becomes law.

Camille Labchuk said the bill would also make it illegal to gain access to a farm or processing plant under “false pretenses.” That would mean animal rights groups could not expose cases of abuse by using whistleblowers.

“For someone who gets a job and doesn’t disclose membership in an animal rights group, that could be an offence potentially punishable by huge fines,” she said.

Anita Krajnc, founder of the vegan advocacy group Toronto Pig Save, said part of the new bill seems targeted at just a few animal rights groups, including hers.

In 2015, Krajnc gained notoriety after being charged for giving water to pigs on their way to slaughter. She fought the mischief charges all the way to trial, where she was found not guilty because a judge found she didn’t harm the animals or prevent them from being slaughtered.

The new bill proposes to prohibit “interfering or interacting with farm animals being transported by a motor vehicle without explicit prior consent,” the government said.

Krajnc, who has been “bearing witness” to animals in transport trucks on their way to slaughter since 2011, said she’s not about to stop now.

“Bearing witness is about interacting and not looking away and looking into the faces of pigs, cows and chickens that are about to go to slaughter,” Krajnc said.

“We’ll continue to bear witness, stop trucks and give water to thirsty pigs, caress them and tell their story.”

Last week, Alberta introduced similar legislation, proposing to increase trespassing fines and send repeat offenders to jail for up to six months.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has said free speech must be protected, but when protesters trespass, create mischief and pose potential biohazards the government must act.

“When you harass people who are simply going about their jobs legally, none of that constitutes a legal and legitimate protest,” Kenney said. “All of that constitutes trespass and harassment.”


Holstein Ontario Accepting Applications for the Outstanding Dairy Women Service Award

Holstein Ontario is now accepting applications for the Outstanding Dairy Women Service Award. The purpose of this award is to recognize the efforts and highlight the work and accomplishments of Ontario women who have devoted their lives in an effort to serve, promote and enhance the dairy industry. Applications are due each year on December 15.

Visit their website to apply and see past winners of the award.

USDA Issues Second Tranche of Market Facilitation Program

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the second tranche of 2019 Market Facilitation Program (MFP) payments aimed at assisting farmers suffering from damage due to unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations. The payments will begin the week before Thanksgiving. Producers of MFP-eligible commodities will now be eligible to receive 25 percent of the total payment expected, in addition to the 50 percent they have already received from the 2019 MFP.

“This second tranche of 2019 MFP payments, along with already provided disaster assistance, will give farmers, who have had a tough year due to unfair trade retaliation and natural disasters, much needed funds in time for Thanksgiving,” said Secretary Perdue. “President Trump has shown time and again that he is fighting for America’s farmers and ranchers. While we continue to have confidence in the President’s negotiations with China, this money shows President Trump following through on his promise to help and support farmers as he continues to fight for fair market access.”

Background on USDA’s Support Package for Farmers:

President Donald J. Trump directed Secretary Perdue to craft a second relief strategy to support American agricultural producers while the Administration continues to work on free, fair, and reciprocal trade deals to open more markets to help American farmers compete globally. Specifically, the President authorized the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide up to $16 billion in programs, which is in line with the estimated impacts of unjustified retaliatory tariffs on U.S. agricultural goods and other trade disruptions. In May, Secretary Perdue announced these actions to assist farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation and trade disruption:

  • MFP for 2019, authorized under the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act and administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), is providing $14.5 billion in direct payments to producers.
  • Additionally, CCC Charter Act authority is being used to implement a $1.4 billion Food Purchase and Distribution Program (FPDP) through the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to purchase surplus commodities affected by trade retaliation such as fruits, vegetables, some processed foods, beef, pork, lamb, poultry, and milk for distribution by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to food banks, schools, and other outlets serving low-income individuals.
  • Finally, the CCC has used its Charter Act authority for $100 million to be issued through the Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP) administered by the Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) to assist in developing new export markets on behalf of producers.

Details Regarding Second Tranche of 2019 MFP Payments:

MFP signup at local FSA offices will run through Friday, December 6, 2019.

Payments will be made by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) under the authority of the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act to producers of alfalfa hay, barley, canola, corn, crambe, dried beans, dry peas, extra-long staple cotton, flaxseed, lentils, long grain and medium grain rice, millet, mustard seed, oats, peanuts, rapeseed, rye, safflower, sesame seed, small and large chickpeas, sorghum, soybeans, sunflower seed, temperate japonica rice, triticale, upland cotton, and wheat. MFP assistance for these non-specialty crops is based on a single county payment rate multiplied by a farm’s total plantings of MFP-eligible crops in aggregate in 2019. Those per-acre payments are not dependent on which of these crops are planted in 2019. A producer’s total payment-eligible plantings cannot exceed total 2018 plantings. County payment rates range from $15 to $150 per acre, depending on the impact of unjustified trade retaliation in that county.

Dairy producers who were in business as of June 1, 2019, will receive a per hundredweight payment on Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) production history, and hog producers will receive a payment based on the number of live hogs owned on a day selected by the producer between April 1 and May 15, 2019.

MFP payments will also be made to producers of almonds, cranberries, cultivated ginseng, fresh grapes, fresh sweet cherries, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts. Each specialty crop will receive a payment based on 2019 acres of fruit or nut bearing plants, or in the case of ginseng, based on harvested acres in 2019.

Acreage of non-specialty crops and cover crops had to be planted by August 1, 2019 to be considered eligible for MFP payments.

Per-acre non-specialty crop county payment rates, specialty crop payment rates, and livestock payment rates are all currently available on

This is the second of up to three tranches of MFP payments. The third tranche will be evaluated as market conditions and trade opportunities dictate. If conditions warrant, the third tranche will be made in January 2020. The first tranche was comprised of the higher of either 50 percent of a producer’s calculated payment or $15 per acre, which may reduce potential payments to be made in tranche three. USDA will begin making the second tranche payments the week before Thanksgiving.

MFP payments are limited to a combined $250,000 for non-specialty crops per person or legal entity. MFP payments are also limited to a combined $250,000 for dairy and hog producers and a combined $250,000 for specialty crop producers. However, no applicant can receive more than $500,000. Eligible applicants must also have an average adjusted gross income (AGI) for tax years 2015, 2016, and 2017 of less than $900,000 unless at least 75 percent of the person’s or legal entity’s AGI is derived from farming, ranching, or forestry related activities. Applicants must also comply with the provisions of the Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation regulations.

Many producers were affected by natural disasters this spring, such as flooding, that kept them out of the field for extended periods of time. Producers who filed a prevented planting claim and planted an FSA-certified cover crop, with the potential to be harvested qualify for a $15 per acre payment. Acres that were never planted in 2019 are not eligible for an MFP payment.

In June, H.R. 2157, the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act of 2019 was signed into law by President Trump, requiring a change to the first round of MFP assistance provided in 2018. Producers previously deemed ineligible for MFP in 2018 because they had an average AGI level higher than $900,000 may now be eligible for 2018 MFP benefits. Those producers must be able to verify 75 percent or more of their average AGI was derived from farming and ranching to qualify. This supplemental MFP signup period will run parallel to the 2019 MFP signup, from July 29 through December 6, 2019.

For more information on the MFP, visit or contact your local FSA office, which can be found at

U.S. Gain Purchases Digesters at Two Wisconsin Dairy Farms

U.S. Gain®, a leader in development, procurement and distribution of renewable natural gas (RNG) announces the purchase of anerobic digesters at two Wisconsin dairy farms, S&S Jerseyland Dairy LLC and Dallmann East River Dairy LLC, to expedite RNG development for the transportation and energy markets.

U.S. Gain is currently coordinating installation of biogas clean-up equipment at both dairy farms to strip the impurities from the biogas, so it can be injected into the natural gas pipeline system. Next, U.S. Gain will pursue RNG certification through both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) so they can distribute through private natural gas fueling stations, their own GAIN Clean Fuel® network and other non-transportation outlets.

RNG continues to be a source of both emission and economic savings for leading trucking, refuse, school, transit and municipality fleets. RNG is methane captured from the decomposition of organic materials, cleaned and conditioned to meet natural gas pipeline quality standards. Although distinctly different than traditional fossil natural gas due to its source, RNG is interchangeable with fossil natural gas and can still be dispensed through natural gas fueling stations.

Dairy-based RNG is by far the cleanest fuel available because it reduces methane emissions from large dairy facilities and reduces transportation emissions when used as an alternative to diesel. Combining savings in production and use, RNG as an alternative fuel can deliver sub-zero greenhouse gas emission savings.

U.S. Gain truly believes in the value proposition RNG has to offer. As air quality continues to worsen, policy and funding programs strengthen, which incentivizes investments in RNG projects to decrease transportation-related emissions and ultimately improve air quality.

“Thanks to financial support from California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard and Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program, we’re able to make long-term capital investments like these,” says Bryan Nudelbacher, director of business development for U.S. Gain. “RNG is a win for everyone involved – farmers, developers, fleets, communities and the environment.”


About U.S. Gain

U.S. Gain® is a leader in development, procurement and distribution of renewable and compressed natural gas for the transportation and energy segments.

Over the course of 10 years U.S. Gain has diversified throughout the fuel supply chain – investing and managing renewable natural gas development projects at dairies, landfills and wastewater treatment plants; generating, trading and monetizing clean fuel credits; designing, building and operating natural gas fueling stations – both private and a public GAIN Clean Fuel®; network. This vertical integration allows companies access to the cleanest fuel at the best value. 

As a part of U.S. Venture, Inc., a family-owned, Wisconsin-based company, U.S. Gain is committed to finding a better way for companies to succeed – both economically and environmentally. With experience you need and ethics you value, U.S. Gain is the partner you’ll be proud to work with. Learn more at

Dairy Leaders Pressure Congress to Pass USMCA

A dozen executives from North America’s largest dairy companies will travel to Washington on Wednesday to advocate directly with members of Congress and Trump Administration officials for passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), which represents more than 450 businesses throughout the dairy value chain from dairy cooperatives to processors and retailers, has organized the day of legislative action due to the growing importance of exports for dairy companies and producers. News reports about the status of USMCA change by the day and signals from industry insiders are mixed, creating significant concern among dairy companies who rely on exports to remain profitable.

U.S. dairy exports to Mexico and Canada totaled approximately $1.5 billion in 2018, or more than 25% of total U.S. dairy exports. Without a modern trade deal in place, food and agriculture exports among North American nations remain uncertain and dairy businesses are hesitant to make new investments.

“Passing USMCA should be a simple bipartisan effort considering the deal’s huge upside for the American economy,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of IDFA. “I’m grateful to the dairy industry leaders who are traveling to Washington this week in a last-ditch effort to save this deal. We remain hopeful that the House of Representatives can work with the Trump Administration to finalize USMCA before the year’s end and communicate a clear timeline for passing the agreement. Without reliable markets in North America, our dairy industry will face extreme financial challenges.”

IDFA members scheduled to attend include:

  • David Ahlem, President & CEO, Hilmar Cheese Company, Inc.
  • Terry Brockman, President & COO, Saputo Inc.
  • Michael Brown, Director, Dairy Supply Chain, The Kroger Co.
  • Michael Dykes, President & CEO, International Dairy Foods Association
  • Louie Gentine, President & CEO, Sargento Foods Inc.
  • Douglas Glade, Executive Vice President & President, Commercial, Dairy Farmers of America, Inc.
  • Kurt Epprecht, Owner, Vice President, Cheese Quality and Dairy Policy, Great Lakes Cheese Co., Inc.
  • Chris Hoeger, President, Cheese Division, Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc.
  • Chris Olsen, Vice President Community and Government Affairs, Tate & Lyle
  • Stan Ryan, President & CEO, Darigold, Inc.
  • Dan Zagzebski, President & CEO, Great Lakes Cheese Co., Inc.

USMCA meets the U.S. dairy industry’s top priorities to ensure a more level playing field, including preserving duty-free market access to Mexico, eliminating the unfair Canadian Class 7 pricing program and increasing market access to the Canadian market.

Over the last 25 years, U.S. food and agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico have more than quadrupled under the current North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, growing from $9 billion in 1993 to nearly $40 billion in 2018 and helping support more than 325,000 American jobs in food and agriculture and related sectors of the economy. USMCA builds on the success of the NAFTA agreement.

The International Trade Commission’s report on USMCA confirmed that the deal would raise U.S. GDP by $68.2 billion and pump an additional $2.2 billion, or 1.1%, into the U.S. economy through increases in agricultural and food exports. One in four American manufacturing jobs are related to agriculture, and USMCA, once implemented, will strengthen the U.S. farm and agriculture economy and further support and secure vital market access for U.S. farmers, ranchers, and agri-businesses.


The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), Washington, D.C., represents the nation’s dairy manufacturing and marketing industry, which supports more than 3 million jobs that generate $159 billion in wages and $620 billion in overall economic impact. IDFA’s diverse membership ranges from multinational organizations to single-plant companies, from dairy companies and cooperatives to food retailers and suppliers. Together, they represent 90 percent of the milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt and cultured products, and dairy ingredients produced and marketed in the United States and sold throughout the world.

Quebec dairy producers say new transportation rules mean they will have to kill calves

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the regulations on how young calves can be transported are outdated. But dairy producers argue the updated rules will result in more male calves going to waste. Starting in February, young calves must make it from farm to farm in 12 hours unless given food, water and rest.(Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

Starting in February, young calves must make it from farm to farm in 12 hours unless given food, water and rest.

Quebec dairy producers say new rules covering how they can transport very young calves may mean they will have to slaughter the animals when they are born, rather than send them to the veal market.

As of February 20, 2020, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) says calves that are too young to eat grain or hay cannot go more than 12 hours without food, water and rest.

The former rules allowed 18 hours for transportation, and did not take into account the time spent loading and unloading the calves on transport trucks.

Producers say the new rules do not leave enough time to move the calves.

“Just think about global food waste,” said Michel Frigon, a dairy producer in the Saguenay region.

“At least if I can sell them and break even, ethically I prefer that.”

No use for male calves

Dairy cows must become pregnant and give birth to produce milk.

About half the time, the calves are male and are of no use on the farm, especially given that nearly all cows are now artificially inseminated.

The male calves are as young as seven days old when they are sent to an auction house, usually in Saint-Hyacinthe, Que., to be sold to another farm known as a feedlot or grower.

They’ll typically spend about eight months at the feedlot before being sent to the slaughterhouse.

Adrianne Gauvin-Sasseville/Radio-Canada

In a statement, a CFIA spokesperson said the rules covering livestock transportation had not been updated since 1977.

They said the old rules do not reflect current science, nor do they meet the standards of Canada’s international trading partners and the World Organisation for Animal Health. The CFIA gave producers a one-year warning about the changes.

Not about the money

Dairy producers say the sale of male calves is a small fraction of their business. And they say that part of their business is now even smaller after Canada struck a trade deal with the European Union, flooding the market with European veal.

Paul Tenhave, a dairy producer in Val d’Or, Que., says selling calves represents five per cent of his business. But his transporter has already warned him that he will not carry the calves when the new rules are in place.

“I don’t want to kill them at the farm,” he said, adding that he is concerned about the public perception of slaughtering those calves.

Challenge of feeding calves

Kirk Jackson, vice-president of the Quebec Beef Cattle Association, says one of the complexities of the new rules has to do with feeding the calves before they make it to their next farm.

The calves need to be hand-fed milk in a bottle, and some producers will feed them raw milk, while others use powdered milk and water.

Jackson says a single transport truck can hold up to 180 calves from different farms, and changing their food on the road would likely result in the animals having diarrhea, something he says is not in the interest of the animals and something the transporters don’t want to have to deal with either.

Many calves are brought from dairy farms to an auction in Saint-Hyacinthe. Radio-Canada

He says some of Canada’s trading partners in the beef industry, namely those in European countries, have an easier time working within such time constraints because of geographic differences, including having population centres that are much closer together.

Jackson says calves that arrive at the auction house in Saint-Hyacinthe from the furthest regions like the Gaspé and Abitibi are provided special care, such as being given water and electrolytes, because they travel so far.

“We’re not stupid as producers, as an industry,” Jackson said. “We do what’s best for these animals already.”

Jackson says there are currently studies into animal welfare and the transportation of calves being conducted by the Beef Cattle Research Council, which is affiliated to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.

He wants the rules pushed back until those results are published, which is expected to happen in two years.

The CFIA says it is aware of the ongoing research and will review the findings once they are released. It says it is open to considering changes based on new evidence.


Delight as UK dairy farming couple win 11-year legal battle with local council

A dairy farming couple who took on their local council and won an 11-year legal battle over an alleged right of way through their farm hope their story will bring hope to others fighting access disputes.

Fourth generation farmers Edward and Angela Bradley who run a herd of Holstein Friesians in South Crosland, West Yorkshire, became embroiled in the row with Kirklees Council in 2009, when off road vehicles and motorbikes started to tear through the Bradleys’ farmyard.

The couple, who re-installed a gate to manage their cattle, discovered the local authority had illegally recorded, without notice, a public road through their farm in 1985. They were told they must remove the gate and let people pass through.

The row led to what Mrs Bradley called a ‘David and Goliath battle’, involving two failed enforcement attempts by the council to access the land, a failed county court appearance generated by the council, a public inquiry and even the ‘unjustifiable’ arrest of the Rights of Way consultant who was advising the couple.

Earlier this month, before the appeal was due to be heard by the High Court, the council and the Secretary of State agreed their position at the public inquiry was indefensible and that the council’s legal argument should be quashed.

Mrs Bradley, who has been supported by the NFU, said: “Council officers have made error after error in this matter and have been supported by ill-informed elected members who run our council resulting in a huge burden on the public purse.

«They must have an elastic bank account with our public money in it to have pursued us for 11 years as they have with an estimated cost to the taxpayer of £250K.

“We think their intention was to put us out of business and into bankruptcy by trying to wear us down with bully boy tactics of threats, enforcement notices and unlawful invasion.”

Mrs Bradley added: “I want to protect my farming peers so they do not have to go through what we have gone through. User groups submit access claims on unknowing, unprepared landowners whose land is then blighted by a claim which can take decades to be heard in public inquiries.

“In many cases landowners and important witnesses are dying before councils put these claims into the public domain and their families are left with costly and biased hearings that they cannot, in many cases, afford to fight.»

Mrs Bradley said some landowners had lost both their homes and businesses due to crippling legal fees.

A Kirklees Council spokesperson said: “The Government planning inspector looked as this closely and they made what they thought was the correct recommendation.

“However, the defendants – the Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs and the council – have agreed that there were flaws in the decision of the government planning inspector which meant it could not stand and should be quashed by the court.

“We accept that a mistake was made here and we apologise for the impact this may have had on the Bradleys.”

Source FG Insight

US-based Dean Foods Bankruptcy Update

Many people will have heard that Dean Foods declared bankruptcy recently and thought about the gallon jug in their refrigerator and wondered what is going on, writes Phillip Durst, Michigan State University Extension

Dean Foods is the third largest milk processor in the nation. As such, it processed milk produced by Michigan farmers. Most dairy farmers in Michigan belong to a cooperative that markets their milk. One of those cooperatives is Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), a national member-owned cooperative for which Dean Foods is their largest customer. The milk from Michigan members of that cooperative went to Dean Foods processing plants.

Will milk still be picked up and paid for?

According to reports on the Dean Foods website, Dean’s has secured funding to continue operations while they work through bankruptcy and potential sales of some of their assets, including milk processing plants. In the near term, Dean Foods will still be buying milk from DFA, milk tank trucks will still show up at those farms every day and farmers will get paid as before.

Though business analysts saw the bankruptcy coming after Dean Foods reported financial losses in 7 of the last 8 quarters, it is still a major disrupter in the dairy markets. There are fewer processors in the industry as markets have consolidated over recent years. In fact, Dean Foods was a major contributor to that consolidation by buying out many smaller fluid milk processors.

Dean’s suffered the loss of major customers

Dean Foods built their business on fluid milk sales. When they were flying high, Dean’s milk was carried in outlets nationwide, including Walmart stores. In the last couple of years, Walmart opted to source their milk from other cooperatives and process it themselves in a new plant built near Ft. Wayne, Indiana. While fluid milk sales are down, total dairy consumption nationally and internationally is up, and cheese and butter per capita consumption in the U. S., in particular, are at all-time highs.

Consolidation hits all industries and dairy is certainly no exception. Not only has the processing industry been affected by it, but so too has the production side at farms. In Michigan, we have seen a loss of hundreds of farms over the past few years as farm prices have been low, below cost of production for most farms, and farms of all sizes have sold their cows. Today in Michigan, we have approximately the same number of cows as we did 4 years ago, but on fewer farms.

Consolidation is an economic reality, but it comes with costs as well as benefits. The loss of control by any small farm is keenly felt by the owners and employees. Farms are multi-generational, stretching back oftentimes 4 to 5 generations. Families have invested their lives and their returns in the farm and are sometimes left with little when forced to sell.

The loss is also felt in the community. Farms are the backbone of the rural economy in many communities. They employ people locally, buy supplies and pay for services locally. A rule of thumb is for every 300 cows, $1M comes into the community from outside the area, most of that is then spent in the area.

Dairy impacted by worldwide events

Dairy markets are international. What happens to the markets in foreign countries impacts the markets here. For example, China and other Asian countries are undergoing a major disease outbreak in their swine herds called African Swine Fever (ASF). That impacts US dairy markets because China was a buyer of whey as a protein source to feed pigs. Whey is a byproduct of the cheese-making process. As the demand for whey has waned, prices dropped.

There are more direct ways in which dairy markets are impacted worldwide. Whether it is production in the European Union or New Zealand and Australia, milk production changes impact where milk and dairy products flow to in the world.

The US exports approximately 17% of milk production. Our biggest trading partner is Mexico and current trade negotiations have impacted that market. If the US loses export market share, that milk must find a home in our country and it usually does so at a lower price.

Bankruptcy Impact

Michigan has been a growth state for dairy over the past 20 years, increasing cow numbers and increasing milk per cow. In fact, Michigan farmers produce more milk per cow than the average for any other state. They also produce some of highest quality milk in the nation. Yet the downside of the rise in production is that processing capacity in Mi has been exceeded and until more capacity comes on line, the milk that Michigan farms produce has been discounted for the costs to ship it farther away.

The Dean Food bankruptcy will have lasting impacts on the milk markets. We don’t know at this time which plants in Michigan will stay open and which will be closed. Processing capacity is a critical limitation. Milk is a perishable product that must be processed quickly. That means that the milk in stores is fresh, often having gone from cows to store shelf in 48 hours. As the industry changes, so too do the costs and returns for milk production.

Our farmers are resilient, but they too are concerned about the future and about their business. This is remarkable because they produce a product that is a great source of nutrition for people of all ages and therefore, should be in great demand. The protein, energy, mineral and vitamins are what people need in their diets and dairy should be a part of diets every day for better health.

Sometimes people ask how they can help Michigan dairy farmers. The answer is simple; buy dairy products for your family. That is a win for your family, and a win for farmers.


Farmers blocking Berlin roads to protest government policies

Thousands of farmers descended upon Berlin from the countryside with their tractors Tuesday, gathering at the capital’s landmark Brandenburg Gate and blocking traffic in protest over the German government’s agricultural policies.

About 10,000 farmers with 5,000 tractors drove into the city, with the first 1,800 heavy vehicles arriving from the surrounding state of Brandenburg before dawn.

The farmers claim new environmental limits being planned are overly restrictive and that the government is making it impossible for domestic agriculture to compete against imports, among other things.

“7.5 billion people; 200 million can feed themselves as hunters and gatherers. The rest need farmers,” read one banner, while others simply stated: “No famers, no food” and “we fill you up.”

The tractors gathered in the heart of the capital, blocking wide areas of the city with slow-moving convoys on the way in with a plan to cause more disruptions on their way out at rush hour.

Brandenburg police reported two accidents caused by cars trying to pass the lines of tractors on their way in to the city.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet in September decided on a series of proposals including tighter restrictions on the use of pesticides and herbicides to protect insects, and on fertilizers to protect groundwater.

The country’s environment minister, Svenja Schulze, said the government is willing to talk to farmers but insisted that they, too, need to play their part in protecting the environment.

“Farmers need to be part of the solution,” she told reporters in Berlin, citing the excessive levels of fertilizer in drinking water and the dramatic decline in insect numbers as issues that farmers should be concerned about.

Farmers’ leaders say the government should work with them and conservation groups to find ways to protect the environment while preserving the competitiveness of farms.

The environmental group Greenpeace criticized both sides, saying that Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner was trying to shift the burden onto consumers by saying they’ll have to get used to paying more for food, while the farmers needed to also help fight climate change and species extinction.

“Farms need clear and reliable guidelines and targeted recommendations,” said Greenpeace’s agricultural expert Stephanie Toewe “Then they will also have the ability to operate so that the water, animals and climate are protected.”


Loh TJ Alessja SUPREME All-German 2019!!

Loh TJ Alessja SUPREME All-German 2019!!

During the VOST Select Sales in Leer, Georg Geuecke from the BRS announced the winners of this year’s All German Holstein competition on Friday, November 29, 2019. The title of supreme champion went to Loh TJ Alessja, who also won the title of Holstein cows with two calvings. Alessja is an Armani *RC offspring of the incredible Luck-E Advent Atlanta *RC EX-94-USA and a family member to the popular heavily used R&W show bulls: Luck-E AWESOME-RED @ ST-Gen and Luck-E ADONIS-RED @ Semex. Cow photographer Wolfhard Schulze handed over the special prize donated by him.

The following winners and reserve winners were awarded in the individual classes:

Holstein Heifers
Winner: OHB Dream by F.-W. Gödecker and D. Schlunke
Reserve: WFD Miss Diamond of Rübesam, Will, Melbaum and Kallass

Red Holstein
Heifers Winner: Special Red by Jonas Melbaum
Reserve: NH Silky of Nosbisch Holsteins and Azzopardi

Holstein cows with two calvings
Winner: Loh TJ Alessja from Lohmöller, Melbaum, Nosbisch, Blaise
Reserve: Goldlieschen from RZB Derboven

Red Holstein cows with two and three calvings
Winner: FG Natalie by Henrik Wille
Reserve: WR Minnesota by Ludger Wiewer

Holstein cows with three and four calvings
Winner: Edlihtam by Rainer Engelke and Mathilde Schulze
Reserve: Hirondelle by Friedrich-Wilhelm Gödecker

Red Holstein cows with more than four calvings
Winner: GHH Marie von der Kastens GbR
Reserve: Extase by Christian Gonnsen

Holstein cows with five or more calvings
Winner: Fux Seattle from Hahn / Radke GbR
Reserve: Lady Gaga from Henrik Wille and Friedrich Köster

Fire at dairy farm in Sioux County, Iowa

A fire in Sioux County kept firefighters busy overnight.

Our news crew shot video at a dairy farm in northwestern Sioux County, just a few miles across the border from Fairview. Right now, we don’t have a lot of information on the cause or if anyone was hurt.

We’ve called authorities in Sioux County and are waiting to hear back. We’ll tell you when we get more information. Be sure to stay with us on-air and online as we learn more.


Lorne Foerter Ontario Ayrshire Fieldman Passes

Lorne Foerter passed away on November 22, 2019. He was fieldman for the Ontario Ayrshire Club for many years, after a full career in education. A very effective Secretary for the World Ayrshire Federation, from 1992 to 1996, he played a big part in the success of the World Ayrshire Conference in Canada in 1996. 

Passed away peacefully at the Cambridge Memorial Hospital on Friday, November 22, 2019. Loving and devoted husband to Jane (nee Tuddenham). Cherished father to Dean and Shannon. Grandfather to Wyatt and Josie. Lorne will also be sadly missed by his brother Lyle (Leone) and sister Doreen (the late John). Uncle to Duane (Susan), Trent (Gina), Dorren (Crystal), Philip and Sandy. Great uncle to Reid, Myles, Cassie, Britney, Callise (Mitch), Quinn and Chase.

At Lorne’s request cremation has taken place. Friends and family are invited to attend a gathering of remembrance on Sunday, December 1, 2019 from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. at the St. George Arena (South Dumfries Community Centre), 7 Gaukel Dr., St. George. As an expression of sympathy, donations may be made to the Ayrshire Ontario Memorial Fund, 7209 McDiarmid Rd., Osgoode, ON. K0A 2W0.

Long Time Holstein Journal Publisher Peter English Passes

Passed away at South Lake Regional Hospital, Newmarket on Friday, November 29, 2019, age 76 years. Loving brother of Kerry English of Mississauga, Colleen Olsen of Cobourg, Julie English, Barbara Clifford and Margaret Gheyssen all of Toronto. Beloved uncle of several nieces and nephews. Son of the late Gordon English and Eleanor Garvey.

Relatives and friends are invited to attend the Funeral Mass at OUR LADY OF MOUNT CARMEL CHURCH, HASTINGS on Wednesday, December 4, 2019 at 11 a.m. Reception to follow in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish Hall. Private family interment at St. Paul’s Cemetery, Norwood. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Heart and Stroke Foundation or charity of your choice would be appreciated by the family. Online condolences may be made at

The Future of Cheese in America Requires Cultural and Capital Investment

“If every dairy farmer closed their farms tomorrow, would the world even know?” Allison Hooper, founder of Vermont Creamery, wonders.

Judith Schad, founder of Indiana’s Capriole Goat Cheese, has similar concerns. “I don’t feel optimistic about farming or dairying generally right now,” she says. “Farmers, particularly dairy farmers, are disappearing.”

Dairy farming has never been easy, but its American pioneers are finding it is getting even harder. In 2016, Georgia’s Manyfold Farm, which made small-batch sheep milk cheese, shuttered the same year it won major cheese awards. Despite the acclaim, The New York Times reported, Manyfold simply wasn’t making enough money to continue production.

“Consumers like to bemoan the decline of the family farm, but the essence is that good food costs more than we’re willing to pay, especially unsubsidized specialty foods, which are expensive to produce and distribute in our economy,” Schad says.

Schad believes Americans spend an extremely low percentage of their income on food. Vocal consumers might sing the praises of non-GMO and grass-fed foodstuffs, but, statistically, the U.S. spends about 6 percent of its income on food, as opposed to 8.7 percent in Switzerland or 9.8 percent in Australia. For some, the choice may be to spend less on food and get a nicer car or take an extra vacation. For the 40 percent of Americans who struggle to pay for food or rent, spending as little as possible is a necessity.

The money that Americans have and don’t have is a complicated issue, not likely to be solved by cheesemakers. But what we do have could arguably be allotted more wisely. Rather than subsidizing small family farms, the U.S. gives billions of dollars of subsidies to already wealthy farmers, usually those who produce corn or soy. In the past 75 years, tax rates on the wealthy have dropped drastically, whereas the tax burden on the average American has stayed about the same, if not worse.

Even as the cheesemaking market becomes more competitive, everyday consumers have little to no context for specialty cheeses. Spending $15 on a bottle of wine seems a reasonable treat, whereas spending $15 on a wedge of cheese seems shocking to those who’ve not yet bought into the idea of food as craft, and a tangible expression of ethics.

“There’s been such a change in how we think about food and the importance of food,” Ruth Reichl, author and former restaurant critic for The New York Times, says. “I think people go into [cheesemaking] now with a real sense of ethics about it and a real mission with what they’re doing. I don’t think people just go, ‘I love this cheese — I’m going to make it.’ I think it’s much more focused.”

Reichl continues, “The bar has [been] raised, and I think it means that the wonderful naïve geniuses who sort of started this business couldn’t do it anymore.”

But, starting a food business that is also meant to change the world can be nigh impossible without the right funding, especially a low-margin business like cheesemaking.

American cheesemaking pioneers are concerned about the future of their craft. Credit:

“Private equity is just the worst,” says Hooper, “because they want an immediate return on their investment with very high margins and they want to be able to sell the business in three to five years. It’s hard to build a viable food business in that time, especially one that changes the world in the way we all want to, almost impossible.”

So, where does that leave a young, hopeful cheesemaker?

Perhaps it’s worth taking a look at Parish Hill Creamery of Putney, Vt. Helmed by husband-wife team Peter Dixon and Rachel Fritz Schaal, Parish Hill makes what they deem “natural cheese,” meaning they use raw milk, traditional rennet rather than a lab-grown version, they don’t use commercial starter cultures, and they only use local, hand-harvested salt.

“We focus on the milk and what the milk wants to do, instead of manipulating it and turning it into some idealized notion of cheese,” Schaal explains. This work is what Schaal calls “the culmination of Peter’s 38 years of cheesemaking experience.”

In wine, “natural” is very trendy, almost commonplace now. In cheese, especially in the U.S., there is almost no commercial precedent for it.

“We just got back from Italy,” says Dixon, “and many cheesemakers don’t use commercial starter cultures, they make their own rennet, and they use local salt. In Italy, those people that follow natural methods are the heroes — it’s thought of as the pinnacle of the craft and the best cheese in the country.”

“The people who are touted as the great cheesemakers in this country, in many cases, aren’t doing anything different than what our industrial cheesemaking factories are doing, they’re just smaller,” Dixon says.

“And have better marketing,” Schaal adds.

Parish Hill Creamery of Putney, Vt., focuses on “natural” cheesemaking processes. Credit:

There are, says Dixon, good examples of more “natural cheesemakers” in the U.S., including Uplands and Meadow Creek, which Schaal calls “infrequent example[s] of companies that have managed to get not huge but get nationwide distribution and still make mostly choices that fall into the natural category.”

“The only thing they’re missing,” says Dixon, is “using commercially made starter cultures. I don’t know about the salt.”

Still-small Parish Hill has been at it for seven years, and, according to Dixon, “we’re just now getting traction.” The brand recently won an international “Slow Cheese” award for their work, only two of seven people in the world to do so.

“I truly believe that the only way that small-scale producers are going to be able to thrive in this more competitive environment is to differentiate themselves,” Schaal says. “I think it is very easy to fall into the trap of going for efficiencies — there are an awful lot of cheesemakers who are essentially making industrial cheese on a small scale — and have the misplaced notion that making those few pennies extra is going to solve the problem of being small and doing things in an expensive and difficult way.”

Schaal argues “that the opposite is true. What they really need to do is eschew those conveniences and those efficiencies and focus on having the highest quality milk, drawing on the native microbes in their environment [to] make something that is truly unique, that could only be made by them, at their place, with that milk. That is what’s going to actually make them different.”

“If you’re just making the same choices as a large-scale company, but with 20 cows, you’re just making really… expensive cheese,” she says. When small-scale cheesemaking is done right, she says, it’s better for the community, the animals, the waterways, and just about everyone else.

“When companies get bigger, they tend to consolidate and get their milk just from one place,” Schaal says. “That doesn’t help the community, it just helps one farmer.” Small-scale cheesemaking, on the other hand, supports a “vibrant agricultural community,” she says.

The market is much more competitive now, but Dixon believes “the cheesemongers and the chefs who buy this cheese need to start acknowledging the difference. They’re going to be paying more for it, but they’re also going to be making heroes out of those cheesemakers that follow the natural methods.”

And those who do have an extra $15 to spend on cheese or wine need to understand both the flavor profile of their potential purchase, but also the agricultural practices and working landscapes they are (and aren’t) supporting.

By farming in a way Schaal calls “future-looking, rather than just pocketbook-looking,” dairy farmers might have a brighter future to look forward to.

“It’s not easy to do so,” Dixon says, but “when you taste [the cheese], the flavor stands alone. It’s so unique, and no one else could capture that flavor.”


Cut the wrap! UK dairy farm aims to be first to go single-use plastic-free

Farmer Bryce Cunningham chose Robert Burns to be the face of his milk bottles. The Scottish poet is said to have worked on the surrounding land. Photograph: Mossgiel Farm

Lying in a field of grass among his herd of dairy cows, Ayrshire farmer Bryce Cunningham picks up and pretends to throw away a plastic carton of milk. This is what we want to get rid of on our farm, he says in a promotional video, as he explains his quest to become the UK’s first single-use plastic-free milk producer.

After raising more than £10,000 from a crowdfunding campaign, he’s managed to replace single-use plastic cartons with 32,000 glass bottles adorned with the face of Robert Burns – who’s said to have once worked on the farmland – which he is able to wash and reuse.

There are, of course, other farms selling milk in glass bottles, but Bryce is now also eliminating single-use plastics from feed, chemicals and other inputs bought onto the farm, as well as finding alternatives to plastic silage wraps used to store fodder for feeding the cows over the winter.

As well as buying glass bottles, he refurbished a milk bottling machine dating back to the 1960s from a local dairy farm that had been left unused after the owner had left dairying.

The milk from Bryce’s 55-cow herd, along with milk from two other organic farms that supply him, goes out to around 8–10,000 people in glass bottles across Scotland.

From January, he will start trialling the supply of milk in two-litre glass containers (the milk is currently distributed in two and five-litre plastic cartons) to the 300 cafes and coffee shops he distributes to in Edinburgh and Glasgow. That was made possible after he sourced the larger containers from a manufacturer in the US as the more common one pint bottles are unsuited to food service outlets with a high turnover of milk. The bottles will come with tin screw caps that can also be washed and reused.

“It is more expensive to produce milk this way because we need to employ a washer to clean the returned bottles and plastic cartons. But the idea of using glass and cutting out single-use plastic fits with what we want our business to stand for. We want to be more aware of waste and our environmental footprint,” said Bryce.

Despite reports of a rise in interest in plastic-free milk, glass bottles have continued to decline to 2.1% of liquid milk sales in the UK, according to the latest industry figures. Back in 2001, glass bottles represented 22.5% of total milk sales.

Dairy UK said the industry as a whole had committed to eliminating unnecessary single–use plastic by 2025. Plastic bottles of the type commonly used for fresh milk are also among the most commonly recycled items in the UK, with 76% of them recycled, according to the Waste and Resources Action Programme. However, the amount of recycled material in new milk containers has fallen to around 25% as the dairy industry has been unable to compete with other non-food companies willing to pay higher prices for recycled plastics.

A wholesale move away from plastic packaging would require government investment to promote innovation, said Dr Judith Bryans, chief executive of Dairy UK. “We must also bear in mind that plastic provides food products with durable and safe packaging, avoiding unnecessary food waste, and can present a more energy efficient form of packaging when compared with other types,” she added.

While switching over to glass reduces potential plastic waste, the benefits in terms of greenhouse gas emissions depends on the number of times the bottles are re-used and whether the milk is sourced locally. The dairy company Arla claims that plastic milk bottles have lower total carbon emissions than glass, with reduced transport emissions per bottle because they can be packed more tightly together.

Glass bottles would need to be reused at least 20 times, concluded a study by researchers at Manchester University, in order to make their carbon footprint comparable to partly recycled plastics.

Bryce thinks he has already beaten that: they are still re-using the batches of glass bottles and plastics that he purchased last year. “A few of the bottles and plastic containers have been broken and had to be recycled, but most of them have gone through 52 washes now and are still being re-used.”

Plastic bottles are not the only potential single-use plastic waste stream on dairy farms. Around 85,000 tonnes of silage wrap and other agricultural plastic waste is generated every year by the farm sector. Silage wrap is used by dairy farmers to store fodder and feed cows over the winter months when the grass is not growing. However, it is often contamination by soil, which makes it more difficult to recycle.

In 2009, the UK government rejected calls to introduce a producer responsibility scheme to ensure all on-farm plastics were recycled. It said the size of the waste stream was too small (at 1.5% of total plastic waste in the UK) to justify such an intervention.

Bryce said he was working with a local company on a biodegradable silage wrap, but that the designers currently lacked funding to bring it to market. He only sources chemicals and other inputs for his dairy from agricultural companies that will take back plastics after use.

Although he’s been contacted by other dairy farmers about going single-use plastic free, Bryce does not expect a large number to follow suit.

“Cheap milk in plastic containers is not going away yet, but I think we will see a second tier of milk production from smaller farms being sold directly to customers at a premium that allows them to farm more closely with nature.

“We see our business being part of a revival of an old-fashioned milk industry that cuts out the big dairy companies and supermarkets and creates a more sustainable model of dairy farming,” he said.


Yorkshire dairy farm deny they are the source of E.coli outbreak and continue delivering milk to customers

A family-owned dairy farm have denied they are the source of an outbreak of the dangerous bug E.coli.

Barnsley Council and Public Health England issued a statement advising customers not to drink milk from Darwin’s Dairy, near Penistone, and have asked the farm’s owners to recall their products currently on sale after 18 people in South Yorkshire were diagnosed with the illness.

Yet fifth-generation farmer Ben Darwin posted on the dairy’s Facebook page to claim that the investigation was ‘pure speculation’ and that he has obtained milk from a neighbouring farmer in order to fulfill his doorstep delivery orders.

The council’s director of public health, Julia Burrows, said that a potential problem was identified with the pasteurisation process at the farm in Oxspring, where the milk comes from a free-range herd.

Environmental health officers visited the family-owned business after an increase in E.coli cases in Doncaster, Barnsley and Sheffield this month. Nine of the 18 victims had consumed Darwin’s products, although the farm has not been confirmed as the source of the outbreak.

All of those affected are recovering from the stomach illness, which can be fatal in extreme cases.

Ben Darwin said:-

“Regarding the statement put out by Barnsley Council on a product recall for our milk. I would like to clarify that there is no confirmed link or evidence with the health issues highlighted in the council’s statement – it’s pure speculation and I am deeply upset and frustrated that such a statement can be released without sufficient evidence. We strive to supply our loyal customers with a quality local product that is regularly tested to the highest standards required. I hope this answers any questions or worries you may have.

“I am out this morning doing our doorstep deliveries, but as we are still waiting for the local authority to present us with any evidence of wrongdoing or any answers as to when we can start bottling milk again, so the milk I am delivering I have had to source from a very good neighbour of mine. I just don’t want to let people down.

“Thank you to all the support I have received it is appreciated, it makes us as a family think we can get through this.”

Darwin’s supplies milk to local shops, cafes and other businesses in the area and has a doorstep delivery round in Thurgoland, Silkstone Common, Oxspring, Hoylandswaine and Penistone. Their clients include Sheffield wedding venue Spicer Manor.

Barnsley Council statement

Statement from Julia Burrows, director of public health at Barnsley Council and Dr Nachi Arunachalam, consultant in communicable Disease Control at Public Health England Yorkshire and the Humber:-

“Barnsley Council and Public Health England are informing residents across South Yorkshire of a recall of dairy products from Darwin’s Dairy.

“As a precautionary measure, we have advised Darwin’s Dairy to recall all milk, (whole milk, skimmed and semi-skimmed) and cream products currently in circulation. This became necessary after a potential processing problem was identified with the pasteurisation process that could have affected some milk and cream products that could still be stored in people’s fridges.

“Their products can be identified by:

– A Darwin’s logo somewhere on the container either ‘Darwin’s Dairy’ or ‘NP & DJ Darwin Ltd’

– Wording: ‘produced at Whitefield Farm, Oxspring, Barnsley’

– An oval mark bearing the following inside the oval ‘UK YB006 EC’.

“The dairy is co-operating fully with our advice. If you have bought these products, do not eat or drink them but dispose of them.

“Environmental Health Officers visited the dairy after Public Health England Yorkshire and the Humber became aware of an increase in E.coli cases in South Yorkshire, though it is important to be aware that the dairy has not been confirmed as the source of the outbreak at this stage.

“A total of 18 confirmed or probable cases have been identified in people with links to Barnsley, Doncaster or Sheffield in November 2019. Nine of these cases are known to have consumed Darwin’s Dairy products before becoming unwell. Those affected are recovering at home and in hospital.

What is E.coli?

E.coli can cause a serious infection in those with weakened immune systems or vulnerable groups, including babies, the elderly or pregnant women. Symptoms of E.coli include stomach cramps and diarrhoea that may be bloody. These usually last up to a week. However, some infections can be severe and may be life-threatening. As with all instances of diarrhoea and vomiting, it is important that people keep hydrated and stay away from work or school for as long as symptoms persist. If you do notice blood in your stool, contact your GP immediately.


Possible class action lawsuit over alleged abuse at Indiana Fairlife dairy farm

Multiple federal lawsuits have been filed accusing Fairlife of abusing cows at an Indiana dairy farm, saying the company’s claims that it treats animals humanely are fraudulent.

Lawyers tied to eight lawsuits gathered at a Chicago federal court hearing Tuesday to discuss seeking class-action status for millions of consumers represented in the suits, reported the Chicago Tribune.

An animal rights group released undercover video in June it said shows farm workers kicking and throwing calves. Dozens of grocers pulled Fairlife milk in response.

Plaintiff attorney Amy Keller says consumers who paid higher prices for Chicago-based Fairlife products on grounds it was humanely produced “feel betrayed.”

Fairlife is one of several defendants. It said in one filing that “alleged isolated acts” by “rogue employees” don’t render its animal-care claims false.


UAE demand soars for European dairy products

French Dairy Board says European cream exports to the UAE increased to more than 8,700 tonnes

The UAE’s imports of European cream increased to 8,702 tonnes in 2018 with France exporting 3,533 tonnes alone, according to the latest research from CNIEL, the French Dairy Board.

The value of French cream exported to the UAE in 2018 was valued at over AED36 million, an increase of 18 percent on 2017 and a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.3 percent since 2010.

Marie-Laure Martin, international project manager from CNIEL, said: “The UAE and France enjoy a strong bond thanks to business and cultural links. French food exports, particularly cream, has helped further endorse the relationship between both countries as it grows in popularity from both a commercial perspective, through the increasing number of hotels ahead of Expo 2020, and from residents who are using the finest produce when baking or cooking meals at home.”

In addition to the UAE, several other countries in the Middle East have seen the popularity of European dairy exports increase in the last decade, she added.

Saudi Arabia imported 12,921 tonnes of EU cream, totalling over AED147 million while Kuwait and Lebanon have seen this value of EU cream imports in 2018 increase to AED28.8 million and AED43.8 respectively.

The value of European cheese imported by the UAE also increased during the same period by 8.5 percent to AED383 million with 18,311 tonnes imported, among which 3,081 tonnes of French cheese.

Saudi Arabia imported AED534 million of European cheese last year, a 8.2 percent CAGR since 2010 while Kuwait and Lebanon imported AED373.8 million and AED108.8 respectively.

“In terms of French cheese, many people know Camembert, Roquefort and Brie however we want everyone to become familiar with the likes of Morbier, Fourme d’ambert as well as Tomme de Savoie, and Comté,” said Martin.

European butter imports in 2018 by the UAE totaled 4,294 tonnes with a total value of over AED95.7 million, denoting a CAGR of 13.1 percent since 2010.

Butter exports have also proven popular in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Kuwait, with the countries witnessing a CAGR of 21.1 percent, 5.8 percent and 10.3 percent respectively from 2010.

The French Dairy Board was recently in Dubai where it invited six of the leading women in the pastry world from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and France from some of Dubai’s leading hotels and bakeries to discuss the merits of French cream.


Former ACCC chair Fels: No competition concerns for Australian in latest China dairy deal

The former head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Allan Fels, does not expect significant competition issues to emerge when the ACCC assesses China Mengniu Dairy’s proposed $600 million purchase of a key Australian milk processor.

Professor Fels also said he would be surprised if there was a “FIRB (Foreign Investment Review Board) problem” with the plan, under which Mengniu would buy Lion’s dairy and drinks business that produces brands such as Big M, Pura Milk and Dairy Farmers.

China Mengnui Dairy will own leading brands such as Dairy Farmers and Pura milk if its deal to buy Lion Dairy & Drinks is approved.
China Mengnui Dairy will own leading brands such as Dairy Farmers and Pura milk if its deal to buy Lion Dairy & Drinks is approved. Credit:Mick Tsikas

In an interview with The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald Professor Fels said allegations in this masthead in recent days about alleged Chinese interference in Australia, including claims that a Chinese espionage ring attempted to install an agent for Beijing in a seat in Federal Parliament, were “irrelevant” to FIRB’s consideration of the Mengniu/Lion deal.

“I think Australia has an important long-term economic relationship with China to maintain, and it should at all times pursue that where there are no security issues. We shouldn’t let security concerns get in the way of standard economic transactions,” he said.

Asked if the proposed transaction presented any security concerns, he said it did not.

Professor Fels said Mengniu was not buying a competitor, adding that Mengniu’s association with South Gippsland dairy processor Burra Foods would not stop the deal. And if it did emerge as an issue it could be addressed, he said.

“The ACCC’s only concern is with the impact on domestic competition,” he said.

“Effectively Mengniu barely operates in Australia, it’s not a competitor, so there should be no competition issue.”

China’s Inner Mongolia Fuyuan Farming company, which is part of the Mengniu group, became the biggest shareholder in Burra Foods in 2016. Burra is a supplier of fresh milk, cheese and milk powder from its plant in Korumburra, but is a far smaller player than big processors such as Saputo and Fonterra.

The Mengniu/Lion deal, which needs approval from both the FIRB and ACCC, sparked controversy in some quarters on Monday when it was announced. Lion is owned by the giant Japanese brewer and food company Kirin.

It has also emerged at an extremely sensitive time in relations between Australia and China.

Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie lashed out over the deal on Monday. “There’s no end in sight to the fire sale of Australian and Australian-based companies to the Chinese,” he said.

Giovanni Di Liepo, senior lecturer in international trade law at the Monash Business School at Monash University, said if the recent allegations of Chinese interference in Australia had never emerged he would be confident the FIRB would approve the deal.

“(Now) I’m not so sure about it, I would say it’s 50/50, purely for political reasons,” he said.

“If you look at the commercial details, I’d say there’s no reason not to approve it…on the face of it you go from a foreign investor to another foreign investor.”

Dr Di Liepo, who has lived in China, said he used to buy Mengniu milk when he lived there “because it was the safest”, adding that Mengniu was a reputable company.

The deal follows the recent sale of Lion’s specialty cheese business to Canadian-based dairy giant Saputo for $280 million. Saputo now receives more milk than any other dairy processor in Australia.


Drought-stricken Australian dairy farmer uses Instagram following to open public, government’s eyes

He gets up at 3.30 every morning knowing that he’s working hard only to lose more than $2000 a day.

“I don’t want to be seen as a whingeing farmer…but the future’s looking very grim,” he says.


View this post on Instagram


We wanted to have an honest and truthful chat about the effects of the ongoing drought. We understand that majority of the Australian population live in metro areas and don’t see what we see and or don’t know how we live on a daily basis. 🌾 The drought does not just affect us farmers, but it has a knock on affect to many of the small rural towns that only exist or were built up for suppling farming communities. 🐓 We still have our whole herd of cows who are milked twice a day to continue producing milk that we send to Bega Cheese but it’s not without spending every dollar the farm makes in buying in feed for the cows to be fed twice a day. We do not produce any feed for them off the farm anymore at all and soon we will be buying in water for them to drink. All types of farmers are most definitely doing it tough right now as we all need rain to continue on. Some farmers are worse than others and some farmers just can not cope with the huge amounts of stress, exhaustion, hope and physical and emotional pain and are forced to give up. 🥕 We are not asking for anything from anyone, other than to just speak about it. Have it on your mind when you do your shopping and remember that even if it rains, farmers are still in years of debt. If you listen to Toad’s story our farm will be going into the negative of over $60k in this month alone. Next month will be worse and the month after worse again. It’s just how it is. 🐄 Buy local, choose fresh and consider Australian produce first. Thanks for listening and reading guys. 👌🏻 • • #honestfarmyarn #farmers #drought2019 #thinkaboutafarmer #supportaussiefarmers

A post shared by Toad & Mandy (@toadandmandy) on

Toad Heffernan has used his burgeoning social media following to highlight the struggles of farming in the worst drought on record.

Toad is a seventh-generation dairy farmer at Candelo – and he holds out hope he won’t be the end of that proud line of farmers.

“Every drought ends in rain,” he says. “It’s whether you come out with it at the other end.”

Along with wife Mandy, the couple came to much greater prominence when they won last year’s season of House Rules.

Now with a large, and growing, social media following as a result of their TV success, they have taken to Instagram to draw attention to the plight of farmers in the current drought.

An “honest and truthful chat” posted to Instagram on Sunday has already had more than 15,000 views plus been shared widely across Facebook.

In the video Toad tells his followers the extreme plight being faced by he and his fellow farmers and other primary producers in the Bega Valley – and beyond – during this ongoing drought.

“I can see who our audience is and I wanted to put it out there to let them know how [expletive] tough it is.

“But also how resilient farmers are – it’s a lifestyle we choose and we still get out there every day.

“They’re people who would otherwise not see this and I wanted to show them exactly what’s going on.”

He says the creek running through their property is “bone dry…and has been for a while”, and they haven’t irrigated for months.

He won’t even put summer crops in the ground, “it’s not worth it”.

The dam featured in his video is the only one he has still with water in it, and little enough at that, with him walking his dairy herd to it daily for a drink.

“The further a cow walks the less milk you get. We can’t afford to walk them, but can’t afford not to either.

“The money we won on the show I could’ve blown on feed in no time at all,” he says.

“Instead we’re trying to set up a salon so there’s some off-farm business.”

Even with that, it won’t be much of a festive Christmas around the Heffernan household. Toad says he is behind $64,000 just this month, and there won’t be enough money to pay themselves a wage for December.

“I worked it out, it’s around $2100 a day you’re getting out of bed at 3 in the morning to lose,” he says in his Instagram video.

“The government’s got to pull their head out of their arse. I’m all for foreign aid [when times are good] but the people in your own backyard are the ones struggling.”

Toad said more needed to be done by governments to get dams and water to those who are in desperate need. Moreso than low-interest loans that some farmers may not be able to pay back given the situation in which they’re finding themselves.

He says he has spoken to farmers who can stand beside a river on the basin watching precious water flowing past them, but they can’t touch it because the credits are owned elsewhere – and it’s unlikely they could afford it even if the option was available to them.

“I don’t know how much longer we can go for. This summer will knock a few farmers about.

“But we hold out hope. My grandparents set this farm up an there’s no better satisfaction than working alongside family.

“But to keep it on pride? Until the bank tells you to close up?

“We’re even in a better position that other farmers in the Valley. There are some leasing cows or leasing the farm and then still having to buy in water and feed.

“When you see the emotion of the older generation, when you see them worry, it makes you worry a bit.

“I can turn my hand to most things, but to walk off the farm or have a friend shoot themselves, that’s the terrible bit – and it’s happening.”

With their 46,000 followers and 15,100 video views and counting, one can only hope the message is being heard loud and clear.

“I just want people to see it – and I hope that sparks something in the government. And I hope that the ‘let’s do something’ happens before we finish up.”

Source:  Newcastle Herald

Australian dairy company sold to China in multi-million-dollar takeover

One of Australia’s largest dairy operations is set to be bought by China’s biggest dairy chain, a deal which includes some of the country’s most popular milk and juice brands.
China Mengniu will pay Japanese beverage giant Kirin $600 million for the Lion Dairy & Drinks portfolio.
The Lion brands include Dairy Farmers, Masters and Pura milk; Dare and Farmers Union iced coffee; Big M, Dairy Farmers and Pura Classic flavoured milk; Vitasoy soy milk and coconut milk; juice brands Daily Juice, The Juice Brothers and Berri; and Yoplait yogurt, under licence.
China is set to acquire some of Australia's biggest milk brands in a multi-million-dollar deal.
China is set to acquire some of Australia’s biggest milk brands in a multi-million-dollar deal. (9News)
Major Australian brands like Dairy Farmers, Pura, Dare and Big M are all part of the deal.
Major Australian brands like Dairy Farmers, Pura, Dare and Big M are all part of the deal. (9News)
China Mengniu is also behind the $1.5 billion bid for organic infant formula maker Bellamy’s Australia.
“The big issue about this is for our farmers and how tough the dairy industry already has it,” 9News Finance Editor Ross Greenwood said on Today.
“Most Australians don’t know that we import dairy products into this country because we don’t make enough of it here in Australia.
“Milk production has been on decline and dairy farmers have just got out of the business.”
He said Lion Drinks have been trying to sell the business for almost two years and the takeover is subject to approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board.
“(Lion) paid $2 billion dollars for it going back about five-years-ago and it sold for $600 million, that’s how tough the industry is,” Greenwood said.
Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee (Supplied)
There are concerns over whether Australian dairy will be pushed overseas rather than staying with the Australian market.
There are concerns over whether Australian dairy will be pushed overseas rather than staying with the Australian market. (9News)
With Lion Drinks holding close to 20 per cent of Australia’s milk market, there are questions whether our milk products will go to Australian consumers or to the Chinese market, with the deal a sensitive topic for local farmers, consumers and Government agencies.
While Mengniu say the takeover will grow Australia’s dairy industry, Greenwood warns they will likely sell to the market offering more money for it.
The acquisition is subject to Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and Foreign Investment Review Board approvals.
Source: 9news

Dairy files complaint against US, DoD and Air Force

A family dairy battling contaminated groundwater adjacent to Cannon Air Force Base has filed a complaint against the United States, the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force.

Art and Renee Schaap, doing business as Highland Dairy of Clovis, filed the claim Thursday in U.S. District Court in South Carolina. The court is also handling various suits regarding perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

Highland claims negligence, nuisance, trespass and failure to warn by the defendants.

The claim requests a jury trial in New Mexico and seeks damages to be determined at trial covering the repair or restoration of property, the cattle, the filtration system.

The dairy has also filed suit against manufacturers and suppliers of PFOS.

The complaint alleges the Air Force used harmful chemicals in its firefighting foam for decades, failed to notify Highland of the contamination and only provided clean water for human consumption while not considering water for animal or agricultural consumption.

The chemicals, the claim said, do not break down in the environment and in the case of Highland Dairy contaminated the water supply used for nearly 7,000 cattle.

Art Schaap, according to the claim, noticed his cattle were each producing less milk to the tune of $1 million in annual losses. He did not consider water supply contamination until he received a letter in August 2018 from CAFB. A few weeks after initial contact from the base, testing determined PFOA and PFOS at more than 23 times and nine times advisory levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The dairy soon saw purchase agreements terminated and in November 2018 received a suspension of its milk production permit by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.

“Defendants,” the claim said, “through the negligent, reckless and/or intentional acts and omissions have contaminated plaintiff’s wells, rendering water served from them unfit for human, animal or agricultural consumption.”

Air Force officials have said repeatedly they do not have the legal authority to take actions on behalf of livestock or agricultural products.

New Mexico is suing the Air Force over the chemicals near Cannon and Holloman Air Force Base.

The state’s environment department and attorney general’s office have requested a preliminary injunction to compel the Air Force to begin immediate cleanup. Those legal actions await a federal judge’s decision.


Jersey Canada Accepting Entries for their All-Canadian Contest

Established in 1955, the All Canadian Contest is a Jersey Canada award program that recognizes top Jerseys on the Canadian show circuit. Traditionally these cows enjoy the attention and prestige of being named an All Canadian. Along with their photo and qualifying show results, winning and nominated cows are showcased in the February issue of the Jersey Breeder magazine as well as listed on the Jersey Canada website and announced through email and social media channels. For each class, All Canadian winners receive an award at the Jersey Canada Annual General Meeting. The All Canadian Contest has been sponsored by Agri-Brands Purina.

Entry deadline is Monday, December 2, 2019

Visit the Jersey Canada website for to enter and for more information on the rules & regulations.

Online Cheese Sales Set to Surpass Half a Billion Dollars in 2020

Online cheese sales are experiencing major growth. By the end of 2019, IRI data shows that e-commerce sales will surge past $440 million. The 54% annual growth in online sales over the past four years signals that shoppers are embracing the convenience and variety available when ordering cheese online.

With the holidays being the peak shopping season for cheese, cheese is poised to be one of the hottest gifts this holiday season. If you’re looking for the perfect gift for the foodie on your Christmas list, share a taste of Wisconsin and get the world’s most awarded cheese delivered straight to their door.

“Consumer research shows that cheese aligns with on-trend food preferences because it is packed with protein and good fat,” says Suzanne Fanning, Senior Vice President at Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin and Chief Marketing Officer for Wisconsin Cheese. “To make it easy for consumers to get the best Wisconsin has to offer, our experts have curated a list of the best holiday gift baskets from retailers across our state.”

The collection includes twelve unique gift baskets that offer a variety of delicious, innovative and award-winning cheeses from top specialty retailers. Get free shipping nationwide on the entire collection from Black Friday to Cyber Monday at

A sample of the holiday gift baskets include the following:

  • The Wisconsin Ultimate Collection Gift set features hand-cut selections of Wisconsin’s finest cheeses, carefully wrapped in cheesepaper, delivered to your door. Just pair with the included assortment of crackers, preserves, and relish for an experience that won’t be soon forgotten.
  • Choose to delight your loved one with three monthly deliveries of Wisconsin’s finest cheese with the Cheese of The Month Club – Three Month Subscription. Curated with specifically selected and cut 1/2 pound servings of cheese, this really is the gift that keeps on giving.
  • For somebody who seeks the highest quality food and drink, choose the Master Cheesemaker Collection. These cheeses are crafted by graduates of Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Program, which is a high honor for elite cheesemakers and the only program of its type outside of Switzerland. It’s a like getting a Master’s Degree in cheesemaking.

View the entire collection, ranging from $50 to $150 at Find tips on how to serve Wisconsin Cheese, including seasonal recipes, cheeseboard inspiration, cheese and wine pairing guides and more on

About Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin: Funded by Wisconsin dairy farmers, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin is a non-profit organization that focuses on marketing and promoting Wisconsin’s world-class dairy products. For more information, visit our website at

About Wisconsin Cheese: The tradition of cheesemaking excellence began more than 150 years ago, before Wisconsin was recognized as a state. Wisconsin’s 1,200 cheesemakers, many of whom are third- and fourth-generation, continue to pass on old-world traditions while adopting modern innovations in cheesemaking craftsmanship. For more information, visit or connect on Facebook.

Dairy Out of India-US Trade Talks for Now

India and the US have identified almost 40 products like pistachios, walnuts and apples that can be considered for duty concessions. The two sides are also trying to zero in on workable concessions for medical devices.

The issues were discussed at an official-level meeting between trade negotiators of the two countries last week even as there were no talks on dairy imports. “Discussions are mostly around agricultural goods,” a source said.

Washington is also said to have asked New Delhi to reduce the import duty on pulses. The US, along with Canada and Australia, had moved the World Trade Organization (WTO) against India’s ban on import of certain pulses to check falling prices in the domestic market. India, however, doesn’t have any issues with increased import of pistachios from the US, sources said.

“There is slow progress on the talks,” said one of them. The progress comes after commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal met US Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer and American medical devices industry representatives in the US a fortnight ago. Lighthizer is likely to visit India soon.

Price controls on medical devices and dairy imports are the other key issues that the two sides have been trying to resolve.


Goyal has said that protecting the farming community and religious sensitivities while importing products having animal feed in their food chain are the red lines in India’s trade negotiations with the US. Dairy was one of the sectors that had vehemently opposed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade agreement that India decided not to join after seven years of negotiations.

Experts called the progress in the India-US talks a steppingstone towards a trade package.

“This is a good progress because both sides have sensitive issues. The way the two sides are progressing, a trade package could be finalised in a month or two,” said an expert on trade issues.


New Bill Will Help Preserve Family Farms

A bill introduced today to help more farm families continue their livelihoods after the death of a loved one has the full support of the American Farm Bureau Federation. The Preserving Family Farms Act of 2019 is sponsored by Reps. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) and Jackie Warlorski (R-Ind.).

“Farm and ranch families often face a significant financial burden when they have to pay estate taxes,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “Farm families should be able to pay based on how their land is actually used, rather than its potential value as commercial property such as a shopping center. AFBF commends Representatives Panetta and Warlorski for introducing the Preserving Family Farms Act of 2019, which will give more families hope they can hold on to the farm when a loved one passes. We strongly urge House members to co-sponsor this important bill.”

The legislation modernizes the special use valuation provision of the estate tax. This valuation allows property to be appraised as farmland rather than its development value when determining estate taxes. Increasing the amount of farmland or ranchland that can be valued at agriculture value rather than development value would help protect family-owned farm and ranch businesses by assessing estate taxes on the actual value of the businesses they have spent decades building.

“Allowing more farmland to qualify for special use valuation would elevate this provision of the tax code to its proper place as a helpful estate planning tool,” Duvall said.


Russian dairy farm fits animals with headsets

Russian dairy cows have been fitted with virtual-reality headsets, pictured, in an experiment to see whether the cutting-edge technology can improve milk production

Virtual reality…. for COWS: Russian dairy farm fits animals with headsets to ‘improve their wellbeing’ and improve production

A Russian dairy farm has strapped virtual reality headsets to its cows in an experiment to ‘improve their wellbeing’ and increase milk production. 

Farmers worked with developers, vets and consultants at the Krasnogorsk farm near Moscow, to beam the cattle a simulation of a summer field.   

The study revealed ‘reduced anxiety and improved overall emotional mood in the herd’, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food in Moscow. 

Russian dairy cows have been fitted with virtual-reality headsets, pictured, in an experiment to see whether the cutting-edge technology can improve milk production

An upcoming part of the study will observe whether this ‘improved overall mood’ has a positive effect on milk production.    

The hardware was developed by taking a human VR headset and moulding it to the specifications of the animal’s head. IT specialists then tweaked the colour palette in the software to make it more suitable to the animal’s unique vision. 

Though not colour blind, cows can’t see red or green and only perceive dull shades of yellow and blue.  

The Ministry of Agriculture referred to Dutch and Scottish research findings that ‘environmental conditions have a significant impact on cow health and, as a consequence, the quality and quantity of milk produced.’ 

They added that the agriculture industry is increasingly relying on robotics to improve the emotional welfare of cattle.  

In America, automated rotating brushes are used to massage the cattle. In other parts of Moscow, farmers play classical music to relax them into producing more milk. 

In Europe, the automation of milking has allowed farmers more time to inspect the udders, hooves and general wellbeing of the herd.   


China, U.S. Trade Talks Continue With Some Signs of Progress

China said it will raise penalties on violations of intellectual property rights in an attempt to address one of the sticking points in trade talks with the U.S.

The country will also look into lowering the thresholds for criminal punishments for those who steal IP, according to guidelines issued by the government on Sunday. It didn’t elaborate on what such moves might entail.

The U.S. wants China to commit to cracking down on IP theft and stop forcing U.S. companies to hand over their commercial secrets as a condition of doing business there. China said it’s aiming to reduce frequent IP violations by 2022 and plans to make it easier for victims of transgressions to receive compensation.

The two countries are working toward a partial trade deal and leaving the more controversial issues for later discussions. China’s chief trade negotiator spoke last week about its plans for reforming state enterprises, opening up the financial sector and enforcing intellectual property rights — issues at the core of U.S. demands for change in China’s economic system.

“Strengthening IPR protection is the most important content of improving the IPR protection system and also the biggest incentive to boost China’s economic competitiveness,” according to the guidelines. Local governments will be required to implement the strengthening of IP rights, it said.

In May, the U.S. added Huawei Technologies Co. to what’s known as the entity list in an effort to block U.S. companies from selling components to China’s largest technology company. Huawei is accused of being a threat to America’s national security, and has denied those claims.

Last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping said his nation wants to work toward a phase-one trade agreement with the U.S. that’s based in part on “equality.” That’s a guiding principle that President Donald Trump just hours later said he doesn’t share.

“This can’t be like an even deal, because we’re starting off on the floor and you’re already at the ceiling. So we have to have a much better deal,” Trump said in an interview Friday on Fox News.

Negotiators from both countries have been talking regularly, trying to bridge the remaining differences on issues including Chinese pledges to buy American farm products, protect intellectual-property rights and open its economy further to foreign companies. They have struggled to agree on exactly what tariffs each side would roll back as part of the agreement’s initial step.


Wisconsin dairy farmers turned dog-sled racers

Richard Baum’s farm used to be filled with a small herd of 25 registered dairy cows. But now he’s opened his farm to dry-land sled dog competitions.

“It’s a family thing. You know, you’ll see people here, I mean everybody in the family is doing part of the race,” Braum said.

The Baum family got involved with sled dog racing because of their daughter’s interest in animals. When the neighbor’s Husky had puppies, they adopted one. From that point on, their passion grew.

“That’s one thing nice with the farming, it really fit in because we have the area to work with them,” Braum said.

“You can make trails, and you can do training all year-round.”

He said there are many parallels with dairy farming and dog sled racing.

“The feeding, the cleaning up, and the daily care of them. You know it’s the same as the cows.”

Jan Bootz-Dittmar, who operates a dairy farm with her husband, has been racing for years and said it’s become a real passion for her.

“All I ever wanted was four dogs, that’s all I ever wanted, and now I have 24,” Bootz-Dittmar said.

She also sees several parallels with dog racing and dairy farming.

“It’s not a hobby anymore, now it’s just a way of life, Bootz-Dittmar said.

“You have to be out there taking care of the dogs morning, noon, and night.”

Jan also said it’s not only the love of animals and the adrenaline rush, but something else which keeps her racing.

“We are very competitive people, but if there’s ever any problems, we can count on each other to help.”

While farming may still be part of Jan’s life, the Baum’s are happy that their farm is still a place for animals and people to work together.

Source: WKOW

Investors dump Fonterra shares

A lot of work to do: Fonterra chairman John Monaghan flanked by re-elected directors Donna Smit and Andy Macfarlane following the co-op’s annual meeting earlier this month.

Fonterra’s poor performance is driving institutional investors away from the co-op.

And Fonterra Shareholders Fund chairman John Sherwin says the co-op needs to meet key milestones to regain investors’ confidence in it as an investment proposition.

The FSF annual meeting in Auckland last week heard that institution and private wealth holdings reduced over the 2019 financial year as the co-op struggled with some poor performing assets. 

Institutional shareholding declined from 25% to 15% and private wealth declined from 14% to 7%, compared to the previous year.

Sherwin says these investors were also waiting for greater clarity on Fonterra’s strategy and earnings outlook. i

“While we have seen improved sentiment, Fonterra now needs to meet, and continue to meet, key milestones to regain confidence in it as an investment proposition,” Sherwin told about 100 unit and shareholders.

The drop in institutional investors, however, had little effect on the number of units issued by FSF:  102 million units were issued — 0.6 million less than the previous year

This was mostly due to Fonterra farmers buying more shares for two reasons; a situation described by Sherwin as “somewhat of a dichotomy”.

Fonterra farmers need one share for every kgMS they supply the co-op. Farmers who have reached the upper limit of non-supply backed Fonterra shares they can hold are purchasing shares and converting them to FSF units for future share compliance requirements.

“It appears that due to the historically low unit price, a number of these farmers have proactively acquired units which they will be able to transfer to shares when required,” said Sherwin.

Also, farmers who have ceased to supply Fonterra are converting their shares to units.

Sherwin says these farmers are in varying stages of the mandatory three-year sell down period of their Fonterra shares. 

“However, not wanting to exit the co-op at the current price, they have opted to convert their shares to units. 

“Some of these farmers would have only been required to sell the first third or second third of their shares.”

Sherwin says this is likely to be the primary driver of the increase in units issued to 111 million in late January. Also, some farmers may simply be choosing to hold units as they want to remain connected to the co-op.

The share price hit a 12-month low of $3.15 in late August, but it rebounded to about $4.16 last week.

Sherwin says while market sentiment has improved slightly, investors are keen to see how Fonterra’s new strategy will work.

“There are still many questions on what the business will look like in the future. And receiving greater detail on the strategy in FY20 will be instrumental in helping unit holders and farmers looking for more accountability.”

Unit holders unhappy too

Unhappy Fonterra unit holders fired questions to Fonterra management on A2 milk, Australian business and milk price paid to farmer shareholders.

One shareholder, Robert Gray, noted that A2 Milk used to be “a penny dreadful” but now Fonterra exists in its shadow. He questioned why Fonterra has not taken the initiatives A2 Milk has taken.

Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell acknowledged the great work A2 has done.

“They have found themselves a fantastic position in the Chinese market and done pretty well as a result. There’s no point in looking back over that other than taking some learnings.”

He said Fonterra was now part of the A2 milk market.

Another unit holder asked why Tip Top was sold by Fonterra, and whether it was incurring a loss.

Hurrell says Tip Top was making a decent return on the investment, but it was “by and large a confectionary company”.

Shareholder Philip van der Waal questioned why the asset sale review did not include Australian assets.

Hurrell said the Australian business is very important and a lot of milk from NZ ends up there.

“A lot of milk is sent across to the Australian market. They produce a lot of our nutritional powders.”

Van der Waal called for a review of the milk price so that it’s fair to both farmer suppliers and unit holders.


Milk producers should have drone technology to measure grass cover

Milk producers should have drone technology to not only measure grass cover, but energy and protein levels within a couple of years at well under £5000 per unit.

That is the prediction of Duncan Forbes who is heading up the South West Dairy Development Centre at Shepton Mallet where they are working on the technology to enable them to be able to each day accurately allocate their six-hour grazing blocks based on detailed sward data.



However, after a full year in operation, the centre has fallen short of its predicted volume milk yield target, but produced some astounding solids figures. Volume was around 8000 litres against a target of 9000 litres for the Holstein-Friesian herd.

“We’re not slavishly pursuing yields as we are more interested in efficiency of production and optimising the amount of milk we are able get from forage in general, as producing milk from forage is a lot cheaper than milk from concentrates,” he said.

“We have better quality milk than we used in our original budget of 9000 litres, but if you fat correct the volume it comes to 642kg solids, which is close to the 650kg target.

“We are averaging 4.6-4.7% fat and 3.6-3.7 protein, and when we get to 9000 litres we will be knocking 650kg out of the window,” he claimed.

“According to Kingshay costings, a litre of milk from concentrates will cost you about 14p, or roughly half your milk price. From grass or maize silage it will be roughly 7p.

“But if you send the cows out to do the harvesting themselves, it is about 3p.

“We’re aiming to develop precision grazing and I can entirely understand why producers don’t like the inaccuracy and imprecision of grazing – they have much more precision when they are feeding with a mixer wagon and when they turn them out to grazing they lose that level of precision.”

But he said technology would help put precision into grazing.

“I think we can do a lot with soil sensors which are telling us about the moisture content of the soil, the temperature and even the biological activity in the soil,” he said.

“If we can combine that with meteorological data, we should be able to get a much better forecast of the forage availability going forwards.”

Asked about how the robotic milking was working with grazing, he said there were always one of two late lactation cows which were reluctant to return as their concentrate
lure was insufficient to entice them back.


How Diagnostics Kept the Swiss Mad Cow Disease Program a Step Ahead During a Crisis

When the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) crisis hit, Switzerland was a step ahead of many countries in Europe. The Swiss National Reference Laboratory had already implemented measures that would pay off in two ways: by controlling the disease in the cattle population and by protecting the human population. To start, Switzerland was the first country to apply extra surveillance using a rapid diagnostic test.

After training as a veterinarian, in 2003 Dr. Torsten Seuberlich joined the NeuroCentre Department of Clinical Research and Veterinary Public Health, Division of Experimental Clinical Research, at the University of Bern, Switzerland, where he now leads a team of researchers. The Division of Neurological Sciences acts as the Swiss National Reference Laboratory for Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies in animals. In 1998, they became one of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) Reference Laboratories for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) and Scrapie. The current role of the Swiss National Reference Laboratory is confirmatory diagnostics of clinical cases and suspected cases. As part of the national surveillance program, the laboratory also screens a percentage of all the samples that pass through the routine testing laboratories.

“When we received our OIE reference lab mandate, we were one of the few countries in continental Europe with indigenous BSE cases,” said Dr. Torsten Seuberlich, professor at the University of Bern NeuroCentre Department of Clinical Research and Veterinary Public Health. “Our institute had a long-standing tradition in neuropathology in animals, which included the microscopic investigation of cattle brains. At the time, we also already had the experience of using rapid tests in this screening program. BSE investigations were our core expertise and we were in a position to advise the OIE and other European countries.”

Surveillance implementation in Switzerland

The Swiss National Reference Laboratory had the opportunity to work with Prionics, a small spin-off company from the University of Zurich that is now part of Thermo Fisher Scientific, which had developed an antibody to test for the bovine prion protein. The company also had a procedure to use it in a Western blot assay.

“The first trials were done in the framework of a BSE control in Switzerland, so we were able to collaborate with the cofounders [and help] set up an active surveillance system,” he said. “This worked well in Switzerland because we were ready to actively look for cases; other countries were much too afraid.”

Unlike in other countries, Swiss leaders understood that BSE was not being transmitted like the flu, so there was no need to cull herds, nor did farmers incur huge economic losses. Cases detected in Switzerland were properly compensated, so it was not an issue for a farmer to report a BSE-suspicious animal.

Over time, the diagnostic collaboration efforts paid off and served as a progressive example for other countries. The general design of the Swiss active BSE surveillance program was adopted by other countries.

The evolution of active surveillance diagnostics

As soon as the rapid test became available, it was used on huge numbers of samples. The first study tested herds that were culled after BSE cases were diagnosed. The goal wasn’t to control the disease, but to see whether this type of test could identify additional BSE cases in the herd that were not detected by the clinical examination.

The Swiss team was surprised to see that the rapid test allowed them to identify additional animals on the same farm that were infected but did not yet show any signs of disease.

“That was the point where we realized the advantage of the rapid test,” said Dr. Seuberlich. “We could screen a sample of the population to assess the prevalence of the disease without relying on recognition of the clinical signs, which are often not easy to interpret, and without having a bias by reporting or not reporting. In this framework, the rapid test advances the whole process because it gives an unbiased view of the situation in the population.”

Based on the available diagnostics, the team quickly decided to test all Swiss animals at risk for BSE that had died on farms from other causes, because they were at a higher risk than animals that would go to a normal slaughterhouse. Thus, these were not animals that would enter the food chain.

“Our purpose was to follow and determine the prevalence and development of the disease,” he said. “The measures taken to protect the consumer were different. In our view, the testing had its main advantage in providing information on how well the measures that we applied to control the disease were working, which was really critical.”

BSE became an EU crisis

Two key factors created the BSE crisis in Europe. The first was the huge error of feeding meat and bone meal from ruminants back to ruminants. This choice opened up a way for the prion agent to recirculate in the cattle population. Due to the agent’s long incubation period, the error only became visible after years.

“When the disease was detected, it was actually too late to stop it and the main measure was to implement the feed ban, meaning to stop feeding meat and bone meal from cattle back to cattle,” explained Dr. Seuberlich. “However, the crisis was related to the pathology of the disease. When you implement [measures] to control the disease, you of course want it to show that effect immediately, but in this case, it took about five to six years after implementation, which was certainly a major factor in creating a crisis environment.”

The second key factor came in 1996 when it became clear that BSE affected not only cattle, but humans as well. It shifted from a pure cattle disease to a zoonotic disease, which created an atmosphere of fear for the public. At that time, it became a problem to find BSE cases in a population that authorities and politicians claimed was free from the disease.

“This was a disease nobody wanted to have, and if nobody wanted to have the disease, it just didn’t exist,” he said.

The number of cases of Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is correlated to BSE in humans, is considered low in Europe.

“Since 1996, there have been about 200 cases in total in the UK compared to almost 200,000 BSE cases, which is horrible, but it could have been much worse,” he noted. “In the rest of Europe, there are very few cases of Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease related to the BSE epidemic.”

Core components of the Swiss BSE program

The BSE program in Switzerland had two main pillars. The first was to control the disease within the cattle population, and for this goal, the main strategy was to ban the feeding of meat and bone meal to cattle in 1990.

The second pillar was to protect the human population from BSE exposure and infection. This initiative occurred at the slaughterhouse, where the animal carcasses were processed immediately. Specific tissues containing BSE prion activity were removed. This “specified risk material” included the brain, spinal cord and intestines. Switzerland focuses its testing on at-risk animals.

“The program was monitored by the effectiveness of these measures over the years, especially in the cattle population to control the disease,” Dr. Seuberlich explained. “We wanted to see how these three components played together: disease control in animals, consumer protection and surveillance. Surveillance has been reduced but is still ongoing.”

“Even now, I would not call it eradicated — just that the prevalence has dropped below our detection level — because, during the entirety of the epidemic, we never found 100% of the cases,” said Dr. Seuberlich.

The role of diagnostics in the program

“It would have taken much longer to identify the first cases in many countries without the initial product developed by Thermo Fisher Scientific,” said Dr. Seuberlich. “Then the rapid test really took BSE surveillance to another level, allowing us to monitor disease prevalence efficiently and to control the disease and assess whether the measures were working.”

“Given the situation in other European countries, it would have not been possible to detect BSE cases in 2000 without the diagnostic tools that had been developed,” he said.

The current BSE situation in Switzerland

Switzerland had the last reported BSE case in 2006. However, there are a few cases of atypical or sporadic BSE in the population. Their prevalence does not appear to change over time. In Europe, there are about three to four of these atypical BSE cases per year.

“The next hurdle is to maintain the situation, the surveillance measures, especially the meat and bone meal feeding ban and the removal of at-risk material from the carcasses at slaughterhouses,” Dr. Seuberlich said. “These are materials that have a value and need to be destroyed, and it costs money to destroy them. There’s pressure to change the system and to relieve some of the measures.”

The challenge is to keep the level of protection as-is but at the same time consider allowing changes to the controlled system that would prevent the disease from spreading in case of reemergence. These decisions are expected to arise in the future on an international level, he explained.

Lessons learned from BSE

The key lesson taught by BSE is that decisions in an emerging disease situation must be based on scientific evidence and not driven by consumer fear.

“At the beginning, nothing was known about the cause of the disease, how it was transmitted, the etiology, etc.,” explained Dr. Seuberlich. “Science must provide the basis to the people who are making decisions on the control measures. This became very clear during the BSE epidemic, and it would be the same for other emerging disease situations, like avian flu, swine flu and the like.”

One other lesson Dr. Seuberlich noted was to learn from and draw on the experience of others. He said the Swiss researchers had very open international communication and collaboration with the UK team. This collaboration quickly bolstered their knowledge and allowed their team to approach the disease with the scientific basis that helped them to avoid much of the public panic that other countries faced.

Collaborating with Thermo Fisher Scientific

“It was really an inspiring collaboration that brought the team forward. We tried to find solutions to problems, and I credit our success to the fact that we always had a very open dialogue with the Thermo Fisher team,” he said. “During the whole development stage of these diagnostic tests, there were different generations, and they were all evaluated in our laboratory on real samples before being brought to market, which was a fruitful process.”


DeLaval OptiDuo™ Works Twice as Hard

This worker bee never shows up late or calls in sick. It quietly does its job consistently and reliably, pushing up refreshed feed to cows and delivering an extremely short payback period to farmers.

The DeLaval OptiDuo™ Robotic Feed Refresher is a fully automated system that pushes and remixes feed making cow rations more available and appealing, contributing to increased consumption and milk production. More visits to the feed bunk may also mean better cow traffic and less competition and stress while eating. 

Click here to watch the OptiDuo in action!

  • Get more milk! Up to 4.4 lbs more milk per day = ~USD 16,800 a year additional revenue*
  • Save up to USD 2,500 a year in labor*
  • Reduce weighback to 1%
  • Compatible with all types of feed
  • Operates safely with smart navigation system
  • Optional concentrate dispenser

*When OptiDuo performs at full capacity, which is 10 push-ups a day. Results may vary and are not guaranteed. 

Send this to a friend