I have been milking cows now for nearly 30 years and I have seen a lot of change. When I started milking, a herd with a 5,000 liter average (Liter average is the whole of the milk given for 12 months of the year by a herd, then divided by the amount of cows milking) was nearly at the top of the game, now a herd at the high input end of milking would be expecting double that for an average for a herd. In the UK the average working lifespan of a dairy cow is around four lactations, which is a lot better than countries like the USA and Denmark, where Dairy cows only average 2.4 lactations.
I'm lucky to have milked on farms where more of an holistic approach is taken to milk production and the cows welfare. Producing a bit less milk per lactation, but producing better quality milk and cows that last several lactations longer than the average. These cows produce higher Lifetime daily yields (LDY) than cows being worn out by the 2nd or 4th lactation.
Last Friday I went milking in the evening at the lovely tidy herd of around 100 Holstein Frisians cows, I am lucky to milk (These considered small size herds are now becoming few and far between here in the UK, as most Dairy farmers are convinced the only way to survive is to become ever bigger). I had some lovely news, number 9 had calved and she was okay. Why should I be so pleased about number 9 calving safely. Well, she is nearly 17, which is pretty amazing for a Holstein to make. Just over a year ago she produced twin Frisian heifer calves and this time she produced a healthy heifer calf again. She is just short of producing a 100 ton of milk and never had an ill day. She has a lovely tidy udder with the only real tell of her age, is her black face has become grey. The big boys in Dairy may sniff at a cow only giving 100,000 liters in 14 lactations, but most of their cows will be lucky to see 2 to 4 lactations. You might think she is the exception, but we have several girls in the herd that are teenagers or on the verge of being teenagers, and this year the herd looks to average near 9,000 liters, which is pretty good going.
Farming and where it is heading frightens me. The UK farming crisis and Explaining Britain's dairy crisis - Sustainable Food Trust. When supermarkets have price fights with milk, do you understand where the buck stops, with the welfare of the cow and as this horrific article I read graphically shows Video of New Zealand dairy industry shows animals bashed and kicked, with four-day old calves regarded as 'trash' the welfare of the calf. I have been unable to watch the video, the photos are enough. This though is the face of cheap food and the ugly face of globalization. So when you are walking around the award winning low cost supermarket, just remember who bears the burden of that award winning low cost supermarket, cutting the cost for you.
“The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him, and not only will he not scold you,but he will make a fool of himself, too.”
― Samuel Butler
Me (Jane) with Puddin' and Teagol, waiting patiently to flush a patch of kale, December 2019
Hello, I am Jane!