In 2019 the annual milk production in China was 32 billion kg and according to the ‘China Dairy Industry Statistics 2020,’ the 25 largest farming companies of milk delivered 9.4 billion kg of the country’s production or contributed 29 per cent. These farming companies had 1.7 million dairy cattle or on average nearly 68 thousand animals each.
Behind these big numbers are several dairy farms ranging from 1,000 to 20,000 dairy cows. The biggest dairy farming companies are Modern Farming and Youran Farming, with 230,000 animals on 26 farms, while the others boasted 135,000 cows on 40 farms in 2019. Then several dairy farming companies have between 50,000-100,000 cows: Huishan Dairy with 90,000 dairy cows, Shengmu with 67,000 cows, and Saikexing with 65,000 cows in 2019.
The Chifeng AustAsia Modern Farm was the highest-yielding dairy farm in China in 2020 with an average yield of 13,654 kg per cow.
When looking at average farm sizes, the AustAsia farms are the largest farms with an average stock of 12,291 animals divided on seven farming operations in different places in China. Then several farming companies have around 8,000 animals: these are Yuansheng Tai, Modern Farming and Fonterra.
But the AustAsia Farms are not only the largest on average, they also have the highest average yield, with 12,600 kg per cow per year in 2019.
In 2019, the average yield of the 25 biggest dairy farming companies was 10.2 tonnes of milk per cow compared to the average of eight tonnes per cow.
China’s single largest dairy farm is the Bengbu Farm in Anhui province owned by Modern Farming. This single farm has about 40,000 animals and space for 20,000 adult cows to be milked by eight rotary milking systems all connected to one single tank-room area.
Even though this might seem like a huge farm, an even bigger one is under construction and partly operational now in the Inner Mongolia province. This farm will, when it is fully built, house 45,000 dairy cows and become the single largest dairy farm in the world. The total investment in this farm is estimated to be 2.8 billion Chinese Yuan or about NZ$700m.
Considering the current trend in China, it seems that the farming companies will become even bigger in the near future. Leading the way is the company Modern Farming. This company had 233,000 animals in 2019 but according to Modern Farming’s ‘5-Year Leadership Plan’, the intention was that in 2025 the company should have doubled both the number of animals and milk production to an astonishing 500,000 animals and an annual production of 3.6 billion kg.
The company is already well on its way to reach this future goal as it has, since the release of the ‘5- Year Leadership Plan’, taken over the companies Fuyuan International and Zhongyuan Dairy. After the completion of the acquisition of these two companies, the total number of animals at Modern Farming will be over 330,000 and the yearly production will exceed 2 billion kg of milk.
Mergers seem to be one of the ways forward for the big Chinese dairy farming companies and in October of 2020 the company Youran Farming acquired the entire equity of the farming operations of Fonterra in China.
At that time Fonterra China operated six farms with 54,900 animals and these farms were sold to Youran Farming for the price of 2.3 billion Yuan or about NZ$700m. After the merger, Youran Farming has 67 farms with approximately 308,000 animals and a milk production of about 1.6 billion kg.
Why big scale farms?
This trend in milk production in China is quite unique but the reason for this should not come as a surprise- as this is a way forward in a country that is in huge demand for dairy products.Benefits of big scale farming are:
• The centralised purchase by largescale farming companies gives them power to stabilise prices and quality of forage and feed and makes them less vulnerable to fluctuations of feed prices.
• Those companies have complete setup of staff and can have experts in each specific fields within the dairy farming operation. This leads to proper and systematic management of the farm personnel and gives those companies’ the ability to ensure training of employees to be as efficient as possible.
• Big scale farms give opportunities for specialised work areas where each employee has specific and uniform tasks, leading to high professionalism and productivity by both animals and employees.