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.