Things are changing

While Wilma has been at the trade show in Birmingham, David has had a busy time meeting groups of researchers and explaining our cow with calf system.

Last weekend we had three vets from Bologna in Italy visit – all very experienced with dairy cow management. Their farming clients are mainly dairy farms that supply milk to Parmesan cheese makers and they are very interested in what we’re doing here at Rainton. 

They wanted to know in detail about how we manage the dairy cows and their calves together, and they were particularly interested in how we are reducing disease generally - so the health and welfare impacts from our system.

The rest of the week David hosted two different visits from groups of researchers who are designing a pilot project to study cow with calf dairying at the Agricultural Research University of Sweden in Uppsala. 

The first group, who are pictured above, are researchers Asa Lidenvik, Jessica Isaksson and Christine Alveblad, under the direction of Professor Sigrid Agenas.  They have been visiting our farm to study the system of farming being practiced here and it’s their intention to use their findings from the visit to fine tune the design of their pilot project.

Asa told us that the dairy market in Sweden and elsewhere is changing rapidly and that farmers and their customers are looking for higher welfare products.

She said that the methods we use at here at Rainton Farm have reassured them that this approach is workable in practice and at scale.  They intend building their project around our approach, and they plan to have their pilot ready to start at the end of this summer. 

Asa added that they now believe this idea is going to be a big part of the future of dairy production and that the dairy industry needs to listen to customers and take action to address consumer concerns.

This aligns with our own view, and it is very reassuring to hear these international perspectives. 

Consumer demand and consumer concerns are having a big impact on the market, not just here but in many other countries. The main reason we are organising the Ethical Farming Conference is to bring that knowledge together all in one room, to share and explore solutions and opportunities www.ethicalfarming.org.

This conference isn’t just about what we’re doing at The Ethical Dairy – in fact we’re not even speaking within the programme – it’s about exploring the various ways our industry can do things differently to address consumer concerns and environmental issues.

From a personal point of view, for David, Wilma and the team at Rainton Farm – Charles Ellett, Barry Davies and Abe McLaughlin – this international interest in what we’re doing is incredibly reassuring. To say they’ve all taken a bit of flak from vested interests within the industry is an understatement.

After 12 years of planning, trialing and developing this system in direct response to members of the public visiting the farm nearly every day, we have learned a lot about our cows, calves and their environment. We’ve also learned a lot about ourselves and how all of these different factors play a crucial and closely interwoven part in creating a successful, low stress, high welfare, dairy system.