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Oklahoma Ag Leadership Program Sees Fruit, Beef and Dairy Production North of the Sea of Galilee in Israel

Mon, 20 Feb 2023 21:56:02 CST

Oklahoma Ag Leadership Program Sees Fruit, Beef and Dairy Production North of the Sea of Galilee in Israel As Class XX of the Oklahoma Ag Leadership Program moves into it's second week of investigating Israeli agriculture- Monday the 20th was one of the longest days yet. Three multi hour stops had the group seeing fruit production, two beef cattle operations and a dairy.

Director of the OALP- Edmond Bonjour offers detrails from each of the stops as the group traveled north of the Sea of Galilee:

OALP began the day at a 495 acre farm growing avocado, mango, banana, and lichee. For avocado, they produce an average 9.1 tons per acre, with a range of 4.5-22.7 tons. They rely on honeybees and bumblebees for pollination. The Israeli people consume an average of 15.4 pounds of avocados per year.
For mangoes, they plant 675 trees per acre and prune them to a maximum height of 13.1 feet. Flies, mosquitoes, and beetles naturally pollinate the flowers. They harvest 14 tons per acre from the end of June to end of September. When the people pick the fruit, they have to be careful because the sap will burn the skin. A good worker can pick 2,645 pounds per day. The net profit is $400 per acre and the plantation will last about 25 years.
The last crop we looked at was banana, which is a grass. The bunch forms on the last leaf. The biggest bananas are on the top of the bunch and they only keep the top nine clusters. Blue bags protect the bunch from sun and wind. One bunch weighs 66-99 pounds. After harvest, they cut the main stock off and a new plant grows from a baby plant from the same roots. It takes one year to produce another bunch. The root stock lasts seven years in this plantation. There are 1,080 trees per acre.
The main damage to the plantation is from wild hogs, jackals, and workers.

As for the Beef Catte visits:

OALP visited with the manager of the Israeli Beef Cattle Breeder’s Association. He has 280 cows on 1,500 acres. Israel imports 280,000 calves mainly from Australia and Portugal, but also other parts of Europe.
Breeds include Red and Black Angus, Hereford, Simmental, and Charolais. There are 120,000 milk cows and 60,000 mama beef cows in the country- north to south, and this is limited by a quota system. These cattle do not provide enough meat for consumers, so they import 80,000 tons of frozen meat from South America. In the north where we visited- the ranch owner cannot live on the farm, but the workers can.
The government brought wolves into the country in 1986 and the packs have become a predator of cattle. Jackals are also a problem, but they work alone. Ranchers kill 30-36 wolves per year to keep the population static at 100, and they are paid about $800 per carcass. Ranchers receive a $350 supplement per cow from the government. Auctions are held three times per year to sell to other breeders. To keep the Jewish land in the hands of the Jews, people are willing to pay the government $200 per year. Editor's note- on this farm- the number of rocks in the pastures was incredible- others as we traveled from bus in the area, were not as covered with rocks- but rocks were a common sight in the pasture lands north of the Sea of Galilee.

That was the first of two beef cattle operations we saw- the operator of that farm wanted to take us to the Israeli- Syrian and Jordanian border- but was just a few kilometers away- so the bus took as to the fifteen foot high fence that is extremely secure.

As for the second beef operation- it turned out to be a operation selling beef directly to consumers:

OALP visited a butcher shop in a Kibbutz. They send their cattle to a slaughter house in Haifa, once per week, that follows Kosher laws, performs inspections, and has a veterinarian. Kosher laws only allow Jews to eat the front half of the cow, from the 13th thoracic vertebra forward, because the back half has large veins. The secular community will eat the back half. If they try to remove all the large veins, they lose 60% of the meat, so it is not feasible.
The processed meat is then taken back to the Kibbutz and the butcher makes cuts of meat. They age their meat by dry aging or in vacuum bags. A veterinarian comes to the butcher shop every week to inspect and stamp the meat. Other information they shared was that the agricultural population is getting older, with the average age being 65-70 years. One cow requires 4-5 acres of land. They do not castrate males because of religious law and their conscience.

After a quick fish lunch by the Sea of Galilee- we made the longest stop of the day- a dairy farm:

A visit to a dairy at Kibbutz Mesilot, was the last stop for the OALP today. The currently are milking 320 cows and have 50 dry cows. They milk three times per day and the cows average production is 3,170 gallons per cow per year. Their quota is about 1.08 million gallons per year.
They calve from September to February/March. This dairy views the individual cow as a “production unit.”. This approach demands close observation of animal health and welfare. They have used the Afimilk system since 1990 which provides farmers with a full range of daily data that helps manage stock movement to monitor and even predict health problems.
All dairies in the area share these data to improve milk production. Milk cows are fed a total of 50-57 pounds of feed twice per day. The hay is chopped twice during the feed-making process. Other waste byproducts used in the feed include items such as orange peels, etc., some of the 35 byproducts that exist in Israel. The milk has a butter fat content of 4.17%.
They vaccinate once per year for diseases, and if a disease occurs, there is a 6.2 mile radius quarantine area.

To learn more about the Oklahoma Ag Leadership program- click here.



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