One of Chile's largest dairy farms is set to open Friday, December 7: Leche del Bio Bio dairy is aiming to have 1,500 cows in production, using the latest technology to ensure the animals' well-being.
The Los Angeles-based farm spans more than 600 acres and is owned by a consortium, including Juan Pablo Aruta, who was named Chile's best dairy producer two years ago. With the average dairy farm in Chile milking 200 cows, Leche del Bio Bio will be among the largest in the country. However, Aruta believes that large herds will be the industry norm in the future. "All the (consortium) partners have differing levels of experience in the dairy sector," he said. "The future success of the sector is based around economies of scale. This is a world trend and Chile has to move with it." The partnership has incorporated new ideas from cattle ranches in the United States in order to cope with the large number of cows. The most significant of these is a relatively new system called dry-lot, where the free range animals roam on sandy ground and have a grain-based diet. Using sand, which is abundant in Chile, rather than pasture helps to reduce start up costs, the biggest stumbling block to large projects. According to Aruta, this not only helps to keep production costs down, but also is beneficial to the animals. "(Dry-lot) is cheaper than feedlot, which is mainly made out of concrete," he said. "But the most important issue was animal welfare. Working on sand means that the cows are more relaxed and suffer less damage to their udders and hooves; this is not just thinking about current demands – we are still going to be here producing milk in 20 or 30 years time. We have to look into the future." The Santiago Times