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Powys 'Mega-Dairy' decision step in wrong direction

News Section Icon Published 03/11/2011

Compassion in World Farming is dismayed by the news councillors in Powys indicated they are "minded to approve" an application to extend an existing farm to 1,000 cows.

The resultant intensive dairy unit at Lower Leighton Farm will see the herd extended to nine times the size of the UK average and the animals kept indoors year round, with only limited access to grazing for those cows not lactating or "performing" due to illness.

The council's planning committee, which met on Tuesday 1st November, went against the recommendation of its own planning officer, who recommended refusal saying the development "fundamentally conflicts" with Powys' Unitary Development Plan Policy.

Retrograde step

Compassion's CEO Philip Lymbery says: "The decision by Powys councillors is a retrograde step and will be seen as such by everyone who believes that cows belong in fields.

"The trend towards ever-larger dairies and higher yielding cows that we have seen in the US is not inevitable in this country.

"Dairy farmers, retailers, milk processors and government need to work together to figure out how to bring about a market environment that supports sustainable, humane-scale dairying - rather than this unsustainable dairy arms race, which sees cows being pushed to their absolute physical limit to provide ever higher yields."

Health concerns

Scientific research shows limited access to pasture raises the risk of a range of serious health problems for cows which pose serious welfare concerns.

In the overall Scientific Opinion of its 2009 study on dairy cow health and welfare, the European Food Safety Authority says if dairy cows are not kept on pasture for parts of the year, i.e. they are permanently on a zero-grazing system, there is an increased risk of lameness, mastitis and a whole host of other serious health problems.

Compassion sent a ten-page objection to the Powys plans in April of this year, setting out the potential animal welfare, environmental, public health and local development impacts of the plans.

Compassion had also objected to a retrospective application, which would have seen a dairy farm in Carmarthen able to expand to as many as 3,000 zero-grazed cows.  This application has been withdrawn for the time being.

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