December 8, 2011
Vietnam's dairy industry needs improvements to develop in a sustainable manner despite playing an important role in its livestock production and has helped raise farmers' incomes.
Dr Doan Duc Vu from the Institute of Agricultural Science for Southern Vietnam said that during the last 10 years, the dairy cattle population rapidly increased, from 41,000 heads in 2001 to 128,538 heads last year.
Total domestic milk production in the period achieved an annual growth rate of more than 30% to over 306,000 tonnes in 2010 from 64,000 tonnes in 2001.
But domestic consumption and demand have increased even faster. Milk output this year has reached an estimated 329,000 tonnes, meeting only 22% of demand. As a result, the country imports a large amount of milk and dairy products each year.
As living standards increase, consumers have stronger demand for milk and dairy products, offering a good opportunity for businesses and farmers to expand their breeding. Despite ample opportunities, the dairy-cow breeding industry is facing challenges, including inexperienced farmers, a lack of dairy-cow breeds, insufficient land for cattle-raising and forage production, and ineffective animal-health services, according to Vu.
With small scale breeding, farmers say it is difficult to apply modern technology, which results in lower productivity and quality as well as high production costs. In addition, the country has to import most ingredients used in producing cattle feed, pushing up production costs and making the sector less competitive.
The dairy production sector is still young and has far less experience than other agricultural sectors, Vu said, noting that farmers still breed mainly Holstein-Friesian crossbreeds with low productivity.
Ho Mong Hai, an expert from the Vietnam Animal Husbandry Department, said the Government, under its Dairy Development Plan until 2020, set a target to meet 38% of domestic milk consumption by 2020.
To achieve these goals, Hai said the sector must adopt measures to raise productivity and reduce production costs, including dispensing with cows with low reproduction capacity or productivity, continuing to import quality dairy-cow gene sources and encouraging development of large-scale breeding farms.
He also called on the sector to develop measures to reduce industrial feed expenses by expanding cultivation of soy and corn and intensive production of grass.
Training farmers in the basic principles of dairy cattle raising and disease prevention, as well as health hygiene, milk preservation and some common disease treatments, was also very important, he said.
In Vietnam, dairy cows are mainly raised in the south-eastern region, with dairy cow herds in HCM City accounting for 62% of the country's total.
Delegates at the forum also discussed issues related to dairy cow breeds, breeding techniques, disease-prevention measures, nurturing techniques and waste-treatment methods, as well as the latest technology in the processing, preservation and supply of cattle feed.
The forum, co-organised by the National Agricultural Extension Centre and the HCM City Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, was attended by more than 400 delegates, including scientists, provincial agricultural officials, businesses, and breeders of milch cows from 10 provinces and cities in the south.