Sept. 21 2011 06:32 AM

This 3,000-cow state-of-the-art Indonesian dairy matches every thing found in California outside of labor efficiency.

The blog author works for John Deere and covers markets throughout Asia and Africa. He grew up on a dairy in southwest Wisconsin.

Recently, my works travels took me to Indonesia where I had an opportunity to visit a dairy farm. At first glance, if you didn't look at the nearby topography, you would have thought you were on a California dairy despite the fact Indonesia is located on both sides of the equator. For those who have never been there, Indonesia is found in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, north of Australia and south of Vietnam.
As far as milking cows were concerned, the conditions were near perfect. It was a state-of-the-art dairy. The dairy was milking about 3,000 cows in a modern double-12 parlor. Plans are underway to expand the parlor to a double-24 in the next six months. At that time, they also will add another 1,000-cow free stall barn.

They have a flush system for the free stall barns. The barns had no insulation due to the temperature being around 78? to 82? F throughout most of the year. The largest climate variation is rainfall. The farm collected individual herd management information on a daily basis. Each cow had identification with a computer chip, so they collected milk weights and monitored heat detection based on activity.
The farm has 150 full-time employees which is definitely a higher employee-per-cow ratio than those found in the states. One of the advantages of having the dairy in Indonesia is that the labor is relatively inexpensive. Despite the readily available labor, employee training in terms of cow care was initially a challenge but has improved greatly since then. The farm also has four full-time veterinarians on staff. Despite good training, the farm manager said he had to coach them through the first DA (displaced abomasum) surgery. Overall, animal care is outstanding, and the barns are spotless.
The farm's two biggest challenges are genetics and feed/rations. They chop corn 365 days a year. All corn is all hand harvested and brought in bundles to the bunker where it is chopped and put in a silage bag. The hand harvesting emphasizes the fact that labor is extremely reasonable.
The farm's initial cows were bought from Australia. The herd manager estimates that homegrown replacements will cost him about half of the initial purchase price of the first group. Like goals set for dairies in the U.S., most 2-year-olds calve at 22 months.

The dairy also processes its own milk. There is little "fresh" milk in Indonesia. Most milk is UTH (Ultra-high temperature processed). As a country, Indonesia only produces about 20 percent of its total milk needs.

A slideshow is below: