Rustic Guest Neil Quinlan ~ Free-Range

fafneilquinlanNeil farms in Cheshire, rearing dairy heifers, and returned to the industry after a break from farming (you can read more about that on his blog – Quinlan and Cows. Or find him over at twitter @neilquinlan)

I’m sharing a post he wrote earlier in the year which I first enjoyed when I read it on Haynet.

I hope you enjoy it too. Free-range milk in your tea?


Free-Range

The free-range debate still seems to be rumbling on over on twitter….

I fall into the category of free-range farmer I suppose. Our heifers “went out” in April 2016 and we still had some out in January of this year! We were feeding silage outside as the grass doesn’t grow at this time of year. It was also frosty, but the cows were happy. Frosty cowsHow do I know this?

Well if they weren’t happy they would be stood at the gate mooing their heads off!

So free range milk. A value added product in the age of a volatile market. Great I thought. That was until I watched Friday Night Feast on Channel 4 who were promoting the product.

The connotations and insinuations that were made on the programme were very misleading. Housed cows are unhealthy and unhappy was the impression I was given. Not taking anything away from Jimmy Doherty as I think he has done a great job promoting British agriculture on the whole.

I take umbrage with this because, if done correctly, housed cows have been some of the happiest I’ve seen. Also due to the grass growing season of the UK “free range” cows will have to be housed for a portion of the year. So saying cows are unhappy when housed is damaging to the free range brand and the industry as a whole.

It’s not the system that defines the health and wellbeing of animals. It’s the person managing it. Same applies to organic.

So as a free range farmer what authority do I have to speak about housed systems? I visited America last year. I have to say I was concerned about what I would see on arrival at the farms I was visiting but my fears were unfounded.

housed cows

This was typical of the farms I visited and the cows were happy, contented and in peak health!

Here is our winter housing. A light airy barn in which we get very few health problems Again if these animals weren’t happy they’d literally shout about it! They are cleaned out twice a day and get fresh straw every day and as much silage as they can eat! What’s not to like!?

our housing

So my point is not to persuade you away from free-range. Far from it. I want people to have a choice. I just want it to be an informed choice.

In the UK we produce quality, antibiotic and growth promoter free, sustainable and traceable products. So if you see the red tractor on something you pick up in the supermarket you know this is the case as that farm has been inspected.

Anyway. Back to the day job.

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