Chinese cattle science investment to up dairy productivity

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Related tags: Dairy, Milk, China

China has reportedly poured nearly US$50 million into research and
development (R&D) for its domestic dairy sector over the past
three years in an attempt to tackle some of the obstacles holding
back one of the world's most rapidly expanding dairy industries,
Tom Armitage reports.

The US$48.8 million investment figure, jointly funded by China's Ministry of Science and Technology and its Ministry of Agriculture, forms part of an ongoing national project aimed at upgrading the technology used in China's dairy sector.

Professor Zhang Yuan, a dairy specialist from the China Agricultural University, claims that the three year investment project has already allowed scientists to hone their cattle breeding techniques and improve their feeding efficiency knowledge - something which has consequently helped raise the quality standard of Chinese dairy produce.

Prior to the recent investment, Chinese dairy farmers experienced difficulties enlarging their dairy heifer breeding pools, forcing them to import well-bred heifers to meet demand (both a costly and highly inefficient process).

But the R&D overhaul has since led to significant advances in embryo planting and sex-control technology, culminating in the construction of two dairy cattle embryo production centres.

These centres now supply China with more than 30,000 high quality well-bred dairy heifers annually and allow it to meet 70 per cent of its annual demand.

Furthermore, sixteen dairy demonstration zones have been set up across the northern provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Hebei and the autonomous regions of Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang Uygur to trial a number of modern feeding concepts, disease prevention methods and alternative feeding regimes.

Chinese researchers claim that as a result of these trials, the average dairy heifer's output has risen to approximately 6,500 kilograms of milk per year - a 15 per cent increase on the previous year, representing €0.54 billion worth of added income for Chinese farmers.

In a bid to kick-start much needed R&D investment across China's dairy sector, the Chinese government organised public bidding for twenty-six research institutions in 2002, involving the country's top ten dairy producers and over sixty-six universities and privately funded companies.

And it appears the strategy has worked. According to Chinese officials, 132 new product developments (NPDs) were rolled-out across the domestic consumer market last year and Zhang claims that scientists are developing a new type of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) milk product aimed at enhancing the body's immune system and reducing the risk of tumours.

Industry analysts at Euromonitor International​ claim that the milk sector in China has grown by an estimated 188 per cent over the last five years, with sales of UHT and long-life milk outstripping their fresh liquid milk alternatives by 680.1 per cent (the UHT and fresh milk categories each notched up respective growth rates of 753 and 72.9 per cent).

Currently the Chinese population has the lowest consumption of milk per capita in the world - an estimated two litres per year. And in 2004 China's spending on milk stood at a mere $1.8 per capita (€1.2) per year, against Western Europe's $54.6 (€41.9), reflecting its sizeable growth potential.

Related topics: R&D

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