Last night we stayed on a farm near Dengzhou. We stopped to eat in town. Kai insisted I order the food. Risky. Menus here are usually a big book with color pictures. There is no writing that I can read. The waitress stood over my shoulder waiting patiently for me to order. I think the meat dishes could be a little risky since I can’t determine the type from the picture alone. She points at a picture of a couple of different kinds of fish. I have no idea how they will prepare it, but I think fish looks good, so I point to one and nod yes. Vegetables should be pretty predicable and pretty safe, so I find a cauliflower dish and a very green one that isn’t spinach but looks close. I point to each one and nod. She makes notes. Then I ask for beer. She does not know what I mean. I try again, no dice. I shake my head and say OK. I am not sure what happened to Kai. Either he was having a smoke or trying to force me to order, since I always tell him to do the ordering.
He came in and our food started arriving. It was all very good, though the cauliflower dish was very hot – as in hot peppers. I used a good share of the box of Kleenex the waitress left on our table, but otherwise my choices were very good.
We took a taxi to the farm. It was late, but I could see I was a very large enterprise. Kai said 20,000 animals, which probably represents about 10,000 cows and 10,000 heifers – an enormous dairy.
The train ride, or rides to Dengzhou was long. We rode the high speed train for nearly three hours to Beijing. In Beijing we took a subway to a different train station. When I told you there were 40 train tracks at the Beijing station, I did not know that there were actually 4 stations in Beijing, South, East, North, and West. The largest is West, with 40 tracks. The train stations are a place where rivers of humanity flow or race in and meet. Individual flows mix and then sort themselves into new flows and head back out in different directions. I cannot begin to imagine what this transportation cost to build, but it must have been trillions. At Beijing West we boarded a different high speed train and rode for an hour and a half to Dengzhou. Here is a picture of the old train from the new train window.
By the way standing on the platform when a train comes through at a full 200 mph plus is an amazing sight and experience. You can feel the force of it and then it is gone. Here are some picture of the landscape from the train.
I think it amazing that millions of very small farmers can manage to produce enough food for the country. Apparently buyers purchase the products from many small farms and put together bigger groups of products for shipment. This system makes it hard for diaries to purchase corn silage if they don’t have enough land, which I am told is typical here. Thus some dairies may purchase silage from hundreds if not thousands of farmers. Since timing of corn silage harvest is very critical to achieve high quality, I just can’t imagine how they can get a consistent product with so many sources. This must be a significant problem for a lot of the farms. What is so remarkable is that there seems to be an abundance of food here, much like at home.
The dairy was indeed large. The office plaza is like something one would see on a college campus.
There was this kind of odd looking building that Kai said was for the leader of the the farm group when he came to visit. Kai thought he wanted to be up high above everyone else.
It even had an elevated skyway leading over to one of the barns. That way the Leader could stay warm and stay clean. This is the largest dairy I have ever been on. It just kind of goes on forever.
The cows are housed in pens that have outside access and are bedded with digested, but not dried manure solids. Drying the solids really seems to be necessary to keep cows clean. This is especially a problem on bedded packs because cows are not inherently clean and tidy beasts, as we know.
There was one large rotary parlor at least two double 60 parallels and a double 12 hospital parlor.
Calves were housed in hutches for the first two weeks and then moved into the largest robotic feeding barn I have ever seen.
Note the square tubular structure above the calves. This is a positive pressure ventilation system like the Wisconsin systems, except that this one was not designed right and does not work. I suggested they install the correct version. Of course for this barn that will be a lot of tubes. As usual, after lunch and a bit of a rest, we spent the afternoon discussion my observations. Then back to Dengzhou to catch the train to Beijing for my last night in China. I am on the train right now. It is a great place from which to blog because it is so smooth.
During the last couple of weeks we discussed a lot of things. For example, China does not have Brucellosis. However, if you want to talk about abortions on a dairy the farmer may not want to talk about them, or he may laugh. You see abortions on most farms are one of the many secrets here. If the government hears about abortions they might take your cows and kill them to control the spread of Brucellosis. Did you see that I said China does not have Brucellosis? China does not have cattle vaccines. Not allowed. Some farmers vaccinate for Brucellosis. I had a discussion with one farmer about the Chinese vaccine he uses. It is the old A 19 strain that was hard on the animals and according to him, doesn’t work that well. He asked me about the Spanish vaccine, also strain A 19. I told him I knew nothing because all we use it the reduced dose RB 51 in the US. China does not allow cattle vaccines. One farmer uses a whole variety of vaccines. I asked him where he got them; he said: we import them from the US.” If you notice a few contradictions in this paragraph, then Welcome to China.
I have been on farms that provide frustratingly poor, unreliable, or flat out wrong data, and where they use the data to make decisions and take actions, and to ask for advice. It can take a long time to sort through a lot of the data before realizing the whole thing is a house of cards. I get frustrated and speak faster, and poor Kai cannot understand me but he gets that I am frustrated. He gives me the “don’t shoot the messenger” look. Sorry Kai. In response to being presented data in the last couple of weeks I have on more than one occasion said, “That’s impossible.” The response is something like, ” Well those are the results from our lab, or that is the data from DHI, or perhaps that was for a different farm, or once, on a whiteboard, they just erased the data I was questioning with no explanation. Bad data is worse than no data, and I have never seen such reliance on bad data. Sometimes instead of looking at the data a guy just needs to go bed the cows. Welcome to China.
On the other hand I have seen a few top notch farms that could be top farms anywhere. It is kind of like some speak a different language.
There is also the “You just can’t get there from here” or ” We can’t do that here” syndrome. Because these farms are often part of a larger company, there is someone at a higher level who does not understand which end of the cow produces milk and which end eats the feed. These guys decree that the farm cannot feed a certain product, or have to feed a certain product, or cannot purchase bedding, or some other corporate-style nonsense. Of course this happens on US farms, but not to the degree I have seen here. Sometimes you really can’t get there from here.
Well back at the Beijing airport. We spent the night in Old Beijing. This is an area with some very narrow streets, old buildings, and lots of nightlife.
We went to a tiny Japanese restaurant. Three rooms. One was the bar, to get by which one had to slide sideways, and two small rooms with tables for 4.
One could not choose what to eat. They brought you what was on the menu tonight, which was, for us sashimi, sushi, and cooked eel. All very good. I took a few pictures on the streets in the morning, including my driver navigating the narrow road.
Those little streets are not one way by the way. Finally, I will leave you with this:
This tower was right next to the dairy. I wondered why it was so skinny, and what it possible could be for, so I asked one of the team from the dairy. “Chinese elevator testing facility,” was the reply. Don’t know why I never thought of that. Welcome to China.
I really am ending this blog. Thanks for sticking through to the end. Yours in Chinese food, Chinese dairy and a little nonsense.