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Until recently, consumption of dairy products in China has been low compared to other parts of the world. There are a number of reasons for the lower consumption, but suffice it to say yogurt and cheese are growing in popularity among Chinese.
With a growing middle class in a country with 1.4 billion people, that’s a lot of cheese and yogurt.
The Chinese dairy industry is expected to continue to grow, and some estimate it will surpass the United States dairy industry in production by 2022. (Source: daxueconsulting.com/china-dairy-market) Growing demand for dairy products has led to strong demand for silage and alfalfa, as well as a strong demand for waste management.
One of the Chinese facilities working to meet consumer demand is Shengmu Dairy, which partnered with Valley Irrigation® to find solutions to common problems in the area.
Growing sileage in Inner Mongolia can be difficult, but center pivots from Valley irrigation were up to the challenge.
Shengmu Dairy is a dairy operation in Inner Mongolia, located in the Gobi Desert region of the northern part of China. Shengmu, which is listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, obtained venture capital to start a number of milking parlors to service a herd of approximately 20,000 head. Their goal is to maintain an operation of around 30,000 head to supply EU-certified organic fresh milk and yogurt to the emerging Chinese market.
One of the first challenges they encountered was the feed supply. The Chinese silage and feed market can be highly volatile, and trying to obtain certified organic supplies is even more difficult. While imported feed is available, it is expensive and subject to in-country shipping complications.
The obvious alternative was for Shengmu to establish its own feed production unit within the company. Valley Irrigation was a part of the initial tender process for an 80-pivot agricultural site located in Alishan Banner. (A “banner” is an administrative division corresponding to the county level.)
Shengmu selected top four pivot manufacturers to receive a portion of the overall project so that they could evaluate each vendor’s equipment and commitment to service (a very common practice in China).
Valley Irrigation installed their 23-machine allotment on schedule and assisted with the electrical and piping connections. Having worked in this region of China for more 10 years, we knew that the operating conditions would require certain upgrades, such as dual sprinkler packages and high-speed motors, which Shengmu invested in.Valley center pivots helped transform the landscape in Inner Mongolia.
Raising corn silage and alfalfa in Inner Mongolia can be difficult. Windy conditions in the spring can actually cut corn seedling in half (requiring multiple plantings) and blow away alfalfa seed before it can be established. The high-speed motors,combined with the dual sprinkler packages, allow the center pivot to effectively maintain moisture in the surface layer of the sandy soil with light but frequent irrigation events to help control blowing sand and provide favorable conditions for establishing alfalfa.
From the start, the Valley machines outperformed the competitors. The recommended upgrades and coaching from Valley enabled Shengmu to effectively use the pivots to combat blowing sand and for planting alfalfa. After the first operating season, Shengmu requested Valley upgrade the remaining competitor’s pivots with the same high-speedmotorsand dual sprinkler packages. We were also asked to convert all competitor panels on the site to Valley control panels.
The assistance Valley offered Shengmu extended beyond just the center pivot. Because of our continued presence at the Alishan site, Valley Science and Engineering, a Valmont® company, were also able to provide Shengmu with recommendations for seed selection, planting techniques, farm implements purchases, fertilization, remote management and the establishment of secondary crops along field borders for additional blowing sand control.
Valley also provided recommendations for well construction to reduce sand infiltration and pipe-networking advice for establishing redundancy in the pumping system.
However, we were at a bit of a loss as to a solution regarding wild camels grazing on the established alfalfa during the winter months (a new challenge for all of us). Despite this, our in-house agricultural knowledge and experience transformed Valley from merely an “equipment vendor” into a trusted partner with a sincere interest in their success.
This trust led Shengmu Dairy to sole-source Valley products on the 60-pivot expansion project started in 2017.
This connection to growers and dedication to projects make Valley more than just an irrigation company, and we are proud that Valley can help growers around the world be more productive and successful.
P.S. If anyone has an idea of what to do about rampaging herds of wild camels, we would love to hear it.
About the authors
Greg Thurman- Greg Thurman (left) is a professional engineer with over 20 years in the agriculture and wastewater treatment industry. Previously the Executive Director of Valmont Water Management Group in China, he now serves as Principal Engineer for Valley Science and Engineering and lives in Oregon.
Zhou Nan- Nan Zhou (right) is a Ph.D. graduate from Texas Tech University and currently serves as Director of Sales in Valmont China Irrigation. He has worked for Valmont since 2005 and lives in Beijing, China.
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