Can a cow in a state of artificial lactation over a period of four to five years ever be happy?
The ethics of forcing animals to lactate, therefore reducing their life expectancy, and the killing of male calves at birth are two unanswered questions hanging over the dairy industry and its customers. Advertisers have solved the problem by hiding behind yellow flowers, green rolling fields and black and white smiling cows.
I love milk. Drink it every day and often go to bed with a cup of cocoa. But I want to know the facts: how it gets into my tea and onto my cereal. And why aren’t more people eating veal – a by-product of the industry?
With mega dairies rearing their large concrete heads on the horizon, the same questions will need to be asked again. And again.
But there is good news. Another question that can be answered is: how far will farmers go in order to keep their cows happy?
According to Trewithen supplier Matthew Rowe at Great Tredinnick Farm: provide them with a mattress that mimics the softness of the earth.
Matthew’s cows lie on what is called a ‘cosy cow mattress’ and are able to take a horizontal break at any time, in fact, as Bill Clarke says: “They lie down for between 14 – 16 hours and the longer they do so, the healthier they are.”
Give them space. A cow apparently makes a series of about 14 different movements from lying to standing and modern stalls reflect this range of movement. They have to be dry and clean and there are more stalls than cows.
Allow them a good scratch. A huge blue brush that swings and rotates in the barn mimics the effect of a good old back and neck rub against a tree.
Lots and lots of water. Milking cows drink a lot – up to 20 to 30 gallons daily and can produce around 15 – 20 gallons of saliva a day.
The future of dairy farming is hanging by a teat: population growth and increased demand for dairy products in countries such as China and Japan make the rise of the super dairy an ever-threatening reality. Concrete, concentrated feed and slurry will make neither happy cows nor happy customers in the long-term. Meanwhile, the only white stuff I’ll be putting in my tea and on top of my jam is Cornish.