Doing dairy differently: the calf-friendly, cow-kind micro-dairy
There are many reasons why people are concerned about industrial dairy, including the distress the cows experience, the spread of disease among cows kept in close quarters, imported feeds, environmental pollution, male calves shot at birth and, in general, an approach which is profit driven at the expense of animal welfare and health.
Fiona Provan of Calf at Foot Dairy, deeply concerned about this growing trend, set out to find a healthy symbiotic way of working with cows. She started up her own micro-dairy in Somerleyton near Lowestoft, Suffolk, where the cows’ welfare is prioritised above human gains. By being in tune with the cows’ natural instincts and herd relationships, Fiona has developed a ‘Calf at Foot’ dairy model where both female and male calves stay with their mothers until they naturally wean themselves at around 9 months old.
The Calf at Foot concept has inspired other farmers to move to a model like Fiona’s. Fiona hopes that in the future ‘Calf at Foot’-ing’ will become a common practice. This film provides a glimpse into a day at the dairy, where milking starts at 7 am and each cow is individually milked while standing unrestrained. The herd of 16 Jersey milking cows produce a rich creamy milk which is sold as raw whole milk from the farm gate as well as online. The cows enjoy a 100% grass-fed diet without any added feed cereals or grains and the dairy is certified ‘Pasture for Life’ by the Pasture Fed Livestock Association.
The bull cows become a high-quality beef, while older female cows are retired and stay with the herd. Fiona sees education as a vital part of her work, and trains apprentices who wish to learn about her methods. The farm is also open to the public and has school visits where young people can meet the cows up close as they are used to being around people. This unique dairy demonstrates that there is a truly compassionate way of producing milk, where cows live healthy and contented lives.