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Dairying Vietnamese Style

05 August 2008

Traditionally milk has never featured to any great degree in Asian diets but this is now changing as the health benefits of having milk in the diet are now being appreciated, writes Stuart Lumb.

The Vinamilk company is typically for Viet Nam a Joint Venture operation.

The state has a 30 per cent share whilst the remaining 70 per cent investment has been provided by the Taiman company.

Vinamilk is located on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City. Vinamilk collects and processes milk from local farms which have a combined total of 1900 cows, with the average size being about 15 cows per farm.

Next to the dairy is a picnic area and the public travel out to drink milk , milk shakes and ice cream , so consuming milk is still seen as a rather special treat.

Vinamilk sells milk in bulk on to local supermarkets. One problem currently is that the supermarkets are reducing their fridge temperature to 8C, to cut costs, when it should be 4°C. The supermarkets then expect compensation if the milk goes off, when in fact the fault lies with the supermarket. Even in Vietnam the supermarkets like to flex their muscles!

Lothamilk farm is situated just behind the dairy and with 130 cows is one of the biggest dairy farms in Vietnam.

Pham Kim Long is the farm manager and he has been working there for 10 years.


Farm Manager Pham Kim Long

Experience has shown over the years that Holstein/Bos indicus crosses perform best given the climatic conditions prevailing in Viet Nam.

The 50/50 cross cows average 11 litres /day rising to a maximum of 18 litres.

The 75 per cent Holstein crosses will produce up to 30 litres/ day and 9000 litres in a lactation.

Some farmers went to 15/16 Holstein in the cross but these cows could not stand the heat, plus the greater the percentage of Holstein the harder it is to get the cow back in calf.

Taking all things into account the 75 per cent cross has proved the best compromise with top quality Holstein frozen semen being imported from the USA.

Lothamilk farm has a staff of 12 which may seem a lot by Western standards.

Bear in mind though that the cows are zero grazed All the forage is cut and carted by hand, by women. This is a very laborious task, hence the farm's high, by Western standards, staff numbers.


Cows are housed in a large airy wide span shed.

All the cows are housed in a large airy wide span shed which keeps the sun out.

Cows are tethered as used to be the case in the UK 50 years ago. Milking takes place at 12 hourly intervals, 4am and 4pm. Two members of staff milk the cows with each staff member having two milking units which are moved from cow to cow. The milking units were imported from Denmark although some parts are manufactured in Vietnam.

It is planned, though, to soon build an eight place parlour which will be imported from Taiwan and which will speed up the milking time considerably.

Feed for the cows varies depending on the time of year. During the rainy season (May-Nov.) cows are fed grass supplemented with concentrates.

Each cow receives around 40kg/ day of hand cut grass supplemented with 0.4kg of concentrates/litre , rising to a maximum of 8kg/day.

Brewer's grains are fed as and when available, plus a by-product obtained from fresh soya after the milk has been extracted.

From December through to April cows are fed a combination of urea treated straw and silage. The silage is made during the rainy season.

One method is to put the cut grass into pits one metre deep and make a clamp two metres ground level resulting in a three metre clamp. The alternative method is to cover heaps of cut grass with a large sheet and extract the air with a milking machine inducing a vacuum. Molasses, rock salt and urea are used as preservatives.

With regard to health issues, stock are vaccinated against FMD and Pasteurellosis. TB testing is carried out . Milk Fever is not a problem but Metritis can be, plus the herd has problems with retained placentas from time to time.

July 2008

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