The dairy farm roughly covers the same land area as the nation of Portugal.
The Mudanjiang Mega dairy farm is located Northeast of China and is the world’s largest. It marks a 1bn yuan (123 million euros) collaboration between Russian and Chinese investors. The farm is 50 times bigger than the biggest dairy farm in the UK, which has around 2,000 cows and three times bigger than the largest in the US, with 30,000 cows. It is mind-boggling to imagine the scale of such a farm and the fact that it can produce 800m liters of milk a year.
The expansion of the farm happened in 2015 as a response to the Russian ban on dairy products from the EU after Brussels imposed economic sanctions following the Ukraine Crisis. However, a solution to the problem was quickly addressed when China stepped in.
Dairy cows were imported into China from Australia, New Zealand, and Uruguay. Cows are kept inside and fed a mix of grains and fodder instead of grazing on large tracks of land like they would in Australia. Land in China is limited and applying the American farming model was most suitable for the Chinese dairy system. Following the American model, the cows are kept indoors all year round living in dark sheds with limited access to the sun. However, adequate ventilation and sand bedding, which is changed twice a day, are maintained for the comfort of the cows. The cows are milked three times a day for an 8min cycle on a rotary system.
Specialised breeding and feeding techniques are designed to increase yield and in the past three years has boosted output per cow by nearly 30% from around 6 tons a year to 8 tons. The company closely monitors the production from start to finish. Top grade bull’s semen from the US is used to impregnate high yield heifers.
These big Chinese Mega farms are not only supplying milk to Russians but the country has seen a huge increase in milk consumption among the Chinese people. It is said that most Chinese are intolerant of lactose, a sugar in milk, although the drink is growing in popularity in the country as a result of increased disposable income unlike before where they were unable to afford dairy products. Furthermore the Chinese are now more concerned about animal protein as part of their diet
Unfortunately smaller scale dairy farms are beginning to suffer as a result of these enormous Mega farms. The Chinese government is promoting a shift away from village farms and giving subsidies and free land to factory farms like Mudanjiang’s Mega farm.
The biggest concern regarding this huge development is; more cows, means more money, waste and more pollution. This factory style farming is becoming a huge threat to the global environment. These mega farms are responsible for chemical fumes, toxic runoff, and unsustainable water use (to name a few). The runoff pollutes local waterways with pesticides, herbicides, hormones, antibiotics, phosphate-rich fertilizer, and bacteria-infested manure, which effectively strips communities of clean water sources and safe-to-consume fish. The practices of factory farms are responsible for 34% of methane emissions, a gas with more global warming potential than carbon dioxide. In the case of Mudanjiang’s Mega farm it was revealed that large amounts of cow manure resulting in brown stinking water were running off into streams and used veterinary drug packaging were littering the surrounding grounds. Most worrying is the discovery of farm workers been exposed to infections from animal-born diseases.
Unfortunately, these factory farms are not going away if anything they are becoming more popular. It is an unmanageable food production practice that has changed our tradition old-fashioned ways. This large-scale milk production has resulted in a mass of profit-turning businesses that is only concerned about one thing and sadly it’s not the welfare of the animal.