Working on farms located more than 2000 meters above sea level, enhancing the well-being of their dairy herds is a daily affair for Colombian farmers near the capital city, Bogotá. This is how they aim to meet the city’s growing demand for quality milk.
In the Sabana de Bogotá, the central region of Colombia, livestock and agriculture are part of everyday life with 500 thousand livestock farmers in residence. A quick trip through the routes that leave the capital allows visitors to find crop and animal agriculture operations that provide the food, fuel and fiber that the country needs. There, in the Cundinamarca region, one farmer sees a fast growing global trend: good animal well-being correlates with better quality milk production.
In the municipality of Cogua, COMGAMI farm (Compañía Ganadera La Milagrosa) is the home of 120 Jersey cows and calves. Jerseys are known for quality of milk and the docility. Despite being relatively small, around 500 kg in weight, the cows on this farm produce an average of 15 to 18 liters of milk per day.
"Here we are focused on milk quality and good genetics, which allows us to put our efforts into enhancing animal well-being at all stages of life," explains Diego Valbuena, Head of Production at COMGAMI. The cattle are also registered in the Colombian Association of Jersey Cattle Breeders, which allows them to achieve greater value in the sale of genetics and puts this farm that is in a remote part of South America on the world map for this breed.
Another point that draws attention in COMGAMI is the practice of milking in the field. Every one to two days, the milking parlor is relocated to follow the movement of the cattle around the pastures. The cuts of the grass are programmed to be made after the cows pass through a certain area, which allows them to graze calmly. This also allows for better control of diseases and insects. This low-stress approach leads to greater animal well-being for the cows and calves, even in the rainy season, when there is more mud and it is more difficult for the cows to access optimal pasture. Grasses are needed in order for the cattle to ruminate properly. Ruminating is the chewing process that is required for cows to digest the grass, which then “transforms” grass into milk.
This farm is one example of many more in Colombia where Bayer introduced a Biolactosecurity program nearly 12 years ago. Through the application of science in dairy production, farms that are located at heights greater than 2000 meters have now achieved a high standard of milk quality, in part due to intense collaboration with Animal Health experts at Bayer. The Biolactosecurity program encompasses more than 35,000 cows across 350 producers and continues to grow.
Within the Biolactosecurity program, ten Bayer veterinary services advisors oversee 30 to 40 farms and support the farmers in key technical areas that comprise the well-being, health, and productivity of the herds. With this close side-by-side collaboration, Bayer is better able to offer practical and effective solutions that benefit the animals as well as the farm.
All aspects within the Biolactosecurity program are in accordance with the 2006 Colombian Certification of Good Livestock Practices (BPG). By following milk production standards, Colombian farmers are better able to deliver dairy products that are certified as safe and healthy and at the same time protect people, animals and the environment.
According to Diego Valbuena, "Behind every liter of milk in the supermarket there is the great effort of people who work tirelessly on the farms."