Skeletons in the dairy case


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

Would you like ethics with that?

A consultant once told me: “My services can be described as cheap, good and quick but you can only have two of the three at once.”

When it comes to milk, the choices are: cheap, good and ethical. Under the umbrella of “ethical” comes animal wellbeing, the environment and the welfare of farming families.

I don’t have any input on which pair wins out – you and the thousands of others who drink our milk or eat our cheese do. At the moment, with prices falling and consumers celebrating milk that’s cheaper than water, it seems “ethical” is the loser.

As someone who farms because she loves the land and her animals, this is very, very sad news. Currently, it is my family that is missing out rather than land or animal. Eventually though, we won’t be able to carry the burden and we will be the ones facing three choices:

1. Find a way to fund niche value adding for ethical products;
2. Industrialise our farming practices and see a fall in animal wellbeing and environmental outcomes; or
3. Leave farming.

Only time will tell.

With this in mind, it was interesting to read this comment in response to Lynne Strong’s point that consumers have a role to play in animal welfare standards following a story on The Conversation:

“Is it the case that, in buying a $5.00, 2L carton of milk in Australia, I can be assured that the product was sourced more ethically than the $2 Coles brand?”

Of course not but you can be sure that by purchasing unsustainably priced milk, you will be putting pressure on ethical standards right across the country.

Unless we learn to work together, the animals will be the losers

You know, something diabolical has happened to our sensibilities as we use animals to feed ourselves. We have lost something in the process. It’s called CONSCIENCE.
I don’t know how dairy farmers can lie straight in bed, when they kill the babies … just as the baby seals are killed for their fur, these poor little animals don’t even get a chance to grow a pelt, let alone have time to be alive!!!! Where are we going as a species, to use other creatures in such callous, cruel ways? I am beyond disgusted, I’m appalled and ashamed. GET A CONSCIENCE FOR GODS SAKE, ALL THOSE IN THE DAIRY INDUSTRY.
Friday at 18:19

I don’t blame Sally Hook for that comment posted on the Bush Telegraph Facebook page. Her response to the reported dairy practices was very typical and I’d feel the same way if I wasn’t better informed. Sally and every other Australian has a right to know her food is ethically produced and if we dairy farmers feel slighted by the comments that misinformation brings, we only have ourselves to blame.

Farmers are understandably wary of the vitriol that drips from the tongues of many animal activists.  But that is no excuse to keep people in the dark. Nor can we leave it to our “leaders” to communicate with the rest of the world because it is impossible to delegate telling your own story. Sally needs to hear it from the horse’s mouth, no matter how scary that might be for us.

At the same time, I’m hoping the animal activists will also take a step closer to the table. Sally did. After two days of online “talks” with real farmers, as distinct from agripoliticians, she posted this comment:

I urge the good people of the dairy industry to keep pushing.
Sunday 2 hours ago

We can and must build bridges with Australians who share our passion for animals. Defending the indefensible minority, as industry people caught like rabbits in the spotlight tried and failed miserably to do on national radio, is not only morally bankrupt but counterproductive in the extreme.

Sally is right. The good people of the dairy industry must keep pushing.