From few small farms
to the country's leading
The journey of milky-way dairy farm is the story of how few small farms joining together became Israel leading dairy farm
From old small dairy farms to a unified advanced farm of 40Kg
For over 50 years, dairy farming was at the heart of a small village in Israel (40 km north to Tel-Aviv), starting only with few cows , over the years, each family grow to around 40 cows small farm, located at the backyard of their houses, which allow each to make a living. At the late 90's, increase in operational and food costs, stagnated milk price and new environmental regulations , made the life of small farmers quite challenging.
In year 2000, 6 visionary dairymen with small old family such farms of 40 to 50 cows located at the backyard of their houses in the village , considered establishing a cooperative farm outside the village living area, near the existing food center who served fresh TMR to the farms in the area (between 5000 and 10,0000 cows).
The members rolled out the idea, built an association rules and founder's agreement. In September 2001, they approved the regulations, contracted specialized design firm and economic office that conducted a business analysis which showed there is a clear economic and operational logic in establishing a joint farm.
Building a high-technology and high productivity farm was at the center of the planning for the unified new farm. www,dairyfresh.asia co-founder is one of the owners of milky-way and was in the core design, build and operate the farm in its early years.
One of the main deliberations was between building a robotic farm or a milking parlor. At the end, the members decided to use milking parlor, the decision was made with the understanding that the farm will grow overtime and using robotics it will be much more challenging, as with robotic , growth means investing in more robots.
The new cooperative chose Afimilk Ltd. as the technology partner. Afimilk has been a leading world manufacturer and marketer of milking parlors and advanced dairy management solutions since late 70th. Afimilk provided advanced sensors in the parlor, around the barn and on the cows to effectively monitor milk production, farm operation, personalized cow's health & fertility. The transition was beyond expectations and quite immediately the farm was able to increase milk yield from 8,000 liters to 11,000 liters per cow (in 305 days) from the same cows (transit from the 6 old small farms), using the same food and with the same weather conditions. The main difference was the advanced management , new sheds and technology which led to a significant increase in production and efficiency.
Breaking the tradition
Bringing the group together wasn't an easy task, each family owned small farm has long tradition, pride, and habits of doing things, most farms had 2 generations involved.
Clearly, the young generation was pushing for the change once they realized the power of a one joint big farm over small and separated farms, they felt it will generate more income and will allow them a better quality of life. On April 5, 2000, the first eighty cows moved to the new facility - two high sheds for 250 milking cows, a place for heifers, waiting yard and a 2x12 parlor with a possibility to extend it to 2x16.
20 years later it can be said the idea of the new big dairy farm was a great success, today it is the largest dairy in the village sector with 600 milking cows, the success attracted more dairymen to knock on the door and apply to join the cooperative and eventually two additional dairymen joined. One of them, whom was previously an opponent for co-operation, was quoted a well-known saying "if you go alone, you will get there fast but if you go together, you will get far".
Professional decisions of the farm are made by hired professional farm manager and some of the partners, decisions on investments and other economic issues are democratically made at owners' meetings, and profits are distributed according to each owner's share in the farm. a board meetings are taking place once a quarter to review farm performance.
Milky-Way opening ceremony with the partners-founding team
The Israeli farm team eating breakfast
Key success factors
Financial wise, the position of all partners has been dramatically improved for several reasons:
Milky Way farm is a great example of why consolidating small dairy farms can make a difference and addresses today's small family farm challenges, while it start from a necessity of seeing where market is headed, it open up opportunities for current and new generation to combine dairy business with family time and follow their dreams.
Technology and methods used
Milky-way farm produced a breakthrough milk yield of ~40Kg on average per cow/day.
This chart is calculating the milk by lactation corrected for 305 Days .The chart summarizes milk for 305 days, the peak of the milk, and the DIM for Peak, for each lactation.
Design & Construction of the Farm
Design Improvements done over time
Spatial shed - We send the manure to the regional biogas facility. We saw that the costs of manure removal are enormous and new spatial shed (narrow and long), saves evacuation of the liquid manure and it brings huge savings , reduce amount of work and better for the welfare of the cow.
Another third shed that was built in later stage was also a spatial shed type.
Slope roof shed - We measure the movement of wind and temp, at different points and heights in the shed. The total, which reached a peak height of 12 m above the manger. We noticed that outside breeze was not go inside.
A decision was made to change the direction of the roofs and the lower part
is at the manger, now the the wind coming in from the side of the shed in the west, rising up and slides down over the manger that the cows spend lot of their time, this led to the compression of the wind exactly where the cow eats and resulted gliding air on the cows where its most essential.
Curator for the transmission path - its essence is to automatically rake the manure all times, which allow the cows to walk constantly on a clean, dry surface, to prevent slipping and contamination.
Cooling tunnel - a long, narrow shed that is closed on both sides, creating a a tunnel to keep it wet and ventilation, with easy access for cows with 6 cooling sessions a day.
Before making the investment, we checked out the business case to approve the project and work on a design that will bring the forecasted higher milk yield. The founding team travelled all over the country, examined all the cowsheds and decided: parallel milking parlor, two high sheds for 250 milks and space for mature heifers , cooled waiting yard and a modular milking parlor that can grow from 12 slots in two sides to 16.
The farm was built with the cows' sheds on one side and the milking parlor and the auxiliary buildings were on the corresponding side. all service structures of the farm are in the middle - milking parlor, nursery, treatment yard, cooling yard (that acts as an air tunnel) and cow structures on the sides. This is how we minimize long walk of the cows to eliminate injuries and better control of workers, with a more effective real-estate and space utilization.
We take the cows to a cooling tunnel to help them to deal with the heat stress.
Especially during the hot summer, we bring the cows between milking times, to the area with high wind and water sprinklers to reduce their body temperature.
We start using Afifram system to optimize the time and duration of the cooling in the tunnel
We receive silage and food form the feeding center 3-4 a day keep it fresh.
The feeding center supply feed for all the farms in the village and to the nearby farms. (Instead of each farm will produce feed for themselves , one cooperative create feed for all the farms in the cooperative)
Manure is collected and recycled to energy. The province has built one biogas plant to treat the manure from all
the farms in the province. A collecting point from the farm the manure will transfer by truck to the biogas
The Afifarm advanced milking parlor first built with 12X2 stalls, and when the farm expanded we invest in additional 8 stalls to milk 600 milking cows.
Milk is kept in cooling and collected by milk truck , collection is done online and automatically
A Treatment Area- cows sorting automatically for AI & Health issues by sorting gate after milking. the sorting Gate automatically sorting cows for AI or health problems likes- Mastitis, digestion problems & routine health checks after
The nursery was designed with cost-effective mind-set with light building, low-cost, good results, mortality at 2-month age, under 3% per year.
AI services, supply by the Israeli Semen company SION.
Below is media coverage video interview of the dairy farm as appear in Israeli TV
(For English subtitles , please click subtitles in settings icon on right bottom side of the clip, better to watch from a PC)
Milky way farm story appears in Dairy Japan Journal 2021
the farm summary in a page