American help for dairy farmers
In September 2010, Farmer-to-Farmer (FtF) volunteer Damon Szymanski, a dairy farmer from Wisconsin, traveled to Egypt to train 75 small dairy farmers in simple, low-cost technologies to increase the quality and quantity of their milk.
Milk is pivotal to these farmer families—the primary source of their income and a core source of nutrition. Family members consume the milk and sell the remainder to a dealer for money to purchase groceries.
Farmer-to-Farmer Program Provides Training
Saied Eid El-Feki was one of Mr Szymanski’s trainees. Eleven years ago, El-Feki brought his one cow to his newly purchased 5-feddan (about 5-acre) farm in the reclaimed desert lands. Through hard work and determination, El-Feki and his son turned the family farm into a profitable enterprise, with eight animals including four calves, one heifer, two milking cows and one milking buffalo.
But when ,r Szymanski visited, he saw fundamental problems in how El-Feki operated his farm: poor ventilation, inadequate housing, limited access to water and improper feeding practices. These were some of the same issues Szymanski saw elsewhere in the region and they resulted in high costs for rations, high morbidity rates and improper milking procedures.
Mr Szymanski gave Mr El-Feki suggestions on how to improve the farm’s operations. El-Feki, considered to be an innovative and proactive leader in his community, carefully considered the new recommendations and started adapting them using available resources.
Based on Mr Szymanski’s recommendations, he used simple tools to chop the forages and a grinder to grind the grains to prepare the ingredients for the total mixed ration. He then spread these ingredients out on a clean concrete floor and mixed them with a shovel.
New Techniques Increase Production and Revenue
He quickly saw results. Two weeks after feeding his cows the new rations, milk production increased to an average of three liters per head per day. The new rations recommended by Szymanski also increased the daily gains of fattening animals and cost L.E. 500 per ton less than the old rations.
Savings from the reduced cost of the new rations and profits from the increased milk production enabled Mr El-Feki to build a new open barn with improved ventilation, free access to water and a cleaner environment for the animals. His herd's morbidity rate has decreased, and Mr El-Feki is spared the medication costs that he spent to treat diseases associated with poor ventilation and a dirty environment, adding up to an extra savings of L.E. 150 per month.
Mr El-Feki’s wife, Neamat, who milks the cows and takes care of the young calves, is also following the milking procedures Mr Szymanski showed her to produce clean, healthy milk. A portion of the produced milk is used by the family and the rest is sold to a milk dealer.
The resulting income pays for all the family’s groceries. Mr El-Feki’s wife is now very confident that her family, and especially her grandchildren, not only have more milk, but also clean, healthy milk.