Dairy products are a staple foodstuff for many people not just in Australia, but throughout the world. According to Statistica, in Australia, we consumed a total of 263.5 grams of milk, yoghurt and cheese per day in 2021! However, more and more people turning to veganism and questioning the ethics of all kinds of animal husbandry. So, is dairy farming ever ethical?
At The Little Big Dairy Co, we believe that dairy farming is ethical providing farmers do not abuse their animals, keep the use of hormones and antibiotics to a minimum and offer the cows an environment that allows them normal activities. We’ll explain a little more below, but first, let’s look at what makes dairy farming unethical.
Dairy farming becomes unethical when farms try to produce as much dairy as they can as efficiently as possible without regard for the animals. While this sounds like an acceptable goal, this usually results in the cows being treated in ways that many people find unacceptable. For example, the cows may be kept in small tie-stalls without ever having the opportunity to graze outdoors, socialise with other cows or even exercise. Because of their living conditions and poor hygiene, they can become ill with infections such as mastitis. Mastitis is believed to affect between 5-10% of dairy cows in typical herds in Australia. The cows may also be subject to forced impregnation or given hormone treatment to encourage the overproduction of milk.
So how do ethical dairy farms differ?
The cows are healthier
Our cows are healthier. We pay close attention to our calves during their first weeks of life, and we ensure that they get a high volume of good quality colostrum during this important time in their development. Calves are given individual housing and access to regular milk feeds, special baby meals and plenty of fresh water.
A focus on optimum nutrition and prevention of disease
Our Holsteins are fed on oats, clovers and ryegrass grown in our winter pastures together with summer forages and fodder crops such as corn. Plus, they get to graze in the great outdoors, just like cows are meant to do. Our focus is always on the prevention of disease rather than treatment and so our cows are given all the relevant vaccinations. We never give our cows hormones and will only use antibiotics if entirely necessary. We’re also hot on hoof trimming to ensure that their hooves stay healthy and comfortable.
Strict Milking Practices
We have strict milking practices to reduce the chance of mastitis. Three milking herds live on our farm. Two of these herds are milked three times in 24 hours while the other herd is milked twice. Regular milking greatly reduces the chance of mastitis.
They care for their animals – the animals always come first!
At The Little Big Dairy Co, we really care for our animals. For us, producing milk is more than just a business; it’s what we live and breathe. No matter what we’re doing on the farm, our focus is always on operating with integrity to the highest attainable standards. And that’s why we believe that dairy farming can be ethical.