Wednesday, February 01, 2012

7000 Pounds of Milk

Post has an article on a Virginia farmer selling Holstein bulls to Russia. Two paragraphs:
Russian farmers are trying to improve dairy herds that produce an average 7,000 pounds of milk per cow each year, said Valery Osipenko, who co-owns Vistar Farms of Mechanicsville, which sold the bulls to Russian farmers for an undisclosed amount. Top-quality American Holsteins produce an average of more than 20,000 pounds of milk per year.
Instead of raising dairy cattle for milk and beef cattle for meat, Soviet collective farms had “dual-use” cattle, which would be milked for a while, then killed for meat, Osipenko said. Those one-size-fits-all cattle may have embodied an egalitarian ideal, but both milk and meat were mediocre, said Osipenko, a native of Ukraine who recalled his mother boiling beef for hours in a fruitless attempt to tenderize it.
Random thoughts: back in the 50's, we were averaging something over 10,000 lbs, maybe more, so Russia is really backwards.

Of course, back in the 1700's dual purpose cattle were the rule in America.  I wonder about the evolution of the industry.  In the 50's we had "registered" Holsteins, tracking the ancestry of our cows.  Used artificial insemination and choose the bull based on the production records of his progeny.  Now Darwin writes about how humans have changed domestic breeds by their selection, but I don't recall he used cows as an example.  I'm vaguely aware Washington and Jefferson imported animals based on their qualities: is it possible sheep can be "dual-purpose" (wool versus mutton)?

If we assume that US dairymen were, in the 19th century, trying to improve the productivity of their herds, then maybe it's also reasonable to assume the same was true in Russia.  So what might have happened? Perhaps the Russian Revolution and the arrival of collective farms meant the freezing of the drive to improve productivity?  Meaning for 70 years the Russian dairy industry was frozen?

Still surprising to me that they haven't progressed faster in the 20+ years since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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