Sitting under a pergola dissipating the blazing September sun of northern
Thailand, beef cow farmer Punya Prachachit says he can’t believe he was making
so many simple mistakes for so many years.
Prachachit, 65, from Mung
Saleonnatcoon Province, laments that in the past 10 years in the beef
cultivating business, he has been using many incorrect techniques to raise and
maintain his cows. Sure, becoming a farmer was only a retirement job for the
former government officer, but Prachachit so took to raising beef cows that he
became president of one of the largest meat cooperatives in Thailand and thereby
a key figure in national decisions on meat.
“It would be a big honor for
me if I can help you,” cattle expert Shimon Carmi told him last
Carmi, head of S.H. Design Engineering Ltd. and a legend in the
Israeli cattle industry – he was one of the founders of the dairy herd
management company AfiMilk, where he worked until 1993 – was part of a group of
Israeli agriculture experts traveling around Thailand in mid-September under the
guidance of the Royal Thai Embassy in Israel. They were there to share
their expertise with rural Thai farmers, who came to meet them at five different
Royal Development Study Centers. Prachachit – at the Puparn Royal Development
Study Center in the northeastern Sikhon Nakhon Province – was one of these
farmers, who reacted with amazement and gratitude at the huge impact some small
changes in their cattle rearing practices could make.
At Puparn, beef cow
researchers are raising combinations of both standard French Charolais cattle
and black Tajima cows – responsible for Japan’s worldfamous, and world-famously
expensive, Kobe beef. The latter are descended from two originals that
Japan gave the princess of Thailand. In addition to the Tajima cows, the center
specializes in blackbone chicken, prized for their melanin pigmentation, as well
as black pigs.
Prachachit and his colleagues readily admitted to Carmi,
in Thai through translators, that they never checked the temperature of their
cattle. Neither had Wisut Auekingpetch, the veterinarian at the center, and his
Without properly measuring temperatures, it is difficult to
determine a cow’s degree of suffering and determine when a cool-down is
necessary, Carmi explained to them.
“In general, the ruminant is not
equipped with heat stress tolerance because they were bred in stressed
countries. They need help in cooling,” he told The Jerusalem Post
help mechanism involves measuring rectal temperatures and then lowering said
temperatures by means of evaporative cooling – a combination of hosing the
animals down and fanning them, according to Carmi.
A ruminant produces
the equivalent of 2,000 watts of heat, and the consequences of failing to cool
the animal properly can be detrimental. For example, in response to a farmer who
was having trouble successfully inseminating female beef calf bearers, Carmi
explained that when in desperation, the cow diverts her blood away from her
uterus and ovaries as a cooling mechanism.
“That’s why she doesn’t
conceive in the tropics,” he said. “It’s very simple.”
The farmers sat in
amazement, marveling that something so simple and inexpensive could help improve
the quality of their beef cattle so drastically.
THE SAME sentiment had
prevailed among dairy cow farmers the previous day at Huai Hong Khrai Royal
Development Study Center in the northwestern Chiang Mai Province.
Hong Khrai, the dairy farmers had only been generating about three liters of
milk twice per day, as opposed to the daily average of 36 liters in Israel,
Carmi told the Post.
“They have a very strange thermometer that made it
hard to see the mercury,” he noted. “They don’t use it at all.”
the cows would allow them to become healthier and thereby produce much greater
quantities of milk, he explained.
“The cow is an animal from the coldest
hemisphere, like in Europe. So they are not equipped with natural devices to
cool themselves,” he said. “For example, if you take a horse and you put him in
the sun, he immediately starts to sweat. A cow does not start to
A normal temperature for a cow might be 38.5ºC, “but if you don’t
check it, you don’t know it,” he added.
“We cooled the cow, and within
half an hour the cow started to feel more appetite. She started to eat, and
after one and a half hours, she was normal as far as body temperature,” he
Dairy and meat cow farmers in the tropics are particularly
oblivious to heat stress due to the sheer fact that it is typically so hot all
year round, according to Carmi. In places like the northeastern United States,
on the other hand, alarm bells sound for farmers as soon as the summer hot
spells begin, and they immediately begin to alter the handling of their
“That means that you cannot even think about being efficient in
milk production in the tropics without taking into consideration a No. 1
priority, which is heat stress relief,” Carmi said.
In the tropical dairy
industry, not only is it crucial that the farmers cool their cattle, but they
also must make sure their milk is cooled right upon exit from the animal, as the
liquid provides an excellent substrate for bacterial reproduction, Carmi
There are about 120,000 dairy cows in Israel, while there are
only about 25,000 dairy cows in the Chiang Mai province. The price of raw milk
in both countries is around the same – about NIS 2.10 per liter – but Israelis
drink about 180 liters per person per year, while Thais drink only about 10
liters per person per year, statistics from both Carmi and the Huay Hong Krai
BACK AT Puparn, despite mainly cultivating meat cattle,
Auekingpetch the veterinarian told Carmi that he and his department were
attempting to develop a special tropical dairy cow breed that would inherently
be able to produce more milk.
To this, Carmi responded that “the dream to
develop a tropical dairy cow is a utopia” and that “it won’t happen.” Neither
meat nor dairy cows can exist as a special tropical breed because there is no
way to dissipate all the heat that naturally occurs in a ruminant as well as the
surrounding brutal air temperatures.
“It’s much easier to take a milk cow
and giver her good conditions,” he said.
In response to a question of how
much they should be feeding their cattle, he replied that in a cold climate,
cows should eat about 4.5 percent of their body weight in dry food per day, so
in a tropical climate, “as much as she wants to eat, you should feed her –
Chopped younger grass is the best type of food for the cow,
grass that has grown for about 20 days, according to Carmi. In order to prevent
bloating – another question the farmers had – people should be feeding their
cattle the grass the next morning, when it is a bit less fresh – a mechanism
that will make the grass easier to digest, he said.
will not diminish after preserving fresh cattle feed overnight, Carmi assured
Another tip he gave the farmers was that when cross-breeding
cattle, they must make sure the resultant calf will not be too big for the cow
One particular breed of cows that Israeli meat farmers
prefer is Belgian Blue, which provides a small, light-boned calf and quality
meat, and this would be highly preferable to the French Charolais, he
After contemplating all of Carmi’s guidelines, Prachachit said he
would definitely be following his Israeli colleague’s advice when it came to
cutting fresh grass and leaving it overnight before feeding his animals. As far
as checking the temperature of his cattle and making sure to cool them down
properly, he said this would be feasible.
“Next time you come, will you
bring the Belgian Blue semen with you?” Prachachit asked Carmi, laughing.