Qatar builds a dairy farm in the desert

Dairy business sets up its cow operation after trade disputes with neighbouring countries blocked imports

One farm’s ambition to supply all of the dairy for Qatar’s 2.6 million people is becoming a reality.

Baladna Farm, located about 55 kilometres from Qatar’s capital city Doha, has put together a rapid expansion plan to fill the entire country’s demand for milk products by April.

While experienced with sheep and goat enterprises, Baladna Farm decided to set up its own cow dairy business following trade blockages imposed on Qatar by neighbouring countries.

In June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties and initiated a trade boycott against Qatar, saying it supported terrorism.

The normal dairy imports were cut off, so Baladna Farm set up its own unit, under guidance from farm chief executive officer John Dore, originally from County Kildare in Ireland.

As construction work got underway, cows were brought in from around the world.

Currently, 1,800 Holstein cows make up the herd but the goal is to run a herd of 14,000 cows in the near future.

Dore said more cows are on the way from the United States to rapidly expand the herd.

“We currently have 1,800 cows in the herd yielding 30 litres per cow per day.

“We aim to have 14,000 cows plus followers,” he said. “We also aim to fatten bulls at 10 months old for the beef chain as well.

He said Baladna processes, packs and distributes all its own milk and is currently building a new dairy and juice factory capable of producing 500 tonnes per day.

Baladna currently supplies about 40 percent of the market in Qatar but hopes to increase that to near 100 percent by April 2018 when the herd is expanded, Dore said.

In Qatar, three dairy farms currently produce and process their own milk under their respective brands. There are also a number of smaller privately owned dairy herds that produce milk for the owners’ consumption.

Baladna Farm has built air conditioned barns to accommodate the cows and is using a 100-unit rotary parlour that can milk 750 cows per hour per 200 units.

Housing concepts have also come in from the United States with barns designed with cubicles where cows can lie on rubber crumb mattresses.

Temperatures can hit 48 C on the farm, which is situated mostly in a desert. Keeping the cows cool in air conditioned barns is a challenge, according to Dore.

“The challenge is humidity. It’s the trickiest at dawn and dusk and drops in the middle of the day so that’s when you need to get things done,” he said.

Baladna is a subsidiary of Power International Holding, a Qatari-owned company.

Built on more 700,000 sq. metres, Baladna Farm includes 40,000 Awassi sheep, which are able to withstand high temperatures and produce high-quality milk.

The farm also houses 5,000 goats and operates an animal feed mill yielding 100 tonnes per day.

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