UWRF Hosts Kazakhstan Visitors Seeking To Grow Dairy

Pictured: UWRF Dairy Science Professor Sylvia Kehoe, center, speaks with a group of visitors from the central Asian nation of Kazakhstan at Mann Valley Farm. The university hosted the visiting Kazakhstan residents to help them learn how to effectively operate dairy farms. UWRF photo.

Sylvia Kehoe scanned the faces in front of her, faces from another nation, then greeted them “hello” in their native language, Russian.

The 15 residents from the central Asian country of Kazakhstan responded to Kehoe, a dairy science professor at the UW-River Falls, in unison with the same phrase: “Zdravstvuyte.” Then, as their tour of the university-operated Mann Valley Farm began, they asked questions about dairy farming, the reason they had traveled halfway around the world to visit.

The group, made up of mostly farm owners and a couple of government officials, is seeking to learn all it can about dairy operations in Wisconsin. Their visit to UWRF is the first of many stops at locations in the state last week that included World Dairy Expo in Madison.

Kazakhstan government officials want to boost the dairy industry and milk processing capacity in that nation. Domestic dairy production fulfills just 25 percent of the nation’s milk needs, and country leaders hope to produce and process more of their own milk and rely less on foreign producers.

To accomplish that goal, the nation needs to not only increase the number of cows it milks but must learn how to operate its dairy operations more efficiently, the delegation of Kazakhstan visitors said.

Azamat Saginbayev, CEO of the Kazakhstan Dairy Breeding Association, tells Mid-West Farm Report what he’s learned so far in an interview translated by Razak Bauyrzhan:

UWRF’s Mann Valley Farm served as a site where they could experience such a farm in person. Group members were eager to learn and had plenty of questions for Kehoe as she led them through the dairy cow portion of the farm. Kehoe fielded queries about everything from cow feed to bedding to medications to cleaning the barn.

Throughout her discussions – many of which required a translator – with group members, Kehoe stressed the need to provide quality living conditions for cows.

“Make sure your cows have access to plenty of clean water to drink, especially after they are milked,” she told the group. “And calves, they should have water from day one.”

After the visit to Mann Valley Farm, group members went to UWRF, where they talked with Animal and Food Science Assistant Professor Grace Lewis about various aspects of dairy farming, such as product trends, proper milk testing and storage, and pasteurization.

Mr. Mahan milks about 400 cows on his farm in southern Kazakhstan. He’s a dentist by training, but recently has taken interest in agriculture. He imported his Holstein cows from Denmark. He plans to expand his dairy operation with help from a low-interest loan from the Kazakhstan government, but he’s in Wisconsin to learn more about how to raise high-producing dairy cows:

Developing Kazakhstan’s dairy industry could help not only that nation but Wisconsin businesses as well, said Jennifer Lu, an economic development consultant with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Kazakhstan farmers and agribusiness companies could seek Wisconsin producers for everything from barn equipment to genetics as they grow their dairy sector, she said.

“We want them to look to us here in Wisconsin as they build the dairy industry in their country,” Lu said. “The relationships we’re forming today and this week could go a long way toward that.”

As Lu walked among the Kazakhstan group touring Mann Valley Farm, listening as they talked with Kehoe, she noted the value they were gaining from their visit.

“They are so eager to learn about how we operate dairy farms here in Wisconsin,” Lu said. “This partnership with UW-River Falls is the perfect way for them to do that.”