How does a Chinese AI Center work ?

Arnaud BARANGER and Martine BROUWER had the opportunity to visit the Shanghai Dairy Breeding Center. In China, milk production is developing at a high pace. In 10 years, the national production has quadrupled. The demand for milk is increasing all the time. So the need for milking cows, good milking cows is considerable. The artificial insemination centers are modernizing their infrastructures at high speed. Let's them relate their visit.

Ultra Modern

Buildings of the Shanghaï Dairy Breeding CenterWe are impressed by the Shanghai Dairy Breeding Center, situated in the outskirts of Shanghai. The futuristic building contains numerous offices, fully equipped collection facilities and a modern laboratory. At the back of the building we find the barns for the bulls, also equipped with the latest technology. In total there are 180 bulls in production, of which 30 have been proven while the others are still being tested.

More than 180 bulls live at the Shangaï Dairy Breeding CenterHowever, these buildings, only 7 years old, will be destroyed next year, as a result of urban pressure, and rebuilt at about 50 km from there!

In 2009, the Shanghai Dairy Breeding Center has sold 2.5 million doses of semen. It is important to know that the government subsidizes the use of proven sires for an amount of 1 Euro. If we tell you that the average price of one dosis amounts to 1.60 Euro, this subsidy is not insignificant. The best bulls cost 8 Euros.


The collection roomTo satisfy the demand, China needs cows. Originally they were from the “yellow” breeds, the buffalo and the yak, which dominated the Chinese landscape. They produced just enough for the needs of their owners. Later on the Holstein breed All the AI center is video-controlledhas taken over, with production on large dairies. In 2009 China has imported 50,000 milking cows, mainly from Australia. In the certified AI centers one finds especially bulls from the Holstein breed. Most of these bulls, often imported as embryos, originate from the United States and Canada. Almost all of the Chinese dairy farms make use of artificial insemination.

From the start

Preparation of the strawsSince 2003, the Shanghai Dairy Breeding Center has worked in close cooperation with Genes Diffusion. The reason ? « Here in China people are paying more and more attention to the composition of the milk. France has a great reputation with respect to the quality of its cheese » explains Junmin Zhang, general manager of the Shanghai Dairy Breeding Center. Junmin does not only want to import semen. « The first French embryos have now been implanted in Chinese recipients » he says proudly. He wants to test Laboratory assistants of the Shanghaï Dairy Breeding Centerthe bulls that are born from these embryos. « Besides the American and Canadian genetics, there is also a demand and a place for the genetics from Genes Diffusion ». In the south of the country in particular, there is a market for the better kind of bulls and breeders are prepared to pay a higher price for good quality sires.


« France is ahead as far as genomics are concerned » says Junmin. Samples from around 20 Chinese bulls have been sent to France to be analyzed. « As progeny testing is done rather randomly in China at present, the alternative offered by genomics represents a veritable trump card for us today ».

The difficulties

Left to right : Gao Hongbin of the Shanghaï Bright, partner of Gènes Diffusion, Chen Youliang of Gènes Diffusion China, Arnaud, Martine and Junmin Zhang, manager of the Shanghaï Dairy Breeding CenterThe Shanghai Dairy Breeding Center is a subsidiary of Shanghai Bright, an enterprise listed on the stock exchange, of which 70% of the shares are held by the government. It is also the third-largest dairy business in China. From this point of view, it is in the interest of Shanghai Bright that an efficient performance control system is set up. However, that is an arduous task, as today only 3% of the milking cows are enrolled in a milk control system. This lack of information about the descendants complicates the work of the manager. « I am always afraid that I am killing a good bull » he confides to us. « There is lack of information about quantities and about quality ». Quantity-wise, due to the small numbers of animals that are milk-control registered, and quality-wise, because the weighing is done by the breeder himself, which jeopardizes the reliability of the results. Presently, the setting up of an effective milk control system is on the priority list of the Chinese government.



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Genes Diffusion is partner of “Milk around the World”, project leaded by Arnaud BARANGER and Martine BROUWER, which consists in a bicycle trip to discover the milk production around the world.

  Click here to follow the trip

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