We can learn from Canadian cow welfare model
I've been visiting many dairy farms over the past week, and milk price remains the number one concern of farmers.
"When will the price bottom out?" is one of the many questions I've been asked. "We cannot afford to stay in business. We will have to sell cows to pay bills," said another.
Others voiced concerns about their their overdrafts, while some raised fears about increased welfare problems for farmers and their stock over the winter.
After mulling over these concerns, I wonder how can we accept a situation where both cow welfare issues and the stress levels imposed on farm families results in an unsustainable food production system?
Most dairy farm operations are willing to accept a milk price which enables reinvestment in the operation and provides funds for educating their children and some savings for retirement. Current milk price and the short-term outlook have thrown this objective into disarray.
Last month I also spent some time on dairy farms in Canada where the dairy industry still operates a quota regime. Dairy farmers have control of their destiny in this market where farmers are paid 55c/l for cow's milk and 75c/l for goat milk.
Canadian dairy farmers are currently very happy with their milk price, especially when one considers that the costs of production are significantly greater than in grassland spring milk production systems in Ireland.
The most impressive of the dairy farms I visited was Armstrong Manor Farm in Ontario.