Farmers split over 'super dairies'
THE FARMING industry is split in its reaction to ‘super dairies’ like the one proposed by Nocton Dairies, a Farmers Guardian survey has found.
Asking farmers at the Dairy Event and Livestock Show about so-called ‘super dairies’ where cows would be housed for much of the year, some 58 per cent said they were acceptable.
Of more than 600 visitors to the show questioned, a further 42 per cent however said they did not agree with the idea.
Here are some of your comments from the event:
Derek Hicks, Cambridgeshire – beef farmer
“One thousand cows should be the limit. Anything over that is factory farming. We’ve seen it with chickens and pigs and it doesn’t work. The environmental impact must be significant, lorries coming in an our all the time. Then there’s feed - the logistics of it must be huge. Also it does not give young ones trying to break into the industry a chance.”
Steven Williams, Oswestry – dairy framer
“All these massive farms are going to kill off the small farms. There’s a risk milk companies will take all their milk instead of from small farms because it will be easier and it will kill off the villages in the same way supermarkets led to small shops closing.
However, he was keen to stress he did not object to them at all on welfare grounds. “There will be nothing wrong with the healthcare of the animals on them because they will be able to afford to have all the stuff to look after them.”
“I think these huge farms are bad for PR, bad for the environment and they might be bad for my business. Up to 400-cow herds are big enough. That’s enough cows in one place - cows need air space and room.
Anonymous dairy farmer – manages 650 cows.
“As long as they look after the cows and it is done properly, I think large-scale herds are very good. I always think farmers are their own worst enemies. The Nocton group have got themselves into this predicament.”
Asked what the industry should do in response to animal welfare campaigns against large-scale dairies he said: “You want to talk to them. There needs to be dialogue. There is now a groundswell of feeling on this matter and you have to cater for that. They aren’t going to go away and at the moment there is a lot of ignorance.”
“It’s the people with the small family farms that are going to suffer. It will knock out small farms leaving a lot of cows in very few hands.” However, having just returned from a tour of large-scale farms in America he said the management on them is ‘second to none,’ whereas a lot of small farms here are terrible cow management.
He felt the industry was not doing enough to promote itself. “We need to start at grassroots level by educating children.”
Digby Gribble of the English Guernsey Cattle Society was very much in favour of the Nocton project believing the cows will have a much better life. As for the risk large dairy farms may pose to smaller farmers, he said it was about them finding a way to make a living by adding value to their products.
“A lot of the trouble is over the welfare but if you look at large cow herds the welfare is better because they can afford it, they vets on site etc.”
She too felt the industry was not doing enough to promote itself. “We need to educate people. At the Great Yorkshire this year we had members of the public coming up criticising the cows, asking why they looked malnourished. We heard people walking past whispering to each other that we were starving the cows. We had to explain to them that they are like athletes. The public don’t understand the industry and we need to explain it more.