There have been a number of interesting articles in newspapers recently about animal welfare and ecological issues. The first two are about the new mega dairies like the proposed one in Nocton.
The Guardian 13/11/10 A tale of two herds What's the future for dairy farming? Juliette Jowit reports on new plans for an enormous super-dairy, home to 8,000 cows. John Vidal, meanwhile, visits a tiny herd of 44 in Hertfordshire – all have names and are cherished from birth to death
The Indpendent 13/11/10 Peter Stevenson: Coalition stance on industrial dairy farms will see cows suffer
"Mega-dairies will in all likelihood become widespread if allowed and the Government is refusing to come out against them as it should."
The Indpendent 13/11/10 The great animal rights betrayal Government scraps protection for hens, game birds, pigs, cows, sheep – and circus animals
The Indpendent 15/11/10 None flew over the cuckoo's nest: A world without birds Could we be facing a future without birds? Our reliance on pesticides has cut a swathe through their numbers. We must act now, argues Kate Ravilious
The most interesting thing about the first of these articles is the taste comparison between milk from intensively-reared cows and milk as it used to be, from the Hare Krishna dairy. The two are completely different. The Hare Krishna milk had more flavour and tasted better. It was thicker and more substantial. It makes you wonder if instead of intensive dairy production we could just have watered down our milk to make it cheaper. The justification of producing milk that people can afford seems a bit of a con.
Another thing that interested me was the statement that the cows at the proposed Nocton mega dairy would not be fed on cattle feed derived from soya. The article said that soy protein is 'associated with cutting down rainforests'. It doesn't make it clear if this is a decision designed to make the critics happier. It doesn't seem to make a lot of ecological sense because soy protein can be sourced from America and Argentina instead of Brazil.
It made me wonder what these cows will be fed on. Cows used to eat grass and other meadow plants. After that they grazed on grass from 'improved' grassland. After that they ate starch from grains as well as the usual cellulose. Now intensively-reared cows eat soy protein as well as starch from grains. Cows that are highly bred to produce vast quantitites of milk cannot do so unless they eat lots of protein. Milk contains a lot of protein. That's why at times they have been fed dead animals and fish.
The answer seems to be that they will eat lucerne and maize. I wouldn't have thought that lucerne (also known as alfalfa) could provide enough protein.
See my other post about mega dairies.