2009-11-27 The road ahead: FOSS Central Milk Testing Symposium, 18-20th November, Amsterdam
Around 170 participants from over 30 countries attended the FOSS central milk testing (CMT) symposium last week and all were united around a common theme - how to approach evolving business conditions and the resulting challenges.
A series of presentations gave an insight into relevant developments in milk testing and highlighted a number of possibilities for tackling future milk testing demands.
In the opening presentation, Torben Ladegaard, Managing Director, FOSS outlined the ongoing FOSS strategic commitment to the sector. “We have two directions,” he said. “In one, we want to help you generate new business and in the other, we want to help you become more effective.”
The need for both these directions was confirmed by Preben Mikkelsen, President, PM Food & Dairy Consulting, Denmark in a mixed outlook for the dairy sector.
Milk prices have fallen by around 30% in most countries while costs such as feed and fuel remain the same or are on the rise. Dairy polices are being dismantled and with it protectionism for local markets. “No matter where in the world you produce, you’ll have to produce secure, quality products,” said Mikkelsen. The current crisis is expected to ease in mid 2010 and beyond this turbulent situation, longer term indicators remain stable. Population growth and demand in general will grow. Dairy production is expected to increase by 12% until 2015 and 25% until 2020 with developing and emerging countries the primary drivers. “The future is still positive,” he said.
Evolution strategies around the globe
Harrie van den Bijgaart, Operations Manager laboratories, Qlip N.V. the Netherlands described how milk testing is facing the same challenges as all other businesses.
Developments such as a continued four percent per year fall in number of dairy farms and on-farm milk testing are inevitable, but understanding the concepts and finding the customers demands for knowledge is the key. New parameters such as unsaturated fats and screening for ketosis and abnormal milk are examples of new business opportunities. “You have to work together with your customers, said van den Bijgaart. “Milk still holds hidden treasures.”
Harrie van den Bijgaart, Qlip NV: “Milk still holds hidden treasures”
He presented a number of options for improving both laboratory operations and business on a tour in and around the laboratory including a description of a state of the art tagging system for both efficiency and flexible service. The Qlip laboratory handles around 55,000 samples (payment and recording) per day for 19,500 farms. Tagging of samples with RFID technology and GPS identification of the collection vehicle location automatically links data from the laboratory with collections sites and farmers’ individual demands. For instance, if a farmer requires a particular herd improvement parameter, the driver can record it in the RFID chip in the sample holder for appropriate handling back at the laboratory.
The theme of exploiting the available information in the milk sample was built on by Jamie Zimmerman, General Manager of Dairy One, USA. “New information from the milk sample has real potential to leverage information - I applaud the work FOSS is doing,” he said.
Dairy One is a cooperative providing DHI services to about 5.200 farms in a 14 state region and in addition to milk testing, the company provides laboratory services for related areas such as forage, soil, water and manure. “We are in the information business – anything to help the farmer make a profit,” said Zimmerman.
Innovative use of networking and computer technology such as the FOSS RINA and Mosaic network software helps to exploit the information, for example, complementing milk testing data with feed and manure data for the precision agriculture approach required today. This service includes an agronomy software solution and a dedicated team that helps farmers to apply software to farm management tasks.
China is seeing the same migration towards larger dairy herds. Mr. Zheng Xiaoping, Deputy General Manager, Shanghai NOD Testing Service Co., Ltd., explained how herds in the Shanghai area have grown from an average of 200 in 2002 to 500 in 2009. Payment testing started in 1996 and the Shanghai area now has a well functioning payment scheme based on fat, protein, somatic cell count, bacteria and additional parameters. Fat content improved by 5.5% from 2002 to 2006 and protein content increased by 7.6% between 2002 and 2007.
From Canada, Neil Petreny, General Manager, CanWest DHI shared tips for staying ahead in dairy herd improvement.
Using new value-adding services to exploit existing collection infrastructures is vital. CanWest serves 4,300 dairy farms across three time zones and these existing strengths can be leveraged in terms of data integration, cost per sample economies of scale and convenience. The services can include more information from the milk samples, particularly in relation to health and nutrition of cows. The identification of sub clinical ketosis through analysis of acetone/BHB is just one such example. “It is critical that labs remain five to ten years ahead of the on-farm technologies,” said Petreny. “Innovation will provide DHI and central testing with a long-term future.”
The potential of fat profiling
The concept of exploiting the information available in milk samples was explored further in a fascinating afternoon session focussing on the potential of fatty acid profiling.
Ben Bartlett, NML Director and Head of NMR Group Business Development, UK told how saturated fat analysis is an emerging market. A government shock campaign to reduce long term health costs through healthier food has failed to affect eating habits. This has turned the spotlight on ways to integrate healthier fat consumption into existing eating patterns. Dairy products constitute 30 – 40% of saturated fats consumption and greater control of saturated and unsaturated fat content is of great interest.
Pierre Weill: “Fatty acid composition is milk memory”
A project is being run jointly with FOSS and the University of Reading to assemble the right industry solution. Elements include equipment and calibrations, feedstuff trials, manufacturing approaches and a communication campaign aimed at farmers. Bartlett emphasised how the benefits of fatty acid profiling goes beyond the human health aspects. “We are looking at health benefits, cow benefits and environmental benefits,” he said.
Pierre Weill, Chairman of extruded feed producer Valorex, France explained more, starting with the way feed affects saturated fat composition. Fatty acid composition is milk memory,” he said.
In addition to health aspects, a better balance of unsaturated fats leads to desirable product traits, for example, tenderness in cheese as such properties are related to the different fatty acid melting points. The balance of fats also relates to the cow’s health and methane emissions. Checking fatty acid composition of milk therefore helps to improve the nutritional quality of milk, the characteristics of dairy products, feed efficiency and the environmental footprint of herds.
Tools for the future
Integrated with the main topics were presentations from FOSS about relevant product developments.
Per Waaben Hansen, Senior Scientist, FOSS, Denmark explained how calibration work is improving the performance of milk analysers by making more use of the vast amount of data available through Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) technology. “We can find things we didn’t know we were looking for,” he said, citing examples such as the ability to find abnormalities in milk due to adulteration.
Steen Kold-Christensen, Senior Business Manager introduced the concept of proactive herd management using the Herd Navigator system. “This is early warning for farmers,” he said. The approach assists in taking preventative measures within reproduction, udder health (mastitis) feeding and feeding-related conditions with significant potential savings for the farmer.
Torsten Hansen, Manager Software Solutions, gave an update on developments in networking technology for central milk testing laboratories which will allow precise and easy management, configuration, support and monitoring of instruments via the Internet. The technology is already in use in the dairy sector and has been proven to dramatically reduce maintenance and running costs, while ensuring higher instrument uptime.
Managing director of FOSS, Torben Ladegaard congratulates symposium organiser Anja Willumsen on a successful event
Field Trips to Qlip laboratory and Ten Kate Dairy Farm
On the following day, many symposium participants enjoyed interesting visits to the state-of-the-art, Qlip milk testing laboratory and the Ten Kate Dairy Farm - a modern farm that is using the Herd Navigator system. Individual reports on the visits to follow on news on www.foss.dk