We know we are not perfect, we realise we must do better and we are proud of how far we have come.
Our cows live better lives than they did when I was a girl. Careful breeding has reduced the incidence of mastitis and lameness, while a new understanding of bovine nutrition has reduced the risk of calving trouble and helped us insulate the cows from the impact of both drought and flood. Our first generation of naturally polled (hornless) calves has just been born.
Even so, dairy farmers will one day earn a prime-time feature for all the wrong reasons. It could be someone doing the right thing that looks like the wrong thing: Continue reading
The ethics of food is so complex. Vegans following a conscientious diet are told they are inadvertently starving Peruvians, causing deforestation and even eating with blood on their vegetarian hands. It’s not easy being green and I don’t blame vegans for being so passionate about their choice.
Life on farm is a microcosm of those ethical dilemmas. Every day, we must make decisions that impact on the well-being of an animal. Often, there is no easy answer. Should we euthanase that cow now or wait although she’s in discomfort in the hope she recovers? Should we raise that calf away from her mother or risk deadly disease transmission? And the big one: should I send heifers to China if milking just won’t pay the bills?
If nothing else, it forces you to stare hard in the mirror and here’s what I see: yes, I am a commercial dairy farmer and, hell yes, I care about our animals and our land.
Although this is something vegans on Twitter seem to find inconceivable, in my experience, this mindset is not only possible but typical of dairy farmers. It’s what keeps us on the land for generations and I am incredibly grateful to be here. My farm may not be a “cow sanctuary” as one vegan put it but I’m doing my best to make sure the cows never realise.
(Special note to my vegan friends: I realise what a privilege this is and wouldn’t blame you for some serious cow envy!)