I don’t like to use the word “stock” when it comes to cows. The connotation is that they are simply economic units. Yes, we do rely on their milk for our living but, no, they are not simply the equivalent of black-and-white boxes in a grassy warehouse. We burn the midnight oil, holding down second jobs during tough times so the cows will never know a lean year.
A sick cow is more important than our own dinners.
Nor are male calves “low-value by-products” of dairying. Maybe for some but not for me. Absolutely not. Rather than shooting them (the economically rational path), our family chooses to make a loss rearing the bull calves for the first few days of their lives and then selling them to beef-farming locals.
In the same vein, I am not a “milk producer” but a farmer. Somehow, “producer” conjures up factories and production lines, while nothing could be further from the truth here. We nurture our animals and the land because we understand that nature is bigger than we are. Sounds trite and fluffy? Perhaps, but it’s the reality.
There is no financial reward for such an attitude and in the teeth of the economic crisis most dairy farmers have suffered in recent times, the pressure’s been on to make every conceivable saving but here’s how I look at it: if you’re not able to make a dollar out of farming this year, you should at least be able to feel good about the way you farm.
If farming this way is not viable, I would rather not be a farmer.