Why are dairy farmers looking to increase milk production in an industry that is in decline? Should we be calling a halt to subsidies which would be better-placed helping farmers move over to growing arable crops?
This week cows were taken into a supermarket by angry dairy farmers protesting against the price they are paid for milk. About 70 farmers took two dairy cows into Asda, in Queensway, Stafford outraged that milk now costs less than some bottled water. It was a desperate stunt from farmers working in a failing industry.
More and more people are becoming aware of the inherent cruelty of dairy farming; cows don’t produce milk unless they have been impregnated, gone through pregnancy, then given birth. The calf is snatched away from the mother just one or two days after being born, this is tremendously distressing for both mother and calf. This tortuous cycle is repeated each year until the cow is worn out and killed for cheap meat. It’s one of the cruellest forms of farming; milk comes from a grieving mother.
At the same time the links between dairy and disease are being taken more seriously. Just last week an article in the popular science journal New Scientist described the concerns of numerous scientists about dairy, cancer and diabetes. The article even challenged the dairy industry’s Holy Grail; the notion that high milk consumption results in stronger bones. Hallelujah! This is what we have been saying for years (see White Lies).
Furthermore plant-milk sales are soaring! Soya, almond, rice and oat milk are filling up the shelves of our supermarkets as people discover these healthier, cruelty-free milks. One in five households now uses plant milks. According to retail analysts Mintel, dairy-free milk sales rose from 36 million litres in 2011 to 92 million litres in 2013 – an incredible 155 per cent increase. We appear to have gone off the white stuff!
So, are dairy farmers looking for alternatives? Arable farming would be a logical way to move. Sadly no, last year 3,000 dairy farmers visited the biggest dairy operation in the country (which has over 800 cows) to find out how to increase the scale of their operations. This means investing in indoor, zero-grazing facilities and supplementing the grass the cows are fed with maize, barley and soya to further boost milk production. This is the stuff of nightmares; intensive mega-dairy factory farming.
As the industry declines, cows are being driven to produce more milk than is wanted. It makes no sense. Just over the last decade, selective breeding and high protein feed has increased the average yield per cow from 18 litres per day to 21 litres per day. That is three litres additional milk being produced by dairy cows, every day! Much more than a calf would suckle – given the chance! Former Irish Farmers’ Association chair Tom Clinton says: "Scale must go up… The dairy farm of the future is going to have to be bigger."
This is the opposite of what needs to happen – we should be supporting farmers find new ways of farming that don’t involve animals. New companies like Hodmedod’s run by Nick Saltmarsh, Josiah Meldrum and William Hudson who supply beans and other products from British farms provide a great model. They even grow quinoa – in Essex! It would be more productive, better for the environment and of course, a lot kinder to the animals. Find out more about the dairy industry here.
Want to know more about how to drop dairy or where to get calcium? There’s a whole range of cruelty-free plant-based products to choose from that can supply calcium, protein and vitamin B12.
Why You Don't Need Dairy £2.50
Our easy-to-read guide explains how milk impacts on your health and why it is linked to ‘Western diseases’, from cancers and heart disease to osteoporosis and acne. It also contains the disturbing facts about the life of dairy cows and calves as well as outlining good sources of calcium.
Discover the delights of dairy-free cuisine with our new step-by-step guide. Informative and easy-to-read, it includes 20 mouth-watering dairy free recipes as well as helpful shopping and cooking tips.
White Lies report £5.50
If you want the science behind dairy’s damaging impact on health, look no further! This 124-page health report reviews over 400 research papers which have examined dairy and health.