Watawala Dairy Ltd

The state-of-the-art dairy farm by Watawala Dairy Limited (WDL), a 100% subsidiary of Watawala Plantations, is a Board of Investment (BOI) registered project and is situated in Watawala, Ginigathhena in a 50-hectare land. The project commenced in March 2016 as a pilot project called ‘Lonach Farm’ with 120 cattle, three cow houses and a milking parlour.

Watawala Dairy Limited imported 246 heifers directly from Australia and New Zealand in 2018, and 928 cows were purchased from the Government of Sri Lanka in 2017 at a concessionary price under an agreement to develop the local dairy industry. All cattle purchased are high yielding, of superior genetics.

Today, the farm manages a herd of 1, 600 dairy cattle (1000 adult cows and 600 heifers). Out of the total cattle, 800 are milking cows, and 200 are dry cows. Furthermore, the company has employed two veterinary surgeons to attend to animal health.

The farm currently produces around 18,000 litres of fresh milk per day and 540,000 litres per month. Annually, the farm releases 6.5 million litres of milk to the local market, which is 3.5% of the annual Sri Lankan milk production.

The herd is indoor housed to support increased productivity and stall-fed following the Total Mixed Ration (TMR) method, as opposed to grazing, given the inherent rocky terrain of the estate, resources and space available on the farm. Under the Total Mixed Ration (TMR) method, feedstuff is weighed to proportion and blended into a nutritionally balanced ration to produce high-quality milk. All aspects from cattle feed to health are scientifically monitored by professional agriculturalists.

The dairy farm also has a fully computerised, state of the art DAIRYMASTER milking parlour system (imported from Ireland) which is capable of monitoring the progress of each animal’s yield and quality of milk produced. This is a double raw rapid exit milking parlour which can milk 40 cows at a time. This is one of the most advanced milking parlours in Sri Lanka right now, with in-built technology to separate all antibiotic, Mastitis and Colostrum milk from bulk milk. Sensors are clipped to the ear of each heifer to measure temperature, activity, resting time, rumination time, feeding behaviour, facilitating better care over the welfare of each cow. The dairy farm has a chilling and storing capacity for 25000 litres of milk daily.

Under the TMR method, maize acts as the main fodder, and the farm requires 40 tons of maize per day to feed the dairy cattle. To streamline this operation, Watawala Dairy Limited has appointed two field officers to manage the maize supply and purchasing to the farm from maize harvesters. This framework provides vital support to the entire maize farming community in Sri Lanka and bolster Sri Lanka’s rural economy. Since 2017, the company has invested significant amount to purchase maize from more than 40 maize suppliers from regions like Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Ampara, Monaragala and Mahiyanganaya.

Moreover, the company has allocated small areas of lands to families to cultivate land and supply farm with maize, grass and other input materials, as an additional source of income. This initiative has helped to increase the income level of these families by providing maize to the farm, harvesting and maintaining grasslands within the estate.

WDL aims to drive sustainable production of fresh milk in Sri Lanka, and the company is conscious that healthy husbandry that covers sound animal health and welfare underpins high yields and quality of milk. The farm provides facilities to a healthy herd with feed supplements scientifically formulated by a global expert nutritionist with the construction of its feed mill to process the unique cattle feed. Stringent hygiene farm management controls have been implemented within the farm, conforming to international standards, including adequate supplies of clean water, slurry operation and effluent management system.

The dairy farm is committed to ensuring the sustainability of the environment and social-economic progress of the estate community. Some of the key initiatives include flaring of methane gas trapped from the waste management system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, production of biogas from cattle waste to support energy needs, distribution of milk to schools, upgrading the water distribution schemes for villages around the farm and infrastructure development.

Watawala Dairy Limited plans to import another 250 pregnant heifers from Australia to increase its milking herd up to 1,000 cows and increase the farm’s daily milk production up to 20,000 litres by 2021 .