The ISRAELI model of the dairy Livestock Sector

Daniel Werner
Daniel Werner
Dairy Farm

Israeli agricultural sector is characterized as extremely intensive, as a result of the scarcity of natural resources, particularly water and soil (50% surface is desert).

Within the most outstanding activities, the dairy industry is one of the leading sectors. This happened in spite of the adverse dairy conditions due to heat stress and scarce of natural resources including water, pastures or grazing lands. The milk supply to the dairy industry is fairly uniform along the year and the local sector supplies about 80% of the local demand.

Israel had made a revolutionary progress in milk production through an integrated approach based on cost effective technological intervention. It had been successful in involving a very high producing breed of Israeli Holstein by crossing an upgradation of low producing local cows.

The average milk production per cow in Israel has increased dramatically since the 1950’s, soaring from 4,000 kg annually to more than 12,000 kg in 2017. Israel’s dairy industry is considered as one of the most technologically advanced in the world.

Advanced technologies including computerized milking and feeding systems and climate control systems, combined with unique farm management techniques have led Israel’s dairy industry to become the global leader in efficiency, production, and sustainability.


1. Population of Israel: ~ 8,500,000

2. Dairy Cows in 2016: 112,500

3. Production averages per cow (2016)

4. Milk-production: 12,012 Kg

5. Protein content: 3.33% -401 Kg.

6. Total milk production in 2016

7. 1,450 million liters cows ‘milk

8. 9.7 million liters sheep milk

iii. 14.2 million liters goat milk

International dairy equipment manufacturers use Israeli farms as beta-site for the development of their equipment in close collaboration with local farmers. Israeli companies have developed manufactured “high-tech” computerized management systems and dairy equipment, which are sold worldwide.



Most of the dairy cows in Israel (90%) are registered in the Israeli Holstein Friesian herd book of the I.C.B.A. (Israel Cattle Breeders Association). In 2016 the Israeli dairy herd book collected information from 112,585 cows in 545 herds, 90% of the dairy cows in the country. The ICBA database gathers information and merges additional data from other related sources and aims to integrate all relevant information regarding the Israeli dairy herd. The information comes from different sources as: DHI, Central Milk Laboratory,
Technicians and National Service for udder health and milk quality, Processing Plants, Interbull, 
Farms and genomic evaluation and feeding data. This integrated database allows farmers, extension advisors, veterinarians, the insemination companies and others, access to controlled and accurate information. The Israel Cattle Breeders Association database is the hub for all information on dairy farming in Israel. All data are subject to logical checks, so that the dairy farmer and other end-users receive accurate and reliable information. The intensive computer application in Israeli dairy farming enables all of the entities involved to access the large database at a relatively low cost.


The input source insemination services are provided to the dairy farmers by Sion (more than 90%), an Israeli company for artificial insemination & breeding. The Holstein Friesian black & white cow is known as the most efficient milk producer in terms of overall annual milk production, as well as in fat and protein content.

The remarkable results of the Israeli herd quality, together with an increase of milk volume lead to a decrease in the number of inseminations. Part of this positive tendency is due to the genetic planning carried out by the dairy farms.

Israel’s breeding program tests 50 young bulls annually, some of which are Israeli bloodlines and others North American, Scandinavian and European strains. Semen from 25 proven bulls is available to the Israeli dairy farmers for general service. The majority is proven bulls with evaluations based on daughter-production records and the rest are high-pedigree or “promising” young bulls. Most of the semen used in Israel is taken from the local bulls’ table, while we use a small percent of imported semen for creating new bloodlines and for the inseminations of our elite cows. The genetic progress, of all the projects’ herds, should be tested biannually with full cooperation of the dairy farmers.

Every dairy farm’s mating program should be checked, on all aspects of inbreeding, genetic diseases, the percentages of the different bulls used in the herd, and the recommended genetic traits for the inseminated cows.

Dairy Farming


Due to lack of natural resources, difficult climate and intensive farming practices, much attention is given to appropriate feeding aspects of the cow. It is essential to provide the cows a constant & well-balanced feed ration, which provides all its requirements throughout the year.

Israel was one of the first countries to adopt the Total Mixed Ration (TMR) feeding system. Today the most part of the dairy cows and heifers in Israel receive TMR rations. The cost of the feed reaches up to 60% of the overall operational cost of a dairy farm. For this reason, the feed requirements are carefully calculated in order to maximize the milk production while minimizing the costs. Least-cost linear software is used for formulation of TMR and all of the feedstuffs are blended together in a mixer and fed as a TMR.

The TMR feeding system in Israel is based on an intensive feed ad lib management that its main objective is to maintain high milk production. We deliver more frequently the TMR (2-3 times a day) preferably at evening or night when temperature is more pleasant , and if necessary, avoid fermentation at feeders using mold inhibitors.

This system is established using a minimal amount of roughage combined in the TMR. This minimal amount must ensure a normal rumen function (pH, rumination, salivation and digestion). On the other hand, an optimal amount will be adapted according to production policy, milk pricing, forage/concentrate price relation, quality and type of forage and the physical structure of roughage in ration. The roughage is based mainly on wheat and corn silage (70:30 accordingly), wheat hay and small amounts of legume hay, combined with a large variety of ingredients, composing a stable diet. Dairy cows TMR are offered palatable rations, containing a large variety of starch, protein and

NDF sources having slow, medium and fast rumen degradability.

Isral Dairy Performance

A general nutrient description of a typical Israeli TMR (20 kg DM) dairy ration contains:

1. Forage level: 35-45%;

2. Total NDF: 28-36%;

3. Forage NDF: 16-19%; 4. CP: 16.4-16.8.0%;

4. NSC: 35-42%;

5. Ca ~0.8-1%; P ~0.4-0.5%; NaCl ~0.5%;

6. Vitamins: vit E, 500; vit A, 180,000, vit D, 25,000, IU/day.

This model of multi-ingredients ration may prevent deficiency of limiting factors. We make adaptation of the feeding ration to climate conditions: the main target is to reformulate rations to enhance intake using: more concentrate energy, adjusted protein (decreased slightly), reduce forage in ration, use of high quality forage, considerate mineral losses by sweating and urinary excretions (Na, K), adjust the moisture content of the diet, ensure fresh and clean water in accessible areas and shaded troughs and feeders.

Feed center buildings & facilities: In the last decade, large scale “Feeding Centers” were installed in different parts of the country, providing farmers with TMR on a commercial basis. Rations are based on a “Tailor-made” system, where each farmer or his nutritionist can make their own formulation.

The feed center will be designed to stock and hold the feed required for the animals in the far or region while taking into account the forage harvesting seasons and market prices of concentrated feeds. The facilities to be constructed will consist of: silage pits, concentrated feed roof covered storage bins and/or vertical silos, hay lofts, molasses tanks, reception array, chopping  array for dry and wet materials (such as fresh corn) and pits for its preservation, a weigh bridge, control room and operational offices. The TMR machinery will preferably contain stationed mixers and TMR distribution trucks.


Heat stress during the Israeli hot season has a highly negative effect on dairy production. Great efforts have been made to install and implement technologies that will reduce heat stress. Dairy farms that implement appropriate and efficient methods for cooling through the temperature and humidity control in the barns. The herd has reached summer milk production rates that exceed winter levels. The implementation of cooling systems can increase by about 10% cow’s annual milk production, as well as milk composition and quality and feed efficiency.


The Israeli dairy farmer is using modern equipment, improving thus the overall performance of the Israeli dairy industry. International dairy equipment manufacturers use Israeli farms as beta-site for the

development of their equipment in close collaboration with local farmers. Israeli companies have developed manufactured “high-tech” computerized management systems and dairy equipment, which are sold worldwide.

The Israeli computerized technologies bring modern management capabilities into the dairy farm. It is an easy to use, customizable programs yet its management philosophy incorporates in-depth knowledge of dairy farming. The technologies were created by dairymen and dairy experts to cover every aspect of dairy farm management.

All dairy cows in Israel are milked automatically. Close control of the many production variables enables the farmer to follow the “performance” of each individual cow. The dairy farms are equipped with sophisticated milking equipment based on sensitive tags that in the milking parlor during the milking time transfer  "Advanced technologies including computerized milking and feeding systems and climate control systems, combined with unique farm management techniques have led Israel’s

dairy industry to become the global leader in efficiency, production, and sustainability."

information concerning each cows. The information collected included milk volume, quality, mastitis detection etc. Automation exists also in the preparation of TMR, cleaning barns, monitors, weighing animals etc. The combination of data collected automatically by sensors and other sources of data inputted manually or transferred from other data banks creates a comprehensive yet accurate database of animal information. The Israeli computerized technologies are the ultimate tools for every dairy farm.


Veterinary medicine is an important component in the success of a dairy farm. Israel, due to its cooperative Kibbutz and Moshav background, to the scarcity of resources and abundance of disease threats, has developed a unique system of clinical veterinary services (CVS) for dairy farms. The Israeli veterinary clinical service is intensive, innovative and is tailor-made for the needs of each individual herd. This intensive clinical service is to detect and prevent threats and risks to animal health and welfare.

The veterinary team of each farm - veterinarians and health-technicians, are working according to detailed protocols, covering all aspects of the farm every day of the year. The health information is collected, synchronized with other sources of information and with the management software of the farm is used collectively to produce a continuous picture of the herd and farm performance. The clinical veterinary services complement and adhere to the regulations and directives of the competent veterinary authority (national or regional) of the country.

Daniel Werner

Director of Projects & Special 
Assignments Ministry of Agriculture 
& Rural Development of Israel

Center for International Agricultural 
Development Cooperation (CINADCO)

Share your comments

FactCheck in Agriculture Project

Subscribe to our Newsletter. You choose the topics of your interest and we'll send you handpicked news and latest updates based on your choice.

Subscribe Newsletters