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A monthly newsletter brought to you by Free Range Dairy Network
Volume 1, Issue 3
October 2015

Editor’s Comment


It’s been a great summer for our farmers with record grass growth and more and more people showing their support for the Free Range Dairy Pasture Promise label. Now as the season changes into autumn and with winter just around the corner, the cows will be coming inside but safe in the knowledge they will be going back out again next year.

I was in Pembrokeshire, Wales recently to give a talk on intensive farming. It is a place of outstanding beauty with Pembrokeshire Coast National Park on their doorstep, the last place you would expect intensive dairy farms. However at the talk the local people said they think there have been about 9 intensive farms built in the last few years. One was built without planning permission on the edge of the National Park. They talked about the smell from the slurry making their eyes water, seeing a reduction in fish and birds in the area that seems to have coincided with the opening of these farms and also the worrying impact these farm could have on tourism in the area? Tourism being an industry that many people have invested in and rely on for employment?

Dairy farming is necessary if we want fresh nutritious milk for people in the UK but it should be done in a way that works with its environment rather than impose upon it. We believe that seasonally grazed dairy systems can play an important part in providing milk for British consumers, work in harmony with its environment and give cows their freedom to graze.

We have joined Labelling Matters, a campaign for clearer labelling on meat and dairy that includes organisations such as Compassion in World Farming, World Animal Prptection, RSPCA and Soil Association, so consumers can make more informed purchasing decisions. I will be writing more about this in the next newsletter.

Happy Halloween,

Carol Lever

Co-Director
Free Range Dairy Network

 

In this Issue


1. EU Biodiversity Report

2. Milk for Farmers

3. World Animal Protection Full Fact Milk Campaign

4. Goodbye to the cows

EU Biodiversity Report


The mid-term review of the EU Biodiversity Strategy was printed this month. It assesses whether the EU is on track to achieve its objectives to halt biodiversity loss by 2020.

Biodiversity loss is an enormous challenge in the EU, with around one in four species currently threatened with extinction and 88% of fish stocks over-exploited or significantly depleted.

There are six main targets, and 20 actions to help Europe reach its goal.

The six targets cover:
1.Full implementation of EU nature legislation to protect biodiversity
2.Better protection for ecosystems, and more use of green infrastructure
3.More sustainable agriculture and forestry
4.Better management of fish stocks
5.Tighter controls on invasive alien species
6.A bigger EU contribution to averting global biodiversity loss

Target 3: Increase the contribution of agriculture and forestry to maintaining and enhancing biodiversity. Missing the target means that continuing decline in the status of species and habitats of EU importance associated with agriculture indicates that greater efforts need to be made to conserve and enhance biodiversity in these areas. The common agricultural policy (CAP) has an essential role to play in this process in interaction with relevant environmental policies.

According to the report more than three quarters of the important natural habitats in the EU are now in an unfavourable state, and many species are threatened with extinction. One of the key threats listed in the midway report to biodiversity is agricultural intensification.

At the same time as the report was released a EU-wide opinion poll showed that the majority of Europeans are concerned about the effects of biodiversity loss and recognise the negative impact this can have on human health and wellbeing, and ultimately on our long-term economic development.

It also means that we need more joined up thinking when it comes to meeting targets on biodiversity and the role intensive agriculture plays in food and farming strategies. Instead of encouraging farmers to intensify dairy production, producing a surplus of milk and selling milk as a loss leader, let’s revolutionise this milk model and instead look at more sustainable farming systems that can take us into the future.
 

Milk for Farmers


Morrisons Milk for Farmers has now gone on sale this month in stores and online. 10 pence per litre from every four pint bottle sold will go back to dairy farmers as a way to help British dairy farmers in this time of crisis. Adding value to milk that benefits farmers gets my support but some people including Free Range Dairy thought it a token gesture.

The milk sold under the Milk for Farmers label comes from Arla a European farmer co-op with 12,700 owners, as Arla calls them. Of those 12,700 owners, 3,000 are British dairy farmers which means that as a co-op under 25% of the money from the Milk for Farmers could go to British farmers with the rest going to their other co-op owners across Europe.

The positive is that Milk for Farmers is getting people to think more about why farmers need a fair price for their milk but on the other hand I can understand why it’s seen as a token gesture as milk is still being bought from farmers below the cost of production.

What no one seems to be addressing is the crazy situation that has been allowed to happen around our milk and dairy industry. Milk must be the only product in the world that is a No1 best seller and has been for 50 years but is bankrupting the producers.
 

Top ten basket items

2015 1965
1 Milk 1 Milk
2 Bread 2 Meat, bacon & hams
3 Confectionery 3 Butter
4 Newspapers 4 Bread
5 Yoghurt and dessert 5 Sugar
6 Soft drinks 6 Canned food
7 Tinned, package groceries 7 Tea
8 Fresh vegetables 8 Soft drinks
9 Crisps and snacks 9 Flour
10 In-store bakery 10 Eggs
Credit Co-operative

A radial rethink of how we treat and support our seasonally grazed dairy farmers is needed if we want our milk to come from cows that graze 50 years from now.

Please see Neil’s blog for more information on Milk For Farmers.
 

World Animal Protection Full Fact Milk Campaign


World Animal Protection is an animal welfare charity based in 15 different countries around the world, dedicated to improving the welfare of animals in communities, in the wild, in disasters and in farming.

World Animal Protection believes that keeping cows indoors all year round restricts their natural behaviour, and is concerned that studies have shown there can be an increased risk of lameness and udder infections in cows in permanently housed systems, because of the extra physical strains that are put on the cows. For these reasons World Animal Protection believes milk should come from cows that are able to graze in fields. It believes this can be good for cow welfare, can meet the demands of consumers and help to provide the UK’s dairy farmers with a viable and sustainable future by showing why milk should be more highly valued.

In April this year, World Animal Protection UK launched its Full Fact Milk campaign, calling for milk to be labelled so that consumers can be guaranteed they are buying milk from cows that have grazed outside for the majority of the year, and to find ways of making it available to consumers.

Public opinion polling found that 86% agreed cows should be able to graze on pasture and should not be permanently housed indoors. 73% of those surveyed agreed that all milk in the UK should be labelled so they can tell if the milk they are buying has come from cows in that graze in fields (You Gov, 2015).

But currently, the Government doesn't publish information on how many intensive dairy farms there are in the UK, how many cows are permanently housed or how much milk is coming from these systems. This means there could be more intensive milk being produced in the UK than many people realise. World Animal Protection is calling on the Government to start collecting information on the state of intensive indoor dairy farming in the UK.

In Denmark there was a rapid fall in the number of pasture based dairy farms from 85% in 2001 to around 35% in 2010. However, in other European countries the future of pasture based dairy farming is not so bleak. The Irish Government is investing in ways to improve milk yields from grass. In the Netherlands the fall in the number of cows grazing on grass led to the introduction of a Government supported outdoor grazing ‘Covenant’, to maintain the numbers of pasture based dairy farms, and Dutch consumers can buy ‘Wiedermelk or ‘meadow milk’ guaranteed to come from cows that have grazed in fields.

World Animal Protection believes the time has come for the UK’s consumers to be able to tell whether they are drinking increasing amounts of milk produced from factory farmed cows, and in doing so be able to exercise a choice about how the milk they buy is produced. That’s why it is asking people to sign the Full Fact Milk pledge. Over 25,000 people have signed the pledge since the campaign began.

By pledging to buy free range milk consumers can help World Animal Protection to persuade shops and supermarkets to put free range milk on the shelves, so they can put free range milk in their fridge, and help to ensure that the UK’s cows continue to graze in fields. Please take the Full Fact Milk pledge to help keep cows on grass and support our pasture based dairy farmers.  

Say goodbye to the cows – but they will be back

You might still see a few cows in the fields as we experience the last of our sunny warmish days. But as the weather turns colder and wetter and the grass growth starts to slow down, the cows will be going into their barns for the winter. But don’t worry come spring and turn out time the Free Range Dairy cows will be coming back out again, kicking up their heels and sniffing the grass and fresh air, glad to be outside.

But a worrying trend towards more and more intensive systems means that unless we all work together to protect this way of farming, more and more cows will go inside never to return to pasture come springtime.

Please make the Pasture Promise to ensure cows will come out again in the spring.

If you have any stories to contribute then please contact Free Range Dairy at info@freerangedairy.org.

Copyright © 2015 Free Range Dairy, All rights reserved.




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