Dairy farming needs strong commitment from the EU to support animal welfare in their value chains
Speakers highlighted that breeding selection for milk yields has gone too far at the expense of health and welfare of dairy cows. According to Bo Algers, Emeritus Professor of the Swedish Agricultural University, “Breeders should now select for traits such as resistance to mastitis, lameness and other diseases, even when these may conflict with selection for milk yield. “
Farmers are the main guardians of animal welfare but they must receive the right compensation for their efforts. All speakers agreed that the price of milk should reflect the work and the resources that farmers devote to pay full regard to dairy cow welfare. Evidence shows european citizens care about animal welfare and are ready to reward it with premium prices. There are several examples of this trend in Europe as illustrated during the event.
An example of how this can be achieved was presented by Neil Darwent, founder and director of Free Range Dairy (www.freerangedairy.org). This UK-based Community Interest Company of farmers guarantees that cows graze at least 4 months a year. Mr.Darwent stated: ”Dairy farmers are under an enormous pressure to adopt increasing intensification and I have witnessed at first hand the damage caused by the growing industrialisation of milk production amongst UK herds. I firmly believe that the adoption of robust dairy breeds and improved grassland management offers farmers the opportunity to develop a sustainable farming system and create real value in milk.”
Another illustration of how value chains can help dairy farmers increase animal welfare and get fairer prices for milk was provided by dr. Tatjana Tegel and Mr. Achim Boch, from Meierei Horst eG in Germany. This is a successful cooperative (http://deoekomelkburen.de/) co-owned by three dairy farmers and by consumers and which produces seasonal grass-based milk from cows have access to pasture year round.
A seminar briefing putting forward concrete ideas for an action plan on sustainable dairy cattle farming in the EU was presented during the meeting.
MEP Jytte Guteland closed the successful seminar by stating “we need to discuss how we can ensure quality dairy products are provided to the consumers whilst at the same time caring for dairy cattle is secured and farmers can make a living. I got inspired by the different good examples presented during the seminar and am very satisfied with the discussion that took place. I see that there is a need for a legislative framework on dairy and I hope that the seminar today can be the starting point for a discussion and work towards this in the future”.
For more information please contact:
ELENA NALON, DVM : Programme Leader – Farm Animals firstname.lastname@example.org
We need to discuss how we can ensure quality dairy products are provided to the consumers whilst at the same time caring for dairy cattle is secured and farmers can make a living.Jytte Guteland MEP (S&D, SE)