Saturday, September 02, 2017


As dairy farming in Europe becomes more industrialized OF cows locked away on mega-farms, one British initiative is pushing for free-range milk. Cows these days don't get to experience green meadows  as more and more large-scale European farmers chase bigger profits by investing in intensive, indoor milk production.

The move toward a system of so-called mega-farms, housing up to 2,000 cows in factory-like conditions, can be traced back to developments in dairy cow farming in the United States.

Three years ago, the market price for milk  plummeted by almost half amid massive overproduction - caused by a drop in demand from China and Russia.  Prices  dropped from something in excess of 30 pence a liter [0.33 euros per liter, or $1.44 per gallon], to 18 pence a liter. The crisis forced thousands of European dairy farmers out of business. In the United Kingdom, amid fierce competition, the number of dairy farms has dropped by two-thirds over the past decade, to around 9,500. Those that have survived are being increasingly driven by the need for greater efficiency and demands from larger supermarket chains for the lowest possible priceIncreasingly industrial milk farming takes a toll on the environment, the animals - and even the milk itself, some say. This, environmental and animal welfare groups contend, contributes to pollution and ecological footprint, as well as harming cows. Some farmers say it's also decreasing the quality of the milk.
While the UK is a long way from reaching the scale of some US mega-dairies farmers continue to face severe pricing pressure, which some analysts think will push more of them towards creating larger dairies.  Traditional milk production methods in Britain are dying out much quicker that previously thought, citing figures from the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
"Research conducted by DEFRA said that only 30 percent of the farms thought they were traditional pasture-based dairy farms," said Ian Woodhurst, UK farming campaign manager at the  World Animal Protection. "There is an increase in lameness because they're on concrete and increased rates of udder infections," Woodhurst pointed out. Overcrowded indoor farms can drive some animals to aggression that affects the rest of the herd, Woodhurst added. Their usual social structure is often altered within confined spaces.
Farmers insist that intensive, indoor milk production is their only chance for the future, animal rights groups warn that cows are being pushed to their physical limits to produce the most milk possible.
As well as the risk of water and soil pollution, large-scale farms require huge amounts of animal feed. Arable crops produced for animals require substantial space, Woodhurst pointed out, citing deforestation and the use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, all of which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

No comments: