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General view of the Israeli dairy farming


Extension Service, Department of Cattle Husbandry Staff

For more than 90 years – that is, over 20 years before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 – this country has been developing modern agriculture. The dairy sector in Israeli agriculture in 2018 was one of the largest branches of agriculture. The dairy sector has maintained a continuous best-established and consistent growth over the years. Since the beginning of the 1990s the growth of the sector has been ~ 4% per annum. Israel has developed special husbandry and feeding methods, which are suitable for the climatic conditions and the constraints of land and water. Many years of implementing these procedures have converted milk production in Israel to a highly- advanced and effective computerized system. The process aimed at achieving better efficiency and more streamlining in Israeli dairy farms is one that has gone on uninterruptedly and consistently for some five decades, and is manifested by the high milk yields per cow. The first Jewish pioneers who came to Israel from East European countries more than a hundred years ago, were accustomed to using milk and its products. They settled in the country with the objective of developing local dairy cows. But the production of the local cow was poor, and the European cows, which gave better milk yields, did not acclimate to the local conditions. The settlers therefore decided to develop a special local breed of cows, produced by cross- breeding local Damascus and Dutch Friesian stocks. Several generations of repeated cross- breeding resulted in a local cow with high milk yield and also characterized by an excellent resistance to climate. This breed is known as the Israeli Friesian breed. The dairy cowherd in Israel has the highest national milk yield per cow (11,667 kg) . Together with the high milk yield they also produce a high level of total protein (373 kg) and of total butterfat (423 kg). This progress is partially due to the importation of American and Canadian bull sperm. Nevertheless, herds are mostly composed of Israeli Friesian animals (99%).

Production conditions and breeding techniques
Cow breeding conditions in Israel are relatively difficult. The country is small and has limited areas of cultivated and irrigated land, besides which it suffers from water limitations. Precipitation occurs only in winter in the North of the country, and very seldom if ever in the South. The climate induced the technical aspect of this production. The climate and the small size of the country are the reasons that cows cannot be left out to natural pasture, but fed by imported feeds. These local conditions also necessitate that animal reproduction be in the forefront of progress. The cows cannot calve between April and July in order to avoid the lactation beginning during the warmer months. Likewise, in summer, animals are not very fertile; consequently artificial insemination is reduced in this period. (40 to 50%). Milk is the only target of two large settlement sectors: the Kibbutzim and the Moshavim. The Kibbutz is a social and economic collective unit, in which the breeders are working together. Moshavim are a form of association of private members in an agricultural settlement, with each member running a separate unit. Kibbutzim produce more milk than Moshavim. There is also a small part produced by isolated farms. With that target, each cow, which produces less than 18 liters per day, is excluded from the herd. 30 to 35% of dairy cows are culled for this reason, but also 40% for impregnation. 15% for abortion and 10 % for mastitis. In general, animal feed is the same for all the breeders of the Kibbutz. The only tasks of the producers are to collect the milk and to take care of the cows. The cows go to the milking machine two or three or fore times a day respectively for the Moshavim and for the Kibbutzim. The inseminator comes each day to the co- operative because there are a lot of cows by herds. The selection organization in order to propel the progress concerning the dairies aptitudes. All cows are inseminated:
70% with nationally certified bulls.
24% with tested bulls
5% with Charolais bulls
1% with the bulls, which are known in the world

Between 60 to 65 bulls are tested each year. Only 4 to 5 are nationally recognize. For the breeders, cow morphology is not important. A cow with a nice udder is secondary. There are cows with hideous udders but which produce a lot of milk” (Facts and figures from the Israel Dairy Board, 1995). There is a contrast between American, Israeli and European selections. Israelis produce milk first and foremost. Europeans are interested in the morphology of‘ the cows, in order to produce meat. As a result of the extreme summer conditions, both DMI and production decrease by 15- 20%, and conception rate also decreases. Intensive efforts are being made to relieve the heat stress showers during the summer, mainly through the use of combined with ventilation (evaporative cooling), both at the feeding bunk and the milking parlor yard. In “Kibbutz Kaliya” a settlement near the Dead sea, the daily range of summer temperatures is 22 to 45C. Yet, in 2017, annual milk yield with this herd of 324 cows reached 11,702 kg/cow, 3.81% fat and 3.38% protein. In “Kibbutz Yotvata” dairy farm+ dairy plant, located in the gate of “Arava” desert, 30 miles northern to Eilat (the southern of Israel), 696 dairy cows produced in 2017 11,281 kg/ cow/ year, 3.62% fat and 3.32% protein.

Water for forage crop irrigation
Is expensive, mainly recycled water: partially purified sewage water and rain- reservoir water.. Out of total land area of 28,000 km2 50% is semi- arid.

Most of the forages are grown in the winter
Wheat for silage is the main forage for milk cow TMR (70- 80% of total silages). Price is 140- 180$/ ton DM silage at the bunker. Wheat is seeded in November and harvested in April, at milk- dough stage (maximum digestible DM yield/ hectare), having high NDF (55- 58%) low protein (7- 8%), medium NDF digestibility (45- 50). Most wheat varieties are bi- functional, suitable for both grain and forage- crop production, nevertheless, some varieties more suitable for forage production, are being developed at present (late matured, having higher CW digestibility). Wheat and oat hays are the main forage used in dry cow TMR, and wheat straw is the main forage in heifers TMR and part of the forage in dry cow TMR. Small amounts of winter legumes: vetch , clover, and peas for hay production: 13- 14% CP, 45- 50% NDF. primarily for crop rotation; Legumes are being used proportion in milk cow TMR is low (5- 7%); their quality is medium; Price is high, 150- 200$/ ton. At extreme droughts – all kind of lignocelluloses are being used, mainly for heifers, including cotton stalks, sunflower stalks, chick peas straw, tomato stalks and more.

Main summer (April- October) forage is:
Corn, irrigated mainly with recycled water, comprises annually 30-40% of total silages in milk cow TMR (160-200$/ton DM silage at the bunker). Small amounts of medium quality alfalfa hay for calves, irrigated with marginal water sources (in Jordan valley-mainly brackish). Small amounts of tropical grasses, for hay production irrigated mainly with sewage water (panicum and some sorghum type grasses).

In general, the ensilage process and technology is highly maintained and provided a high quality silage. Silages are packed only in concrete bunkers. Silages comprise above 90% of the forages in milk cow TMR. The rate of hay incorporation into milk cow TMR is low, ~5-10%.

Approximately 50% of the TMR ingredients are imported
All cereal grain, mainly barley and corn, comprising 25- 35% of TMR. High CP meals: corn gluten, canola meal, cotton meal, sunflower meal, peanut meal, feather meal and fish meal. Some dry, high- protein, high- NDF by- products: DDGS, corn gluten feed. SBM is locally produced as a “by product” of the oil industry, using imported soybeans.

Local by products
Massive use of local highly digestible by- products, substituting compensating for the low some of the starch in cereal grains, forage diet, and contributing to normal rumen function: Wet citrus pulp, mainly fresh in the winter, some ensiled in the summer, 14- 20$/ ton (as fed); its proportion in milk cow TMR is 5- 8%, and 10- 15% with heifers TMR. Wheat bran, brewer’s grain, wet corn gluten. Vegetables surplus and other by- products are being used. Liquid whey (4- 5% DM, ~0.03$/ ton, as fed) and concentrated whey (35% DM). More than 50% of the total whey production plants is utilized for feeding the milk cows, heifers, and the dairy steers Whey is formulated as a part of the TMR, but is not within it. It is delivered to troughs, and consumption incorporated is regulated (up to 2 kg DM/ cow, and is substituting mainly barley). Cotton seeds (5- 10% of TMR, ~200$/ ton). High NDF low digestible cotton hulls. Some small amounts of molasses from the soy industry, and CMS provided by yeast industry (also imported). Bakery waste, tomato pulp, grape pulp (a winery by product) contribute small amounts and used mainly for heifers TMR.

TMRs usage
Most dairy farms are using TMR as their sole feeding system for baby calves. milk cows, dry cows and heifers. TMRs are being produced at “on- farm” feed center or are purchased from a “near- by” feed center (0- 250 km), some according to client specification and formulation. The feed centers to the dairy farm TMRs are being delivered from by: Trucks, which have special hydraulic chambers for different customer (long distance). TMR or Special uploading wagons (medium distance). Self propelled mixing wagons (short distance).

Mixing wagons (MW)
All new versions of MW (local & imported) are routinely checked (Extension Service). and confirmed for mixing uniformity Most types of MW are made in Israel (R. M. H, Lachish Industries.). Few are static MW, most are mobile via a tractor or self propelled. Most of mobile- MW are horizontal, part are vertical. The most popular horizontal MW is the type having a “non- continues” auger. These MW are resistant to long and flexible stem hays.

Global market grain- price plays a significant role in TMR formulation
Grain percentage and barley: corn ratio
The price of imported and local by products, and their rate of usage.
The price of local forages, and their rate of usage.

In general, milk cow TMR is characterized by:
Low forage diets: 30- 36%, depends on forage type (corn vs. wheat silage), particles size, hay proportion, and hay and silage quality.
Low forage NDF (32- 38%) and high non- forage NDF (16- 18%) diet.
16.5- 17.5% CP (according to season and level of production), 30- 36% of it as UIP.
35- 40% NSC.
4- 6% crude fat (according stage of lactation, fat sources, forage level, etc..)
% DM: 50- 60% (moister sources are mainly silages and by- products).
~1% Ca, ~0.5% P and additional vitamins and macro and ~0.5% NaCl, micro elements, supplied by premix.
Any formulation of TMR and/ or concentrate mix is available from feed centers and/ or feed mill, according to the dairy farmer’s specific request.

Feeding complete ration (TMR) to dairy cows.
The term complete ration (CR) is used synonymously with total mixed ration (TMR), total blended ration (TBR), etc. It may be defined as” The practice of weighing and blending all feedstuffs into a complete ration which provides adequate nourishment to meet the needs of dairy cows.” Each bite consumed contains the required amounts and level of nutrients (energy, protein, minerals and vitamins) needed by the cow.

Advantages of a Complete Ration (TMR)

1. No parlor grain-feeding facilities are needed:

a. The cost of parlor construction and maintenance of feeding equipment is reduced.
b. There is less dust and no grain clean-up in the parlor.
c. There is no delay in milking time while waiting for cows to eat grain.
d. Milkers can concentrate on milking more cows per man-hour.
e. Cows stand more quietly and defecate less during milking.
f. Cows move through the parlor faster.
2. The dairyman has more control over the total feeding program.

a. Concentrates can be liberally fed to high producers without over-feeding the late-lactation, lower-producing cows, resulting in more efficient use of feeds.
b. Silage tends to mask the taste and dustiness of feed ingredients, so a dairyman can substitute more economical grains, urea, etc., and eliminate the need for pelleted feeds without affecting the palatability of the ration.
c. Cows eat numerous small meals throughout the day, thus getting greater intake of feed and better utilization of ingredients such as urea.
d. Fewer cows have digestive upsets and go off-feed.
3. Labor is less for feeding the total herd.

a. Equipment and rations used for feeding the lactating herd can be used for feeding dry cows, heifers, and calves from 2 months of age.
4. Cost of cow housing and feeding facilities is less.

a. Mangers are simplified. No need for conveyers or augers.
b. Less manger space is needed. As little as 20 cm per cow has been used experimentally without affecting feed intake.
c. Free-stall numbers can be reduced.

Disadvantages of the Complete Ration (TMR)

1. Special equipment is needed.

a. The equipment must have the capability
b. The mixer, preferably mobile, must have the capability for exactly weighing each ingredient.
c. Once the ingredients are blended, separation should be avoided; this will occur with certain types of conveyers.
d. A crowd gate or training gate may be heeded initially to get cows into the parlor.
2. Cows should be grouped by production levels.

a. If not grouped, cows in late lactation tend to get too fat.
b. Dry cows must be removed from the lactating herd.
c. Grouping cows becomes difficult in small herds.

Guidelines for Grouping by Production Levels

1. Number of groups:

a. Three or more groups are the best. With at least three groups, the variation in the nutritive levels in the ration is less.
b. Dry cows must be separated from the lactating strings.
c. In small herds where three or even two groups are not feasible, magnet feeders can theoretically provide a separate feeding group. Also, some grain feeding in the parlor can, in effect, make for any number of feeding groups.
2. Shifting cows:

a. Monthly intervals are frequent enough, preferably using the DHI test reports as criteria for shifting.
b. Shifting small groups of cows rather than one cow at a time is best.
c. Use judgment, on an individual cow basis, based upon your knowledge of time in lactation, the physical condition, level of production, pregnancy, temperament, etc., before shifting.
3. Rations:

a. Formulate the ration for each group using the average production, size, and fat test for each group.
b. Keep feed in the manger for the cows at all times. This is especially important for the higher-producing groups and where manger space may be inadequate to allow all cows to eat at one time.
c. Reformulate the rations whenever a change in forage quality occurs. Test the forages at least monthly and more frequently if type or quality of silage changes.
d. A saving in feed cost and a better conditioning of cows for the subsequent lactation is possible if the low-producing group and dry-cow group are cut severely in the amount of concentrate fed. This is where real cost savings can be made.
e. Provide adequate water for each group.
f. Silage should not be chopped too fine. A 1.5 cm cut is recommended.
g. Hay, if fed, should be group-fed in a separate rack or manger.
4. Frequency of feeding:

a. Once a day may be sufficient for low-producing groups during cool weather.
b. Two or more feedings daily encourage cows to eat more frequently and controls feed spoilage in warm weather.
c. Providing adequate bunk volume for free-choice feeding at all times is important regardless of frequency of feeding.

Feeding and managing a herd using the complete ration system can save labor and reduce waste of concentrates. The system cannot be successful without close supervision so that all small details are carried out. Keeping the mixture exactly the same day-after-day and making big changes gradually are extremely important. By observing the bulk-tank milk level after each milking, early detection of something wrong with the complete ration is possible. A dairyman cannot observe all conditions and indicators too closely. Using the best analysis of forages is necessary. Guessing is not good enough!

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