Farm Horizons, Nov. 2006

Land O’Lakes initiative to bring dairy farms to Afghanistan

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

The Cokato Dassel Rotary’s special speaker gave a presentation about his trip to war-torn Afghanistan to ignite the country’s dairy industry.

Scott Gottschalk of Kingston, works for Land O’Lakes as a dairy distribution manager. In 1991, he developed a curriculum on dairy production and management and since then, has toured several different countries teaching the curriculum.

In the past, Gottschalk has been to Uganda, Africa twice, and to Estonia and Poland after they had broken away from the Soviet Union.

Years later, he and his wife, Astrid, taught the same curriculum to the women dairy farmers in Siberia. In Siberia, the women milk the cows and the men tell them what to do, he said.

“It was helpful having my wife there,” he commented.

His assignments with Land O’Lakes have been to work internationally teaching and generating dairy farms in developing countries.

His most recent trip has led him to Jalalabad, Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border. The objective was to work with an investor who already owned a small dairy farm, and transform it into a 500-cow dairy farm, including milk production.

He spent 17 days in Afghanistan working on a rented 50-cow dairy farm that was once owned by the Soviet Union before it fell.

While there, he taught nutrition, recommended building designs for milk production, and spoke with an agricultural department on re-establishing a bottling company.

Unlike his other assignments, Gottschalk was less optimistic on its success, he said.

There is currently no dairy industry in Afghanistan.

There is a handful of peasant farmers with only one cow producing milk, according to Gottschalk.

All the milk is ultra-pasturized, with the majority coming from neighboring Pakistan, he said.

The country doesn’t use milk the way America does, he said. They may only use a little for their tea or porridge, he explained.

With the Taliban’s control and corrupted government, Gottschalk doesn’t foresee his assignment in Afghanistan making much “headway.”

The country is still in the middle of a war and the government is very unstable, he said.

“If the government, survives then there might be hope,” he said.

With Afghanistan being the second-poorest country, it will be difficult to have a successful dairy industry, according to Gottschalk.

The cows are unhealthy and suffer from malnutrition, which causes very little milk production, he explained.

“They need more than chopped straw,” he said. But, with people starving, themselves, how can they feed their cows?” Gottschalk asked.

With a country that generates 85 percent of its income from illegal drugs such as opium and marijuana, “It’s tough to convince them to begin a dairy farm,” he said.

“But someone has to start somewhere,” he added.

This is Gottschalk’s philosophy when it comes to dairy. He is very passionate about the dairy industry.

“I must give something back to the worldwide dairy industry,” he said.

Gottschalk grew up on a dairy farm in southern Minnesota, graduated from the University of Minnesota with a double major in animal science and agricultural education, and has been working with Land O’Lakes for 25 years.

He has been asked, many times, by his father, why he takes such dangerous assignments.

“I enjoy the risk,” he said.

During his time in Afghanistan, Gottschalk hired a guard for a few days, before putting on traditional Afghan clothing to blend in for his safety.

Gottschalk explained that five people were beheaded on the same road he traveled just a week before he arrived.

The trip had previously been cancelled twice by Land O’Lakes due to the dangerous conditions.

Approximately 90 percent of the consultants hired by Land O’Lakes are stationed in safe environments.

“They know I like the risk, that’s why they come to me for the more dangerous jobs,” Gottschalk said.

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