Ethical Dairy Farming

We farm on a human scale, we know and name all our animals.

Our cattle keep their babies, their horns and their tails.

All bobby calves are raised on their mum and raised for beef.

Cattle are handled in a way to live a stress free life as much as possible.

Animal health and welfare are a priority. Our herd is small, we know them. We know if the order of animals walking into the milking yard is different then something is wrong, someone is sick. We can see it immediately.

All animals are slaughtered on farm rather than sent to the works.

We look at the farm as an individuality. It is an independent organism that is constantly seeking balance. The cattle are the heart of the organism.

Our Story – Farming a Sense of Place

“The ultimate goal of farming is not the cultivation of crops but the cultivation and perfection of human beings” (Fukuoka). I’m farming to grow the most authentic, truthful and nourishing food I can to feed me and my community.

I believe that the best food reflects the truth of the place it comes from. So inputs are reduced. You’re not homogenising the product with synthetic fertilisers and controlling nature with pesticides. You’re growing the pasture that best suits the region and the soil, you’re breeding animals that best suit these conditions and the prevailing weather. You work with nature rather than trying to shape it to your desires.

And when you can do this with authenticity there becomes a grace and an ease with your farming and you produce a product that is true to the place it comes from. It speaks of that place when you eat it or drink it. In wine the French call this Terroir and I’d like to think that I’m slowly getting to a place where the food I grow has this authenticity, this terroir.

I think this truth can create connection. When you eat or drink something it is such an intimate act, you are placing something other into your mouth. You taste it, you smell it, you feel it and then you swallow it, it becomes part of you. When you are eating something true you’re eating your environment, you become part of your environment, you become a product of your environment.

I think connection and belonging are so important to what it means to be human, and this is a powerful, intimate way to create this. I think when you get to this point, you’re starting to create cultural identity, a cultural inheritance.

What I love about farming is that it creates an inner journey. In a sense I am as much a product of this farm as my milk is. I’ve been shaped by the challenges and the joys of it, the geography, the connection with the land and the weather and the animals. Farming also brings this clarity of truth to life.

When you have dairy cows you also have beef cattle, it’s a natural product of the farm.  As a farmer you have something akin to choosing life or death for the creatures we care for. This is a significant responsibility and one that I don’t hold lightly. I choose to have all my animals slaughtered on farm rather than sent to the works.

Choosing to have an animal slaughtered, having been part of its life from birth, watching its death and its being butchered – you can’t meet truth more clearly than that. But this also brings a gift, a deep sense of respect, gratitude, care and honouring.

Honouring these beasts is such an important aspect to my farming. I feel this real tension in me about understanding my place in nature – at what point is farming exploitation and at what point is it a reflection of our natural need to feed ourselves? I don’t have an answer but I do know that I want to ensure that the cattle in my care are able to live a life where they can live into their natural instincts. And the one that is foremost in my mind is that of mother and calf.

As I squat behind the cows every day to wash their teats before milking I rest my forehead against the warm udder of the cow and I receive this immense sense of calm, contentment and joy. It gives me this strong sense that these animals are so much Mother.

How is it, that we ask these beautiful beasts to carry and birth a calf so we can drink her milk and yet we then remove from her the calf, the very reason for her producing the milk in the first place?

I’ve chosen to honour this strong mother nature of the cow and my own sense of dis-ease by not separating cow and calf. Each mother gets to raise her own calf.

The calves get to inhabit a world that is more true to their nature. They get to enjoy the loving dynamic between cow and calf and all the learning that comes from that, the cow gets to express her deep mothering instinct and I get to be farmer rather than friend.

It’s often said that it takes a village to raise a child and I think it’s the same for a small farm, it takes a village to nurture a small farm because it’s got so much going against it. It doesn’t have an economy of scale to rely on, regulations and markets continually select for large industrial farms, we’re farming to protect our environment while industry tries to externalise the cost as much as possible.

Small farms are vulnerable and endangered. But, there’s a beauty in this because it directs us to a wonderful path, a creative path and a resilient path. It means that if we value the ethics of small scale, community orientated farming then we need to work together to sustain it because I can’t do it on my own.

And, what I hope will be so satisfying from this is that this pathway will lead to a point in time where it’s not my farm and you’re helping me out but that we’re helping each other so we can ensure that we can continue to eat nourishing, healthy food that gives us a sense of place and connection.

That works gracefully within nature, honouring the animals we benefit from so when we eat of this food of this place we are not diminishing ourselves but enlivening ourselves and honouring ourselves.