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Interview with Sumer Tomek Bayindir: Milk quality must be given utmost importance

Turkey 20.05.2024
Source: The DairyNews
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Sumer Tomek Bayindir is a 5th generation farming family member, the manager of TE-TA (founded in 1989 and working on holistic solutions in animal husbandry, farming, and agricultural development), and co-founder of LAKTO Dairy Farming Technologies and MilkWinner. She is also a founder and board member of the Turkish agricultural machinery joint venture NARAS. Since 1993, she has worked in various NGOs and currently serves as the president of the Agriculture 4.0 Technology and Impact Association, advocating for qualified knowledge and collaborations under "Agriculture for All®." The DairyNews.today managed to ask Ms. Sumer questions about the Turkish market and received interesting and useful answers. Details are in the interview!
Interview with Sumer Tomek Bayindir: Milk quality must be given utmost importance
- What are the distinctive features of the dairy market in Türkiye today? Which types of dairy farms are more prevalent and in what direction are they developing?
According to TUİK data (Turkish Statistical Institute, 2016), the farm and cattle distribution in Türkiye is as follows:
Tab1_for Int Sumer000.jpg
Although the statistics are not recent, as shown in the tables above, farm sizes are still generally small, yet they provide the majority of cow milk production. Since 2016, the government has supported the foundation of dairy farms, mainly those with 50 lactating cows (estimated herd size 120 heads), leading to the establishment of thousands of new farms. Unfortunately, only a few percent of these farms are operating at full capacity; many run at half capacity, and many are "zombie farms" because they cannot be sold for five years due to the conditions of IPARD-financed subsidies.

The number of medium to large-sized farms (100 lactating cows and above) is relatively small compared to others. Over the past eight years, demand from our company for new farms supported by IPARD and the extension/modernization of existing farms has increased, but reliable statistics are not available. However, it is obvious that the majority of production is still from small farms. On the other hand, small or large, more than 95% of farming establishments are family-owned.

- Could you please tell us which technologies for dairy farms are particularly in demand in the Turkish market today?
As the majority of farms are too small for significant investments, only medium and large farms have the economic scale to make investments. These farms have realized that it is not possible to sustain and grow without measuring and managing therefore the demand for herd management automation is increasing.
Another major investment focus is cow cooling. Due to climate change and increased cow productivity, cows are more vulnerable to heat stress. The awareness of the losses caused by heat stress has increased too. More farmers are investing in cow cooling equipment.

All kinds of automation are in demand, including manure management, milking systems, and feeding systems.

- You are a supporter of sustainable agriculture. Can it be said that milk production in Türkiye is developing in this direction?
One of the biggest issues in the Turkish dairy market is the low milk price, followed by milk quality problems related to high bacteria and somatic cell counts, as well as heavy-metal contamination.

We take milk quality very seriously and produce products that ensure the lowest bacteria and somatic cell counts in the milk, resulting in better teat and animal health, increased farmer earnings, and higher product conversion rates for dairy processors.

Our products aim to provide healthy milk while ensuring farmer and cow welfare. Since our founding 35 years ago, we have always prioritized sustainability. We produce modern milking systems that perform “food-grade milking,” using food-grade-certified materials throughout. Our products, including LAKTO milking systems, manure scrapers, and fans, are the most energy-efficient and economical with a good ROI.

LAKTO was awarded the EUROTIER Innovation Awards Silver Medal at the last DLG Eurotier Exhibition, becoming the first Turkish company to receive such an award.

Farmer welfare is more related to economic welfare than just ergonomics. Unfortunately, due to economic instability, most farmers focus on immediate survival rather than calculating the return on investment and overall financial and health benefits. Only a few farmers have an "investor mentality" and understand business sustainability comprehensively. The main questions when making an investment should be:

• What are my running costs?
• What will be my and my cows' gains?
• What is my ROI?

We can’t blame them as the instability in the economy and agriculture policies force farmers to focus on immediate needs. However, for development, farmers and dairy processors must consider these issues.


- Which regions of Türkiye are currently the most promising in terms of milk production development?
Mainly the Aegean region, Central Anatolia, and the Northwest (Marmara region) of Türkiye are more developed in intensive animal husbandry.

- In your opinion, what support measures are necessary for sustainable renewable livestock farming in Türkiye?
Milk must be considered “food” at the farm level for food security and to prevent food waste in the milk supply chain. Food-grade milking must be a prerequisite, and anything threatening public health must be banned and tracked from farm to factory. Currently, milk is considered food only when it enters the milk processor, and food-safe surface directives apply. This directive must be applied as soon as milk leaves the teats.

Milk quality must be given utmost importance. High somatic cell counts in milk decrease the conversion rate to fermented products by 14%-20%. This is significant when considering Türkiye's large milk production. The Turkish dairy processing sector is estimated to lose at least $1.5 billion annually due to dirty milk at the farm level. Clean milk, -that is milk with less than 400,000 somatic cell count per ml entering the cold-chain-, would increase product conversion by at least 14%, reducing milk waste, production costs, and emissions per product unit, while increasing earnings for dairy processors.

Anyone looking into sustainability and impact must recognize this. At LAKTO, we are ready to provide detailed figures and solutions for clean milk at the farm level.
Furthermore, there is no reliable data on Türkiye’s agricultural inventory; an inventory count must be carried out immediately. Almost no one can accurately state the number of various types of animals in Türkiye.

Since the privatization of SEK (Milk Industry Corporation) factories, the state can no longer consistently regulate the market for both farmers and consumers. Milk price fluctuations push farmers to either slaughter cows during low prices or import pregnant heifers during temporary price increases. A structure must be established to prevent excessive fluctuations in milk prices, making the market predictable for farmers to survive. Satisfactory earnings for dairy farmers will also normalize the meat market in the medium and long term.

Agricultural subsidies should be given to competent producers and also who have the land available for producing the feed material. This land, whether owned or rented, must be close to the farm so that a circular system can be established. Manure is very valuable and is necessary for organic material in the soil. Speculative investors who see farming as an investment tool should be prevented or limited from accessing limited incentives. These measures have been common in EU countries for many years.

Soil health must be prioritized for all kinds of agricultural production and animal husbandry is vital for soil, carbon sequestering and for the healthy diet of humans.

- Thank you very much!

The Dairy Olympics will take place from May 26th to May 30th in Ankara, Türkiye. The aim of the Dairy Olympics is to assess the prospects of the global dairy market, evaluate existing industry issues, forecast trends, establish new connections, and initiate new ambitious projects.