As dairy farms decrease in number but grow in size, management styles shift, and so too does the role of the veterinarian. In Spain, where herd size has increased steadily over the past decades, veterinarians focus on bettering milk quality and preventing mastitis through improved management protocol. Q-Llet co-owner and veterinarian Demetrio Herrera Mateo explains.
Dairy production in Spain
Dairy production in Spain has seen much change over the last decades. According to the Spanish Department of Agriculture, as of the first quarter of 2019, there are 837,000 milking cows across the country. In total, Spain has 13,445 dairy farms, home to 62 dairy cows, on average.
“We have two different realities in our country,” explained Herrera. “Most of our cows are on the Cantabrian Sea in the northwest, in Galicia and Asturias Around 65.70 per cent of farms are based here and they produce around 50 per cent of the country’s milk. They are made up of small family farms.
In the east, there are fewer farms, but they are much larger in size. In Catalonia, where the average farm has 167 cows, just 3 per cent of farms produce 10 per cent of the country’s milk. In total, there are about 460 dairy farms and 77,000 cows in the region.
In Spain, the average milk price is €324/ton or €32.40/100 kilograms. In 2018, average milk production per cow was 8,772 kilograms. In Catalonia where the industry is more intensive, milk production per cow per year is 10,148 kilograms.
The prevalence of contagious pathogens in Spain is fairly low, said Herrera. Streptococcus agalactiae infections are close to zero, and Staphylococcus aureus falls somewhere between 5–10 per cent. Farmers whose bulk tank samples test positive often have low somatic cell counts.
“I think it depends on the strain of S. aureus you have on your farm,” said Herrera.
Only a few farmers are dealing with Mycoplasma spp.
“Most of them face environmental challenges,” said Herrera.
Changing farm size means a change in management
Possibly the biggest change Spain’s dairy sector has seen over the past decade has to do with farm size. Ten years ago there were 23,000 dairy farms across the country. Today, there that number has dropped to 17,000. Similar to other countries around the globe, small Spanish family farms are on the decline, while large farm operations are on the rise. Total milk production is also on the rise. In 2006, average milk production per cow per year was 6,770 kilograms. Today, that number has risen to 8,772 kilograms.
Addressing today’s challenges
As the dairy sector changes and advances, so too must Q-Llet’s team. Q-Llet is a vet services company based in Barcelona, Spain. Founded by partners Demetrio Herrera Mateo and Oriol Franquesa Oller in 2005, the company employs two veterinarians, Laura Hurtado Rivas and Gemma Benaiges Garcia.
Q-Llet focuses exclusively on milk quality. The team acts as dairy farm consultants and works closely with farm managers, milkers and veterinarians to prevent mastitis problems, and to improve udder health and milk quality. This, they say, helps farm businesses to increase overall profitability.
Their client list also includes large dairy cooperatives, as well as
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