Two companies, Southdown Holdings and Five Rivers, have put an application in to start a dairy operation that would see 18,000 dairy cows housed in pens known as free stalls. You can see the application here.
What are these people thinking? And why are the Federated Farmers supporting them?
Apparently there is a plus side to this type of farming: it makes the ‘farmers’ more money; and it’s supposed to be kinder to the environment because the effluent can be easily collected.
On the negative side the animals need greater doses of antibiotics to prevent infection, plus they’ll be fed on grain, not clover or grass. Both of these things have an effect on the milk production. These chemicals leach through into the milk so that you and I end up drinking them, and being fed on grain will alter the taste.
What’s more the grain that they feed these animals is likely to come from palm plantations that are replacing natural rainforest. Any apparent lowering of the carbon footprint is more than offset by the fact that grain will need to be shipped in.
What’s more frightening is that this will irreparably damage our reputation as a clean green producer of sustainable sheep and beef meat, and milk. If a feed lot for dairy cows is allowed then the next logical step is that beef farmers will want to intensively farm their animals and we’ll end up like the US – crap meat, crap milk.
Why is the Federated Farmers supporting this move? They believe that this sort of farming should be encouraged. According to Federated Farmers President Don Nicolson:
This style of closed cycle farming means effluent can, for example, be put into bio-digesters with the resulting biogas used to power the farm offsetting farm animal emissions. Surplus energy could be sold into the national grid and all the while, nutrient loss is minimised.
This is what the emissions trading scheme is meant to encourage, isn’t it?
What he doesn’t take into consideration is the long term implications for New Zealand as a whole in allowing this type of farming. This isn’t a farm – it’s a factory. And the welfare of these animals is compromised as much, if not more, than the pigs in pens that caused so much controversy several months back.