A 'secret' press conference has launched new plans for the Nocton 'mega-dairy' in Lincolnshire yesterday. New plans for the UK's biggest factory dairy farm were kept under strict embargo. Although the proprietors of Nocton Dairies Ltd promised significant changes, we can now reveal that the 'new' plans are really just more of the same.
On the surface the most significant change would appear to be a reduction in the number of cows - from 8,100 to 3770. But the devil is in the details. The figure of 3,770 is just a starting point. Nocton Dairies has gone on record saying it will build the herd up to the original 8,100 as soon as it is practicable.
Bad news for cows
Most importantly though, whatever the size, Nocton Dairies is still bad news for cows. Under the revised proposals, the cows will still be kept indoors for the majority of their lives with little or no access to pasture. Research shows that this type of 'zero-grazing' system is associated with increased risk of many health problems including lameness, mastitis, reproductive problems and a number of bacterial infections.
In spite of Nocton Dairies' assurances that its cows will be reared according to the highest welfare standards, the kind of high-yielding cows that are central to the mega-dairies' plans are prone to health and welfare problems that cannot be addressed through good animal husbandry alone. Bred specifically to produce vast quantities of milk, these cows are worked beyond endurance. The amount of energy these animals need to expend in order to produce 10,000 or more litres of milk each per year is equivalent to a human being running a half marathon every day for ten months of the year.
Bad news for farmers
Even with the temporary reduction in cow numbers, this proposed industrial farm is around 40 times the size of an average UK dairy farm. Producing milk on this large scale sets a dangerous precedent for the future of dairy farming in the UK and risks driving the price of a pint of milk down to levels that most small farmers can't compete with.
Today a litre of orange juice costs £2.20, yet a litre of milk costs just 74p; a pint of beer costs £3.50 yet we pay just 45p for a pint of milk. And while proponents of factory farming believe that the public want cheaper milk, surveys suggest that even in a recession people will consider shopping according to their values. A recent MORI poll, for example, found that at least 60% of those surveyed would vote with their wallets and reject milk from cows kept in this kind of intensive system.
Compassion vows to keep fighting
With the welfare of dairy cows at stake, Compassion has vowed to continue its fight to stop Nocton Dairies and ensure that the animals, the environment and our farmers are protected from the risks posed by factory farming.
Philip Lymbery, Chief Executive of Compassion in World Farming, said:
"The proposed Nocton development is still the wrong route for dairy farming in Britain. It threatens animal welfare and the countryside, will put hard-pressed family farms under even more pressure, and will undermine the integrity of our milk. The proposal remains unwanted, unnecessary and unwelcome. The bottom line is that cows belong in fields not in industrial dairies."