Is There an Ethical Way to Eat Dairy?
Most Australians drink milk and eat dairy products on a regular basis. It’s a staple in our diets, not just here, but around the globe. In fact, as a nation, we consumed 263.5 grams of milk, yoghurt and cheese per day in 2021. But as we know, an increasing number of people are choosing to follow a vegan way of life and have concerns over the ethics around dairy farming. So, is there an ethical way to eat dairy?
The Little Big Dairy Co makes a living out of producing dairy products. We live and breathe the dairy industry every day. And we do believe that it’s possible to provide ethical dairy products by treating our cows with the utmost respect. Being an ethical dairy farmer means not abusing your animals, minimising the use of antibiotics and hormones, and allowing cows to live in an environment where they can enjoy natural activities, such as grazing.
When is dairy farming unethical?
Unfortunately, some dairy farmers are not committed to caring for their animals in the best possible way. This usually comes down to trying to produce as much milk as they can in the most efficient way, which often means that the cows are not treated as well as they could be. Dairy production does become unethical in some people’s eyes when the cows are kept in small tie-stalls unable to socialise with other cows, exercise or graze in the open air. This kind of animal husbandry often results in poor hygiene which in turn leads to infections, including mastitis. Other questionable procedures may be utilised such as cows receiving hormone treatment to encourage an excess of milk or being subject to forced impregnation.
What’s different about an ethical dairy farm?
We believe that it is possible to produce dairy ethically. And that’s by ensuring our cows are given the best possible nutrition, are allowed to graze outdoors, and are given every chance to be as healthy as they can be.
As soon as our calves are born, we ensure they feed on good quality colostrum in high quantities to give their immune systems a boost and get them off to a flying start. We also keep our calves in individual housing and make sure that they get regular milk feed and special baby meals together with a plentiful supply of fresh water. We understand that the healthier our calves are at the start of their lives, the better chance they have of growing into healthy adults and producing better quality milk.
As they grow, our pure-bred Holsteins are given every opportunity to thrive. We feed them on clovers, ryegrass and oats that grow in our winter pasture. Their diet is supplemented with summer forages and fodder crops such as corn. But perhaps, the biggest benefit our cows enjoy is that they are allowed to graze on our land on the banks of the River Macquarie.
Of course, we understand that on occasions, our cows will require some medical treatment, but we keep these interventions to a minimum, and prevention rather than treatment is our key focus. All our cows receive appropriate vaccinations, and we will only administer antibiotics if there is no other option. We never give our cows hormones or anything to increase their milk yield.
We also know that it’s important to milk cows regularly to reduce the chance of mastitis, so we operate a strict milking rotation schedule. Two of our three herds of cows are milked three times in a 24 period, the third herd is milked twice.
At The Little Big Dairy Co, we put our animals first ahead of production quotas. We run our dairy farm with integrity and with compassion. It’s the only way to ensure that there is an ethical way to eat dairy.