Briefing Corner

Enhancing Sustainable Dairy Production Capacity in Cuba
Canada-Cuba Farmer to Farmer Project

The 2007 AMEC Award for Sustainable Development of Natural Resources
or Protection of the Environment at CIDA/CME's
15th Annual Canadian Awards for International Cooperation
Fredericton, New Brunswick... 


        Perfect Pedestals
         "Perfect Pedestals" - CPA 26 Julio, January 1, 2010


  CLICK BELOW to receive our JUST RELEASED (December 2011) report on our August 2011 Project Visit
AUGUST 2011 REPORT (English)
REPORTE AGUSTO 2011 (Espagnol)

CLICK BELOW to receive our JANUARY 2011

CLICK HERE to go to the Sustainable Cities website and watch a Project Video

CLICK HERE to read latest published articles on this project.

Read about Juanito and Marta's July 2009 visit to the Ontario Dairy Farm of Jim and Gladys Millson

 CLICK BELOW to receive April 2007
APRIL REPORT (English Version)  May 7, 2007
REPORTE ABRIL (en Espagnol)   7 de Mayo, 2007

CLICK BELOW to receive August 2006 report on COMPLETION PROJECT and STM BAYAMO:
AUGUST REPORT (English Version)  August 28, 2006
REPORTE AGOSTO  (Spanish Version)   August 28, 2006

CLICK HERE to read CONCEPT PAPER:  Sewage to Milk (STM),  May 22, 2006
Development of a sustainable peri-urban model to employ Canadian environmental technology
to improve water quality, reduce river pollution and increase milk production under drought conditions
by using municipal effluent to irrigate solar-power-fenced rotational pastures
at a farm cooperative in Bayamo, Cuba.

and see what we are doing this year to finish things off (fundraising priority:  $15,000)

CLICK HERE to read FINAL REPORT TO CIDA, March 19, 2006
and see what this amazing little project accomplished in 2005. 

CLICK HERE to read what the Canadian dairy farmers have to say about their experience!
Click here for a PDF-version of the above)

CLICK HERE TO read about how this all began in 2000!



       READ:  A helping hand for Cuba.  Ontario Dairy Farmer Magazine, October 2009
       READ   Report on Juanito and Marta's Visit to Canada, July 2009


Exciting news is that ANAP applied for and received $30,000 in funding from the Canadian Embassy (Canada Fund) to complete the irrigation works.   Have a look at what lies ahead over the next several months:

Morgan Millson Donneral and Darryl Donneral are going down on December 17th for 5 days at the CPA working on tasks 3, 4 and 5 below. 

1.    Completion of the irrigation works to support the 6 hectares of ration crop production and bring the last 15 hectares of rotational pasture into irrigation.

2.    Members of the CPA with responsibility for moving the cattle between pastures (and pedestals) attend an on-farm workshop given by Aurelio Alvarez Mendez, IIPF, on how to optimize grazing rotations.’

3.    Review and measure the on-farm ration capability that the CPA will enjoy once irrigation works are complete and the last pedestal is renovated out of king grass…  Can 100% of the daily ration required by calves, heifers, cows, bulls and buffalo can be met by the CPA’s  3 hectares of grass/legume pedestals, 30 hectares of improved rotational pastures and 6 hectares of on-farm ration crops?   Are the processes in place to produce the differentiated rations?  What is the nutritional component of each?  Where can we source the needed minerals? Could this CPA be self-sufficient (need nothing from outside) if it chose to be?

4.    Ensure the calf-rearing program is running smoothly, calves are healthy, ration is available.  Identify and solve any problems that arise…

5.    Look over the electrical systems supporting the fencing to make sure the components are all functioning optimally.  Identify why there have been some problems with the life of batteries and chargers.  Replace three existing (dead) deep cell marine batteries (ANAP please identify if these can be sourced in Cuba or not?).  Try to determine cause and solutions, if available.

6.    Identify the costs to renovate the building in the agropecuario (once the home of the doctor of Jose Marti) and turn it into the Jose Marti Training Centre for farmer-to-farmer extension.  Bunks to sleep a dozen visiting farmers plus and meeting room with blackboard and seating.   Once cost identified, begin fundraising.

7.    Review with all Project Partners (CPA, ANAP, IIPF, Project Team) all aspects of the Project, identify any further project needs,  and decide how to best quantify costs and measure results.

8.  Fundraise to support the above.

WHAT WE DID LAST WINTER (2010)...            

Jim and I spent a week and a half at the CPA in early January to discuss the strategic plan and to action any outstsnding items.  We will return in early January of 2011 to "connect the dots" and assess the project's success and "next steps" - building a Jose Marti eduction centre for other Cuban farmers to learn and emulate the sustainable, hybrid, Cuba/Canada rural dairy model we have built.  (On the farm is the former house of the Doctor of Jose Marti.  A la Marti, we will restore it for a training centre with bunks for 6 farmers to stay and shadow the CPA for a week to learn what they are doing...)

WHAT WE DID LAST SUMMER (2009)...            

In July I spent two weeks at the Ontario dairy farm of Jim and Gladys Millson, who have volunteered their time and expertise to help the Cuban dairy project since 2004.  Juanito Sanchez Martell and Marta Suarez, both members of the cooperative CPA 26 Julio, were at Jim and Gladys' farm for three weeks of training.  Article below.. 

Marta Suarez Ramirez and Juan Sanchez Martell, wheat field, Lucknow,   Photo by Wendy Holm,
Juan Sanchez Martell and friendly water buffalo at Martin Littkemann and Lori Smith's farm.  Photo by Wendy Holm,
Marta Suarez Ramirez, Juan Sanchez Martell and Barb Wicks with prize billy goat, Grass Hill Farm.

Marta Suarez Ramirez, Juan Sanchez Martell, Minister Bev Oda,  Gladys and Jim Millson, Heifer barn, Landomills Holsteins  Photo by Wendy Holm,
Juan Sanchez Martell at Twilight Meeting, Vale O' Skene Holsteins  Photo by Wendy Holm,
Marta Suarez Ramirez, Juan Sanchez Martell and Martin Littkemann in front of water buffalo calves.  Photo by Wendy Holm,

Cuban Farmers visit Southern Ontario

In food stores, farm markets and pharmacies, through discussions at Tim Horton’s, twilight meetings and the neighbour’s farm, many readers in Southern Ontario met the two Cuban dairy farmers who arrived July 5th as guests of Solina dairy farmers Jim and Gladys Millson, Landomills Holsteins.  

Juanito Sanchez Martell and Marta Suarez Ramirez are in Canada as part of a cooperative project to increase sustainable dairy production in Cuba. 

Jim Millson, Durham Region’s representative to the Board of Directors of Dairy Farmers of Ontario, is one of three Canadian farmers who volunteered their time in December 2004 to support a dairy project at Agricultural Cooperative 26 Julio in Havana Province.  

At the end of the one-year pilot, Jim found the potential so intriguing he “just couldn’t walk away.”   As a result, the Millson’s have adopted the project. 

For the past four years, Jim and Gladys, daughter Morgan and son-in-law Darryl Donneral, together with BC Agrologist and Project Leader Wendy Holm, have worked closely with their Cuban counterparts to create a sustainable dairy model based on rotational pastures, irrigation, solar-powered electric fencing, on-farm ration production, and hand rearing of calves that will help Cuba become more self-sufficient in milk production. 

The Project won the 2007 AMEC Award for Sustainable Development of Natural Resources/Protection of the Environment at the 15th Annual Canadian Awards for International Cooperation. Pilot funding of $75,000 was provided by CIDA.  A further $175,000 has been donated by farmers, farm suppliers and supportive Canadians through Sustainable Cities Foundation. 

With another 18 months remaining in the project, Juanito and Marta were here to improve their skills in calf rearing, herd management and nutrition.  When not shadowing the Millsons in their daily farm chores, Juanito and Marta also had time to visit a Junior 4H Show in Orono, tour Brighton’s environmental sewage treatment wetlands, attend two area Twilight Meetings (Vale O’ Skene Holsteins in Little Britain and Alona Holsteins in Millbrook), visit a rotational pasture (Tim Prior, Brussels), drop in on two livestock auctions, visit Oeds Geertsma’s dairy and egg farm in Lucknow, tour Kawartha Dairy plant and a milking goat operation (Lloyd Wicks’ Grass Hill Farm) in Bobcaygeon, and spend a morning at Martin Littkemann and Lori Smith’s water buffalo dairy in Stirling.  A visit to Tyrone Mills topped off their program.

A meeting was also arranged with the Cuban Consulate in Toronto, and local MP Bev Oda, minister responsible for international cooperation, visited the farm to learn more about the project and explore avenues for further support.

A helping hand for Cuba.  Ontario Dairy Farmer Magazine, October 2009
        READ   Report on Juanito and Marta's Visit to Canada, July 2009


In ten years, 536 farmers (423 Canadian and 27 Cuban) have participated in 29 Delegations of the Canada Cuba Farmer to Farmer Project.  These Delegations - the ongoing, relationship-building Phase One component of the work - will continue.  (In addition, 14 scientists, 73 students and 22 chefs have studied sustainable agriculture in Cuba through this project.)


The Project moved into Phase Two - cooperative capacity building - with its one-year Pilot Project: Enhancing Sustainable Dairy Production Capacity in CubaThis Project profiled the skills and cooperative capacity building of Canada’s dairy farmers, who have a long history of positive relations with Cuba's farmers. 

Our Canadian partners in this work were the Canadian International Development Agency (funded through CIDA's Environment and Sustainable Development Program, Partnerships Branch, NGO Project Facility), and the Vancouver-based NGO Sustainable Cities.  Our Cuban partner was ANAP (Asociación Nacional de Agricultores Pequeños), Cuba's national association of small farmers.

Enhancing Sustainable Dairy Production Capacity in Cuba brought together - in a farmer-to-farmer framework - the expertise and animal husbandry skills of Canadian dairy farmers with the ingenuity of Cuba's intensive pasture management methods to amplify and document a sustainable, pasture-based dairy production system that could serve as a model for Latin America.

The Project commenced in December 2004 when three Canadian dairy farmers (from British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario; all three have participated in Canada Cuba Farmer to Farmer tours) traveled to Cuba to begin the skills transfer process.   In August 2005, Wendy Holm, Morgan Millson and Darryl Donneral spent two weeks at the CPA erecting solar-powered electric fencing.  In December 2005, the Project Team plus Gladys Millson returned to the CPA to transfer calf management skills and produce a training video. 


In March 2006, Jim and Gladys Millson returned to the CPA with Wendy to assess what other things needed doing to make the CPA self-sufficient. 
In May of 2006. the CPA reported a threefold increase in milk production from their 20 top-producing cows.  In August 2007, Holm together with Morgan (nee Millson) and Darryl Donneral worked on the CPA for two weeks constructing 15 more hecares of electric fenced rotational pastures, installing a 100 HP motor for irrigaiton, and getting a used hammer mill/proportioner up and running for feed ration production. 

On January 2nd, 2009, Jim and Gladys Millson and I return to the CPA for on-site meetings with Juan Sanchez Martell and members of the cooperative, Juan Carlos Loyola (ANAP), Aurelio Alvarez Mendez (Institute for Pastures and Forages) to confirm a two year plan to complete the work (Pedestals seeded to proper grass varieties and trellises raised to correct height, on-farm ration production functioning) and
perfect the model (pasture rotations optimaized, calf beeding program optimized, milking three times a day,  all components in harmony, farmer-to-farmer training centre in place,* only off-farm input is minerals).  We will spend several more days providing training and holding workshops.

In December of 2010. Morgan Millson Donneral and Darryl Donneral will spend 5 days at the CPA working on tasks 3, 4 and 5 (see What's Next above).

*  Hopefully, through the conversion of an house near the animals once owned by the doctor of Jose Marti.


If it remains of interest to the Cuban government, Canadian funders and the Canadian and Cuban farmers, our next steps will be to replicate the success of the rural dairy model in a peri-urban setting.    Again farmer-led, Sewage to Milk: BAYAMO, in drought prone Granma province, will add an effluent irrigation component, using urban sewage treated thru natural wetlands to irrigate pedestals and solar-power-fenced rotational pastures.  The farmers from CPA 25 Julio (our pilot model) will lead the in country training.  This 3 year project will enhance environment, improve drinking water quality and create new production and extension capacity for surrounding dairy farms.

For Canada, this renewal of our long-standing relationship with Cuba’s dairy farmers can only result in more positive outcomes on a trade level.  Dairy production is a high priority for Cuba – half her milk supplies are imported. As tourism pushes the Cuban economy, demand will increase for improved genetics, improved inputs and a wider range of consumer products (e.g. specialty cheeses, ground beef).   This Project builds the international relationships that will stand Canada’s dairy farmers in good stead as opportunities emerge.  

This project is but the first step along the path of more meaningful farmer-to-farmer engagement that will have as its mandate the ethical sharing of capacity in support of sustainable farming communities, food security and the environment.

ENVIRONMENTAL/CLEAN ENERGY NOTE:  This project harnesses Cuba’s abundant solar energy reserves to power cattle fences that encircle sustainable, rotational pastures.

$$$  FINANCES $$$:  Please help us take this important work forward. 
Download our FUNDRAISER which contains information on how you can donate and receive a charitable tax credit for your help.  Also contact Wendy Holm, P.Ag. at

CLICK HERE to read
FINAL REPORT TO CIDA, March 19, 2006 and see what this amazing little project accomplished in 2005. 


Click on the below links for more information:

Project Summary


A helping hand for Cuba.  Ontario Dairy Farmer Magazine, October 2009

Cuba:  Enhancing Cuba's ProductionSep/Oct  2008, Western Dairy Farmer.

Do you know a deserving student? 
Jan/Feb 2008, Western Dairy Farmer

Dairy without borders.  Nov/Dec 2007, Western Dairy Farmer

International co-operation bestows accolades on dairy efforts
July/Aug 2007, Western Dairy Farmer

Ontario Dairy Farmers Abroad - Sustainable Dairy Circles in Cuba.
July/Aug 2007, Western Dairy Farmer

Long live the Pedestals - down with the King.  Western Dairy Farmer, May/June 2007

Ontario dairy farmers helping in Cuba.  Rural Voice.  May 2007

Canadian farmers triple dairy production at a Cuban cooperative.  Mar/Apr 2007 Western Dairy Farmer

The Rumpelstiltskin Project:  Sewage to Milk, Bayamo.  Jan/Feb 2007 Western Dairy Farmer

The Cuban boot project and other tales.  Western Dairy Farmer, Nov/Dec 2006

An Affair of the Professional Heart...  written for the Ontario Agrologist, publication pending.

The little project that could - A Christmas Story.  BC Holstein News, December 2005.

Did you hear the one about the farmer's daughter?  Western Dairy Farmer, July/August 2005.

Hypocrisy and opportunity.  OPINION.  The Western Producer, Apr 14, 2005.

What goes around comes around, OPINION, Western Producer, January 2005 .

Sharing Secrets, BC Holstein News, December 2004.

El Vapor - Where this all began!  Country Life in BC, December 2000

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