These days, there is a lot of talk about cows. The industrial raising of cattle for meat of dairy products is a disaster for the environment. Some cattle farming is so intensive, it can even be called animal cruelty. We are not even going into the huge slaugther houses way of working of course. So yes, it is necessary to reduce our meat consumption in general, of beef in particular, and the consumption of dairy products as well of course.
Reducing is also a chance to better select your products. Local meat, of a high quality, with farming practices that ensure a high standard of comfort for the animal which offers its life in our plates. Mil too, of high quality, locally made and not pasteurized too much to keep its nutrional value and its taste.
It is possible! Support the small farmers who are doing it well for the environment and for your health!
We went to meet Alex and Merral of the Holy Cow farm about 20min out from Dunedin. Here are people who do it better. Alex the farmer has 28 cows in his cattle on about 50 ha, it is far from being intensive.
We arrive at 6:30am. He is preparing the milking with his employee. Each cow has its own stall with its name on it, where it is served a breakfast made of grain granules and silage hay. Classical music resonates in the stalls as much for the comfort of the human ears as it is for the animals'.
He cannot be certified organic because he does not find enough organic supplementary feed for his cows in winter (about 1000kg per day) but otherwise the rest is organic. In any case, in NZ, organic certification is mainly a brand dedicated for export so for him, who sells his milk locally, it does not really matter.
In general, to produce milk, the cow needs to have a calf. His cows are inseminated once a year and have each a calf per year. During the last two to three months of pregnancy, the cows don't produce milk anymore and are left alone until the new milking cycle starts again with the new calf.
The calves are separated from their mothers and raised on the farm, either kept to become part of the dairy cattle if female or sold for meat if they are males.
Then he calls his cows with a big throaty cry and opens the gates. They sometimes take time to come if they ventured far but they always arrive. Here they are coming in and going into their respective stalls, more or less when they are not trying to steal their neighbours' feed.
he cleans the cow's udders with a cloth and some warm water as the weather has been rainy and the cows are pretty dirty then he tests the milk of each udder. If the milk curdles then he will remove the milk from the rest of it. Then he sets up the milking tools. The pressure is created by a pneumatic network of tubes set-up around the stalls.
The milk is then put into a big tank where it is slowly pasteurized, at 63°C during 30 minutes. (classic modern pasteurization is about 72°C during 10s and the ultra-pasteurization of milk which one can find in France, the UHT milk, is even worse and there isn't probably muh left in the milk) This slow process enables him to keep the nutrional value of the milk as well as its taste.