Farm Horizons, August 2010
Helping international dairy industries thrive
By Kristen Miller
Having the opportunity to travel the globe and help international farmers become successful is something Scott Gottschalk of Kingston has appreciated about his job at Land O’Lakes.
Since 1981, Land O’Lakes, through its International Development Division, has been providing expertise to assist farmers, cooperatives, and agribusiness in developing countries as a way to generate economic growth, improve health and nutrition, and alleviate poverty.
Through Land O’Lakes, Gottschalk has been on eight international dairy consulting assignments since 1992, with his first assignment being to Poland. He has also worked with farmers in Estonia, Uganda, Africa; Siberia, Russia; Afghanistan, and most recently, Lebanon.
This past March, Gottschalk spent 15 days in Lebanon working as a dairy financial analyst of several dairies in Bekka Valley. This is a fertile, high-plains area with intense agriculture and food production, according to Gottschalk.
The main objectives of this international assignment were to provide principle guidelines enabling the dairy farms to be farm businesses, complete with a budget plan, as well as being able to decide how to invest in the most profitable opportunities, Gottschalk explained.
At the several dairy farms he visited, herds ranged in size from 80 to 1,500 cows, with every size in between, he said.
There are an estimated 450 dairy farms in Lebanon, with only a small handful of larger dairies, and the average farm being about 25 cows, according to Gottschalk.
Lebanon’s dairy farms are unable to meet the country’s demand for dairy products, and 70 percent of its consumption of dairy and dairy by-products are through imports.
“Part of my assignment was to help jump-start the dairy industry so they can begin importing less dairy,” he said.
Gottschalk explained it as teaching them how to fish, rather than just giving them fish to eat. He does this by teaching them how to be more productive with their herds which will, in turn, allow the country to become more self-sustainable.
As a company, Land O’Lakes doesn’t give the countries money to do as they wish, Gottschalk explained. It provides time and talent to teach more productive ways of running a farm.
On average, the cows in Lebanon give about one-third less milk than the average cow in America, he said.
Gottschalk noted some of the constraints the country faces in its dairy sector including: limited feed resources, poor and unbalanced livestock diets, low resistance to diseases, inadequate veterinary services, lack of animal breeding programs, poor communication within the dairy sector, and lack of milk collection infrastructure. He also mentioned the lack of record-keeping and extension services available for farmers.
To alleviate some of these matters, Gottschalk met with herd managers to evaluate decisions made in purchasing feed and supplies, rearing heifers, fertility, milk pricing, and short- and long-term decisions that affect the farm. He also helped establish financial benchmarks and develop yearly cash-flow budgets.
Despite its constraints, Lebanon’s dairy industry is seen by Gottschalk as the most advanced compared to all the other countries he has previously consulted in, he said.
The dairies he visited in Lebanon were all very modern, like the farms seen in Minnesota, Gottschalk said, though there were still those farms with two cows and bucket-style milkers.
As with his past assignments, Gottschalk was in awe of how other cultures and societies function around the world. He has also come to understand and appreciate the compassion he has found from the people in countries where he has worked.
“I can only attest that with each assignment, my personal blessings grow and the basis of my global friendships expands,” Gottschalk said. “After each assignment, I’m hopeful that our planet is just a little bit better for making one small contribution towards more overall peace and harmony.”
Gottschalk is a field sales leader with Land O’Lakes and is in charge of the dairy nutrition team for Iowa, Minnesota, and South Dakota.