Free range milk in Australia

jamieoliver

Jamie Oliver has a new cause – free range milk. Of course, his focus is on the UK but what about here?

There are housed dairy cows in Australia but I’ve never seen one because they’re very rare – so rare, I don’t even know how many hours I’d need to drive to show you one.

When we talk about the “cow shed” here, we mean the dairy. Aside from milking time, our cows spend their days out in the paddock grazing pasture and munching silage or summer crops.

Dairy cows are much more commonly housed in difficult climates. Teats exposed to snow in Europe or the USA can freeze, while cows exposed to desert heat in Saudi Arabia can die of heat exhaustion. Keeping cows indoors in those conditions not only makes sense, it’s the only humane thing to do.

There are some cases, though, where cows are kept permanently indoors, just to make the most milk possible. Advocates of housing say the cows live lives of luxury and are not forced to walk long distances and endure the discomfort of bad weather.

I’ve got some sympathy for those arguments. On the other hand, studies suggest that cows prefer access to pasture and then, there are videos like this one showing Dutch dairy cows being let outside for the first time after winter.

Really intensive farms are popping up around the globe where thousands – even tens of thousands of cows – are housed and milked up to four times per day.

I’ve never been to one of these places, so find it hard to pass judgement on them but it’s even harder to forget watching a cow leap for joy as she greets the great outdoors.

7 Comments

Filed under Animal Health and Welfare, Cows, Farm, Pastures

7 responses to “Free range milk in Australia

  1. Ross

    Free range cows? Maybe we have to get a midget miller and run around the paddock to milk them 🤔😁

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  2. Ian A

    Would be good to see Dairy Australia on the front foot about this. One of Australia’s natural advantages.

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  3. I think you could pass judgement about intensive farming conditions. It’s obvious that it is not fun for the cows any more than that it would be fun for you. I think farmers like you need to be willing to take a stand on such matters – intensive operations exist only to reduce costs and maximise turnover. They are not good for the animals, and when it comes to things like dairy, of somewhat minimal value to human beings. You are right that we are lucky this doesn’t happen much for dairy cattle in Australia, but it certainly does for pigs and poultry.

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  4. I hadn’t really thought of cows being kept in sheds for long periods of time. As you mention above, all the cows I see on our trips between town and South Gippsland, are grazing contently on the surrounding hillsides. The sight of those cows lined up to be milked in the video of the Chinese dairy is concerning and we are reminded of the way in which so many domesticated animals are treated like machines rather than living creatures. Lucky there are folks out there like you and your family who provide a humane example.

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  5. Confused City Dweller

    I think the Moxley and Perish families are doing it to some extent in NSW and others have proposed similar Systems including the now defunct Aerem (ex-Linear Capital) in SW VIC, 1AG with Capel Farm in WA, Ningbo Dairy in Gippsland, CDI in SW VIC are some other examples and each has varying degrees of intensity.

    Sheltering the cows from inclement weather and for supplementing grazing with feed is fine but for me it is all about the intensity. Examples in the USA and China seem to have taken it to a horrendous level and mixed with using steroids and antibiotics leaves you wondering what you end up ingesting with the resulting product. Going organics and offering raw milk is the other end of the scale and that puts us at risk as well so somewhere in the middle is about right but where on that sliding scale from one extreme to the other is the acceptable level is up to each person to choose.

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    • Thanks CCD,

      We are lucky in Australia to have generally cow-friendly weather.

      We are also lucky to have so many family farms run by “Mums and Dads” who put their cows first. I think the vast majority of Aussie dairy farms do strike the happy medium you describe.

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  6. Jane Southwell

    Where are our industry bodies at times like this? And I am not referring to the Dairy Industry specifically. Time and time again, agriculture is subjected to “sensational revelations” in mainstream media, “fake news” on social media, and our representative bodies are so slow at addressing the issues raised and correcting the inaccuracies. So grain producers, wool producers, beef producers, sheep meat,poultry, pork, dairy….the list goes on…..are often left high and dry to defend (let alone promote) our industries and our wonderful track record, to an increasingly distant consumer base, a biased media and the general public!
    Farmer Jane

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