Where is the grass?! I’ve just watched the BBC report on Nocton Dairies’ plan for an 8,100-cow unit in Lincolnshire and I would defy anyone to say bringing US-style mega dairies to the UK is a good thing. Jimmy Doherty’s recent BBC programme The Private Life of Cows was evidence enough that cows live naturally in herds; they relate to each other and have different characteristics and personalities. Cramming upwards of 8,000 cows into one indoor arena is not and should not be the future of farming in the UK.
Nocton would be based on the zero-grazing systems used by American mega dairies – one of which was featured on BBC news tonight. The cows milling around on earth looked miserable and, OK, I would say that, but without grass to eat what is a cow supposed to do?! Of course, Nocton would also produce an incredible amount of slurry, which was to be stored in huge ponds then piped onto surrounding fields as manure. Environment Agency concerns that the slurry ponds and pipes might leak, polluting the area led to the initial proposal being withdrawn in April.
This is a real country thing to say – and living in London I certainly don’t have to think about it often – but cows bedded on straw in winter produce manure that smells strong, yes, but not offensive. At home, whenever our neighbour starts spreading slurry produced by his dairy herd the smell is foul. No wonder the people of Nocton were up in arms.
Can consumers not be persuaded to just pay a little more for their milk, so that dairy farmers can make a living without resorting to such measures?
Here’s a video from Channel 4 news earlier this month, which takes a balanced view, but provides all the facts.