My first comments…
It has been 5 weeks since I am among the ProAgria advisors.
Milk price: 350 à 380€/1000L
During my first visits, I was surprised by the high price of the milk but I fast understood that the investments in cowsheds are so heavy because of the climate that this price of the milk is equivalent in 300€/1000L in France.
The milk is mainly collected by the dairies Valio but also Arla which represents almost 80% of the share markets. Other dairies of small sizes exist in the country and have a better valuation of the milk which allows to obtain for his members an often upper price of 20 to 30€ / 1000L compared with the Valio and Arla. This functioning with some majority dairies is similar in France.
In other hand, I was amazed by the amount of subsidies which receive the farm. It can represent 20 to 30 % of the turnover. It would seem that many dairy farm would not be profitable without these subsidies.
Cowsheds adapted to the climate which entraine amounts of outstanding investment …
The new Finnish cowshed are optimized to accommodate it a maximum of cows. However, one third of the dairy farm are tie stall barn. Thoses systems do not exist anymore in France or only in mountain areas. The high cost of buildings whose roof needs to be isolated from the cold is the main reason for this high concentration of cows/m² (for example a 100 cows stable is around 1.5€ million).
Cowshed, often high and wide, have roofs isolated to maintain a temperature of 10°C inside. Fans are settled in to make sure the air circulation. I nevertheless felt strong ammoniac odor when I entered in the stables. But during the discussions with the farmers, they did not seem to have of lung problems on animals.
No corn silage
The Pohjois-Savo area that I discover is the main milk producing region. In fact, milk production is concentrated in the central part of Finland. Because of insufficient temperatures, I have observed that maize cultivation is non-existent.
Feeding the herd is thus mainly based on the grass silage and grazed with a strong complementation in cereal, which could go from 2 to 10 kg/cow/day. Moreover, farmers prefer rape as a protein source rather than soybeans. They are many environmentally conscious and prefer to import rapeseed from the EU that the South American soy. Farmers innovate by introducing leguminous plants in cereals to make immature cereal silages, which is more balanced forage.
They often make analyzes to add the best concentrate. From a technical point of view in feeding, milk production results are satisfying, showing that the rations are balanced in energy and protein. However, from an economic point of view, feed costs seem high to me about 110 € / 1000L whereas our objective in France is to be closest than € 90 / 1000l.
Cows are in a few cases allowed to pasture, a practice that is still widely used in France. The spring was so wet that put animals outside would lead too much trampling of grassland.
Make economy of manpower
The companies are mostly family farms with few employees. However, for larger farms, farmers often prefer to automate dairy building (feeding and milking robot) rather than hiring the manpower. The cost of a Finnish employee is close to 35 000€ / unit / year with payroll taxes.
I identified two reasonings about this: hiring manpower from Eastern European countries (Estonia, Ukraine, ...) so inexpensive (20 000 € /unit/year) or automate milking and feeding process. There are 20% of dairy farms with at least one milking robot.
Two dairy breeds are mostly used
The Holstein breed selected to increase the average quantities of milk produced and the Ayrshire breed, selected to increase the protein and fat content of the milk. Also this breed charmed Finnish farmers because it is a hardy breed and therefore less costly in terms of veterinary expenses.
The most popular breeds in France are for the same reasons, Holstein. Then after the Norman and Montbéliarde breeds because they are hardy and they are mixed breeds that are well valued for meat.
This is the first time I've heard of that expression. Yep, in France, all the arable land is already cultivated and productive!
When this Finnish farmer showed me how much work it is necessary to extract the rocks with the backhoe, drain to remove water and soil amendment to raise the pH. The return on investment is so long. Indeed it takes years to make the land cultivable and be patient to get the expected returns. This work is essential to increase cropland. Incredible!
Elodie Martin, Ranska