In 2003 the US Grains Council sought out a team willing to train and develop the first Holstein feedlot in Morocco. Together with COPAG, a Moroccan Cooperative, and the US Grains Council, Melissa Feeders employees and specialists designed, constructed and trained management for the 2 phase, 11,000 head feedlot over 3 years.
A team of Moroccans travelled to the US to spend one month at the Melissa Feeders facilities to get hands on experience in calf care, ruminant nutrition, equipment handling, customer relations, body condition scoring, breeding, and overall feedlot management. Each employee was able to spend significant one on one time with our management team and work at each facility for one week.
Starting with the breaking of ground, John George, PE and his team from Agricultural Engineering Associates designed a feedlot located in Taroudant, Morocco. David Hutcheson, PhD designed rations that would promote utilizing local farmer's silage crop, corn imported from the US, and byproducts from the cooperative's dairy and juice production center. Moroccan farmers benefited from Dr. Hutcheson's experience in dairy nutrition when farmer's heifers were returned pregnant and in excellent health and body condition. Dr. Hutcheson also contributed his expertise in the design of a COPAG feed mill that creates premixed feeds that were nutrient rich, aiding in dairy nutritional plans. Dr. Hutcheson also lended his expertise in educating Moroccan nutritionists on TMR designs.
Mark Quinn, DVM contributed his veterinary knowledge and cattle management skills to help implement business practices, while Stoney Point staff trained the on-site team with the day to day feedlot management. Over the first year in business, COPAG Projet Genisses brought their head count from 0 to over 3,000 in Phase I. Employees were trained on nutrition, animal health, animal behavior, breeding, vaccinating, and performance tracking. Elynx Party, Ltd based in Australia installed and trained the management team in database management. Utilizing StockaID and FY3000 COPAG incorporated customer records into a dairy management program.
COPAG's primary focus in the Morocco was to increase the milk production. Taking a two fold approach COPAG wanted to help dairies increase capacity while also ensuring cows were increasing in performance and efficiency. By moving heifer and bull calves to COPAG Projet Genisses, the dairies could fit more milking cows on local land and focus on milk production. While the heifers were grown to maximize milking potential and develop a strong body structure, the bulls were grown for beef production. The heifers were returned to the dairies pregnant and the bulls were marketed to local butchers and grocery stores.
The feedlot was a tremendous success in the country, not only creating high quality beef products and heifer replacements, but creating jobs and providing educational internships for university students. COPAG promoted agricultural education by placing young veterinary and animal science students side by side with the full time technicians. The interns were able to gain experience in feeding, caring for and anlayzing cattle of all sizes. COPAG gained footing in a market where imported European beef dominated for many years. By providing the hotels (tourism accounts for about 73% of Morocco's GDP) with locally grown beef products, the hotels were able to drastically reduce the costs of imported meats and proudly display the products of their country.
Congratulations to the COPAG team on all their successes!