Thursday, 17 February 2011 10:12

New Fonterra China farm taking shape

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Cows Bred at Fonterra's first China farm Cows Bred at Fonterra's first China farm

 

EARTHWORKS HAVE started on Fonterra’s new $42 million dairy farm in Yutian County near Beijing.

Project manager Kim Mashlan told Dairy News Australia the perimeter fence is complete and other work is in progress. But during the three months of winter progress will be limited.

 

“We can do earthworks and pour foundations, but we can’t do concrete slabs because it adds to the cost and you can’t always control quality so well.

“We’ll limit our winter construction to earthworks and foundations. It’ll be some time in late February, early March, depending on the nature of the winter before we can resume full construction.”

Construction of the Yutian farm follows a successful pilot dairy farm at Hangu, near Tangshan City. The new and existing farms are relatively close together, saving cost.

The new farm is on 42ha. It will house 3000 milking cows plus replacements, totaling about 5500. It will have 12 barns, feed storage facilities and a milking parlour operating 24/7.  Its wastewater treatment plant will separate nutrients from waste for use on local cropland, unusual in China.

The 50 double-up parallel milking parlour will use data-gathering technology similar to that used in New Zealand. About 100 Chinese will run the farm.

Mashlan is responsible for ensuring project completion and commissioning by the end of 2011, a major task with many challenges.

She comes from Waikato, New Zealand, and has worked in dairying all her life. She is BAgSc, Massey University, and was a farm consultant before going dairy farming.

She worked on wages, then as a contract milker, in an equity partnership. Deciding on a change she took a job with Fonterra as a field rep/supplier liaison person; she has worked for the co-op 10 years. In May 2009 she joined the international milk sourcing and operations group, and has been in Beijing project managing the new farm since earlier this year.

Her intention in joining the international team was offshore work; she saw it as a great way to broaden her skills. “I had thought about South America but China came up first and as a work opportunity it was a good move for me.”

Managing a project of this scale has many challenges, especially not speaking the local language.

“You’re relying on interpreters and it’s harder to build relationships with the people you’re doing business with. This is primarily with regulatory bodies, construction related companies, local farmers and county officials.

“We’re also doing business with global companies and of course most have English speakers so that’s not quite so hard.”

To work successfully in China one has to build relationships and this takes time, although Mashlan says it helps to work for a company as well-known as Fonterra.

“There are lots of regulatory bodies and agencies which need to provide approval for the project. Working through this process has taken time and energy but we hope this means the next farm will be easier.”

Mashlan has four staff in Beijing helping her manage the Yutian farm project.

“The job would be much harder without the support and input of a few key people, especially our capital projects manager and engineer, William Zhou. He’s my key interpreter and advisor, and plays an important role as construction leader on the first farm”.

Fonterra rents the new-farm land from 190 local farmers, not as hard as it might seem because the farmers formed a committee and Fonterra negotiated the deal with this group, and it worked well.

“We’ve also been well supported by a key partner in identifying potential sites and helping us to build relationships with local government.”

Mashlan must next year ensure the buildings and systems are ready for livestock arriving in October.

“The stock from New Zealand will arrive in August, go into quarantine and arrive on the farm in October; calving will begin in November. Some cows will come from the existing farm at Hangu.”

 

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