In the Western Cape, the average herd size has reached an average of 750-900 and the number of individual herds has reduced, as the challenge to operate efficiently remains. Holsteins and Jerseys are the most common breeds. Many Diversey customers are keeping Jerseys for the butterfat content for cheese-production.
Andries Engelbrecht, a Diversey product distributor in South Africa covering the Western Cape area, keeps a Jersey stud of his own. He competes in several local shows and is a trusted reputation in the South African dairy industry.
Facing the challenges
Keeping a herd of his own also means that Andries can resonate with other milk producers, facing the same environmental challenges as his customers. The Western Cape region receives an average annual rainfall of 500-600mm but can reach 800mm.
“The Western Cape weather has two extremes - good rain, or drought. When it rains, it rains, which can bring many problems. It never snows and only ever drops to two, three or four degrees. We never reach minus figures and the highest temperature reaches 40 degrees,” said Andries.
Western Cape doesn’t provide pastures for grazing – outside cattle are fenced in and fed on oats and barley silage, with farmers buying in Lucerne and dairy meal from a supplier.
“Outside cattle can bring mud-related issues when it rains. Most dairy herds are now housed to provide a consistently dry environment and avoid the challenges that unpredictable weather can bring, but housing cows is a whole different type of work. As many customers have found, as soon as you build housing for cows, the transitional period can be difficult and provide all sorts of growing pains, but once that is sorted, bacteria is much more manageable,” said Andries.
“The biggest challenge for us is lowering sematic cell count – when rainfall is higher in the winter, cell count also increases.”
Economic improvements bring additional benefits to milk producers; as milking herds increase in size, the cost of circulation and parlour wash routines does not, so it is beneficial for Andries to work with customers to provide a complete tailored hygiene routine.
“Having visited dairy farms in many different parts of the world, I would say that South Africa’s farmers are some of the best – in the top three,” continued Andries.
“The way they can adapt and adjust to the weather, through sheer hard work and attention to detail is phenomenal, especially in the political unpredictability. Two years ago, the area faced a huge drought and the way that livestock farmers went about feeding their stock and making decisions just to survive was inspirational.”
“Hindsight is a great thing. Twenty years ago, this innovative way of thinking would have been ground-breaking and I think that today’s methods of farming would have been completely different. You can learn a lot in times of austerity,” added Andries.
Due to the extreme climates, hygiene solutions must provide protection to the herd and reliable cleaning to the parlour in a competitive market – sematic cell count control is paramount.
“Many of my customers use two main teat dips – Deosan Mastocide which is designed to meet the challenges of all seasons and provide daily care to teats and works specifically well as a high-care treatment for high-yielding or vulnerable animals. This helps tremendously with teat health and bacteria levels, particularly in the challenging climates. Disinfecting chemicals, such as Deosan Liquid Circulate and acid-based de-scalers remain the same for most of the year – we can rely on them to work effectively.”