I touched on this subject in my veganuary post last month and I would really like to share with you some more information about the dairy we use.
‘The Calf at Foot’ dairy we buy from is based in Somerleyton, Suffolk. We live in Bristol, so it’s safe to say we take our milk seriously!! The company believes in giving cows and calves the lives they deserve and providing us with some top notch milk as a fantastic bi-product (I say bi-product because they really do put the welfare of the herd first).
They are named ‘The Calf at Foot’ because this is an old farming phrase which means to sell a cow with her calf. Whilst this is a livestock market tradition it is not seemingly a dairy farm one and this is something the company wanted to encourage. If you read their page on ‘The Gold-Top Standard‘ their ethics are really about the needs of a calf and it’s mother for the whole cycle of pregnancy and beyond.
We love this philosophy because through mainstream dairy farming there are many practises which we do not believe in. Calves being separated from their mother’s very young, calves being kept in ‘sheds’ and cows and unwanted calves being sent to slaughter for cheap meats and veal.
It is common practice for calves to be separated, within the first few days of them being born, from their mothers. This can be very distressing for both involved and, as ‘The Calf at Foot’ dairy points out, makes for very depressed cows that are then being forced into the milking parlour to create maximum yield. At this dairy they believe in working with the mother and youngster to make sure the calf gets all the nutrition they need whilst leaving us with some milk in the process. The cows, rather than forced, are also given the space to become accustomed to the milking parlour and only a small amount is taken at first, for possible orphan calves. (The first milk is full of colostrum which is full of nutrients to help the young calves’ immune systems and energy).
Calves being kept in these sheds (see The Guardian article on calf pens ) is also something which isn’t even mentioned with ‘The Calf at Foot’. In fact, I will leave The Guardian article to educate you on some of the practices of mainstream dairy production as it genuinely upsets me to consider that human beings can separate themselves so much from other life that they forget that they are sentient beings also. It was an article like this, in fact, which started me on my complex journey to where I am at this current moment with what I consume.
‘The Calf at Foot’ dairy are also against one of the biggest, harsh realities of dairy farming, and from my knowledge of farming in general, which is to cull the ‘product’ that is not needed in the process. Calves that are male are often sent to be slaughtered as cheap veal cuts very early on and cows that are too old to milk or breed are also sent to be ‘culled’. At this dairy they rear the calves into their own herd and when the male calves are around two, they send them to their local abattoir for prime cuts of beef. They enjoy a healthy, happy, natural life prior to this and the dairy take the cattle themselves to the abattoir to reduce stress on the animal. As for the ‘elderly’ retired cows, they are kept with the herd and serve as matriarchs to the young mums.
So, there’s a little bit of information about the fantastic dairy we use in Suffolk. If you can find a dairy accessible to you that follows the same beliefs, I would recommend you make the switch today. It’s quite expensive and we do still use this alongside milk alternatives like soya and almond but the milk freezes really well so we tend to buy in bulk and freeze several bottles and that lasts us a month or two.
Have a read up on their website: ‘The Calf at Foot’ and see what you think. This definitely comes under finding a middle ground for me, by still enjoying products involving livestock but also, making sure that the welfare of them are being met on every level so they are happy, healthy and have the most natural life possible.