Thursday, 25 November 2010
There has been a lot of media coverage lately on the controversial 'super dairy' planning application submitted by a group of dairy farmers in Lincolnshire. Having cut their proposed cow numbers from just over 8000 cows to 3770 they feel they may have a better chance of gaining their planning permission. However, they have said that once they get planning for the lower number and the unit is up & running they will return to their original proposal. (See Farmer's Weekly, 18th November).
There are many large & very efficient dairy farms already in the country some milking over 2000 cows and they have high standards of animal welfare, but I am not convinced this is the way forward. As small producers (and we are very small!) we can produce good quality milk with high standards of animal welfare and a smaller carbon footprint than the much larger dairy farms. (For the Five Freedoms for animal welfare see http://www.fawc.org.uk/) The ideal herd size is probably about 100-150 cows which enables the cows to live in more natural social order and to graze in fields. Thousands of cows cannot be put out to graze, therefore all their feed must be transported by convoys of lorries & tractors increasing the traffic on the surrounding roads. Ultimately it will prove to be unsustainable. The cheapest way to feed cows is to let them graze grass.
Without getting too fluffy about it all, the consumer would rather buy milk from cows that have been grazing grass in the open air than from cows kept in sheds, no matter how comfortable, clean & well fed they are. I understand that some of the major supermarkets have said they will not buy milk from a 'super dairy'.