For two days in mid-September I had the joy of being travel guide for a large group of nutritionists from all over France and Luxemburg.

And what feels better than showing your own country to foreigners when the sun is shining, everything is working according to plans and everybody  are deeply engaged in valuable discussions

french consultantsOne of the biggest surprises for the group, – which has also made me rethink why, – was how we in Denmark have managed to agree on “all walking in the same direction“.
Danish farmers have managed to stay united in large cooperatives which, – once covering most of the market inside Denmark start focusing abroad. In this way 90% of all milk produced in Denmark is sold to Arla which is now the 5th largest dairy in the world! Arla was not all that popular in Denmark during the tough years when they crushed competition (mainly other cooperatives, – who ended up merging with Arla, – many because they had no choice). But now I think everybody recognizes that for a small country where 2/3 of the milk production is exported we need a large player in the market!Today my impression is that Arla, by farmers in Northwest Europe (as 20-30 years ago in Denmark) is seen as a rather aggressive dairy taking over any dairy whenever they can. So I think it came as a surprise to the French group when we visited Arla head quarter that Arla see their main long term “raison d’etre” being able to buy all the milk offered at as high a price as possible to the milk producers (and owners) as possible. No limitations on milk intake and maximum payment to the owners! Now Arla has owners in 7 countries, Arla is no longer a Danish cooperative!But of course, to take all milk offered and sell it off at high prices in the best markets makes it crucial that Arla milk is top quality milk! Therefore Arla are working hard to roll out a uniform certification program and a uniform settlement program for members in all countries! Arla is a cooperative and demands have to go both ways!The purpose of the trip for the French group was to study milk production in an area where farm size has increased rapidly and where everybody seems ready to get rid of the milk quotas. To get inspired, – and to avoid doing the same mistakes as we have done in Denmark!

We visited the national and a local advisory centre, a research farm, the Arla headquarter and of course dairy farms where farmers enthusiastically presented their farm and their goals. From 165 to 450 cows, conventional and organic farms.

The visitors were impressed about the level of technology already implemented in large barns and the readiness to further increase production, – if possible. And, as mentioned already, here the surprise was that it is not the dairy which put limitations. The limitations for the typical Danish milk producer is rather (due to big loans) access to further investment if needed, – and the risk of not being able to pay his mortgage if the interest should increase! But that’s another story!
ToveAsmussen_Portræt[1]Blog post written by:
Tove Asmussen

Master of Sci. Milk Production

Dipl. Business Innovation
Consultant & Business Owner, Raw Milk Connect