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It’s Dairy Day in Chile!! (Chee-lay!!)

Hello everyone from home!!

My name is Casey Porter, I grew up on a dairy farm in Northern New York, and I have been asking for this day for months! I am studying Animal Science with a focus on Dairy Production and Management at Cornell, so naturally, I was very interested in visiting a dairy farm while in Chile. Today we had the opportunity to tour the research dairy owned by the Universidad Austral de Chile. Since I am most familiar with the dairy industry in the United States, we will be comparing the USA and Chile a lot in this post.

First, some facts about the farm: the research dairy has about 170 milking and dry cows at one time, slightly bigger than the average size herd in Chile, which is about 100 cows. The farm is run as a grazing dairy system with 80 hectares and 30 grazing paddocks. The cows are allowed to graze on grass during the day, brought in to a milking center two times each day, and are fed grain during milking as needed, depending on the nutrient content of the pastures they graze on. Cows on this farm produce about 13,230 lbs of milk per one lactation, which usually lasts 305 days. Cows in the United States usually produce about twice that amount.

Chile faces some unique challenges in their dairy industry. First, three southern regions of Chile produce about 85% of the total milk production. In the south, grazing systems like this one are most popular. In the north, the rest of the milk is produced similarly to the United States where a total mixed ration of chopped corn, grain, grass, and legume mixtures are fed to cows inside barns to optimize milk production and genetic potential.

Genetics are another challenge in Chile, since the dairy cow population is about 400,000 cows, comparing to about 9.2 million dairy cows and genetic pools to choose from in the United States. Our tour guide, Juan Keim, mentioned that the University used to have a genetics center to increase genetic diversity in Chile. However, due to the lack of genetic diversity, the competition of another genetics company, and the high availability of genetics from the USA, New Zealand, and Europe, the university’s genetics center had to close a few months ago.

What I’ve found most interesting about Chile’s dairy industry is their most popularly consumed dairy products, which mainly includes cheese. As an avid cereal eater, I was really interested to find that all fluid milk here is ultrapasteurized, a higher temperature pasteurization process than our typical one at home that allows milk to be shelf stable, and not refrigerated until it’s open. Chile’s most common dairy exports are milk powder, baby formula, and cheese.

I was surprised to find how similar Chile and United States’ production systems really were. No matter where we are found, dairy farmers are passionate about environmental stewardship and the welfare of our animals to create nature’s most nearly perfect food. If you have any questions about dairy farming in either Chile or the United States, please feel free to comment them and I will respond as soon as I can! Thanks for reading!!

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