De-horning

Seeing as I spent about an hour writing this email I thought I would post the email conversation on here. Please share your thoughts in the comments box:

Hello there. My name is Ellie I am a recent convert to more sustainable
living and part of this has included buying only local organic dairy. For
the past two months I have been buying calon wen dairy products through
the Organic Fresh Food Company in Lampeter. I am very happy with it and
have been getting through 12 litres of milk a week as I’ve been making
yoghurt and 4 packs of butter due to plentiful cake baking.
Today I found out about de-horning cattle and was wondering if your
farmers de-horn theirs?
Kind thanks Ellie Jones

                                                                                                                             

Ellie good evening

Canvassed views here amongst our farmers – this is the view from one – Dai
Miles
Look forward to your thoughts:

” I Can’t really understand the problem with de horning… as normally
calves are de- budded  between 3 and 10 weeks with a local anaesthetic,
and very much for their own benefit as well of course as health and safety
precautions for humans, both farmers, and those they may meet walking
through our fields.

If missed at that early age they can still be de-horned at 12 – 18 months,
again with more anaesthetic, but it must be carried out by a qualified
Vet.

Sadly I’ve seen the dreadful damage & the terror a group of horned animals
can inflict on their polled or de horned cohorts and its horrific, and we
also fail in our duty of care to those that work on our farms too, should
they ever be placed into danger by such an animal.

We do hope this practical, and very carefully managed program won’t put
you off buying our milk, we spend a huge amount of time and energy
preserving our Organic farms so that your milk is produced in a
sustainable  & caring system.

Best regards
Dai”

                                                                                                                                          

Hi Richard,
Yes I understand that this is the dominant perspective on de-horning. Who could argue with putting safety first? I have only done a few days work on a dairy farm with a relative but obviously I am not a dairy farmer and cannot comment on your farmers’ expertise.

I wonder if you knew how old the dehorning practice is?- whether humans have always dehorned cattle, or whether it was a practice introduced as herd sizes increased. I am aware that this is no fault of the small scale farmers, but rather industrialised food production and a culture of consumerism promoted by supermarkets put pressure on farmers to produce more milk at a cheaper price. I understand that managing a horned herd would involve more intensive management and that means more money. I don’t imagine for one minute that small scale farming is so lucrative that there are pots of money waiting to be spent. However your organic farmers are much more likely to open their minds to challenging the norms of farming than factory farms supplying the supermarkets. As a consumer the first step of course is supporting small scale farmers until business is thriving before taking such steps but the ideas have got to start somewhere. Here is an article which suggests farming horned cattle may cater to a gap in the market (http://www.dairyexporter.co.nz/article/35417.html)

Research about horned cows and the purpose of the horns is lacking and therefore seems to be a marginalised perspective. From what I have read (http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/welfare/farm/docs/calves_alcasde_D-2-2-1.pdf) about working within horned herds it seems that cattle have quite complex social needs which, if poorly managed, is what increase the chances of injury and not the presence of horns. Personally I see the dominant practice of dehorning entire herds of cattle as a convenient solution to a problem where there could be any number of factors contributing. But rather than looking for the root of the problem and less aggressive methods the horns are removed. There are loads of suggestions in the above research, but the primary seemed to be prevention of confrontational situations which would be preferable to de-horning.

I fully understand if what I’ve said comes across as ignorant, ill informed, jumping to conclusions and so on but again I am not a farmer and I do not understand the complexities and practicalities. For example I could not really decide whether using a traditional tying system suggested for horned herds, in which cows sleep more and spend less time eating (and therefore produce less milk) was a good thing for welfare. It could be more comfortable for the cow, hence more sleeping, but worse for social interactions and behaviour (clearly not good for high milk yeilds though) http://lhu.emu.ee/downloads/Welfood/Eating.pdf

Even though I have a few questions about de-horning I don’t think that it will stop me from buying Calon Wen as I am grateful to have found milk that I can say is environmentally good and supports small scale Welsh farmers. It is a good quality product and I love the fact it is not homogenised.

Kind thanks for reading my email and obtaining the reply from Dai.
Best wishes
Ellie

 

Cancer

Yesterday I came across a nice young man asking people to ‘help kids beat cancer‘. As I was feeling about a level 9 on the virtuosity scale I emptied my purse of change and he gave me a leaflet. The leaflet, to my surprise, focused on the topic of organic coffee, organic food and avoiding deodorants with aluminum.

Many of these ideas are not promoted by the NHS and so the charity called Kids Integrated Cancer Treatment shares the latest research about cancer causing products that we consume and keeps parents informed about how to help their children survive cancer. Please look at the Recipe Book which was written by the parent of a child diagnosed with cancer. When the doctors advised him to feed his child whatever the child wanted, which was along the lines of wotsits and pot noodles, this parent wisely knew this was wrong and the following quote I thought summed up the truth of the matter:

“Remember we can only be made out of one egg, one sperm and what we absorb, which includes the food, drinks and medicines we consume, the air we breathe and anything which comes into contact with the skin.”

It’s so obvious but just think about it for a minute…..

The saying ‘you are what you eat’ has reached a new level of meaning for me. If eating natural food can improve the chances of surviving cancer then I want more of it and to stay well away from the rubbish that is sold to us as food.

Finally, here is an interesting little tidbit taken from the leaflets:

Fruits and veg with the highest pesticide load:

Peaches, Strawberries, Apples, Sweet bell peppers, Celery, Nectarines, Cherries, Lettuce, Grapes, Pears, Spinach, Potatoes.

Fruits and veg with the lowest pesticide load:

Broccoli, Aubergine, Cabbage, Banana, Kiwi, Asparagus, Peas (frozen), Mango, Pineapple, Sweetcorn (frozen), Avocado, Onion.

Update

I haven’t written a blog for ages as I’ve mostly been getting the hang of making yogurt and sourdough bread every couple of days. I have to say it must be a fine art as I’ve had variable results but so far everything has been enjoyable to eat in it’s own way. Check out the flattest sourdough ever!

Rubbish for sandwiches but perfect for soldiers. I also made Homemade hotcross buns and crumpets following a recipe from the Bread Matters book written by the wonderful Andrew Whitely, founder of the Real Bread Campaign. A real treat- I’ve made the buns twice and the crumpets three times!

Here is a quick update on what I’ll be making and doing this week. (pictures to follow)

Oh and I’m hosting the first Swansea Organic Food Co-op on Thursday night. A pretty busy week for me- but that’s how I  like it!

 

 

 

Food for free.

In Swansea market they sell Gower beetroot by the bunch but unbelievably most people ask for the huge bunch of leaves to be trimmed off and they end up going into the bin. Being a newly reformed Otesha-ite I asked Mr Green Grocer “if you’re throwing those away would you mind if I take some?” He was more than happy to let me help myself and I took a carrier bag full of beet green away with me absolutely free! You can cook beet greens just like spinach or chard. I just had some for my lunch and they were lovely, local, and best of all free. Who says veg is always expensive?
IMG_1001

First frustrations.

Yesterday afternoon was the first day that I got really annoyed about my self imposed supermarket ban. All I wanted was to buy some milk from the co-op in town. I was on my way to pick up a friend who was coming for dinner. I knew we had no milk for a cup of tea and thought I would pick up milk on the way. Unfortunately, seeing as I’ve only gone to the co-op by bicycle since imposing the supermarket ban I hadn’t realised how inconvenient it is to access the co-op by car. There is NOWHERE to park except the pay and display car park which is £1.20. There’s no way I’m paying £1.20 to park the car so I can get a bottle of milk! So I thought I’ll try the shops in Sketty near my friend’s house but NO… I asked in the bakery if there was anywhere I could buy milk except for the two express supermarkets and they said there was nowhere because all the local shops had closed- Hmmm I wonder why?

The veg box schemes and the co-op are the only places you can get organic milk in Swansea (to my knowledge) except for the supermarkets. I suppose I got annoyed because I should have had a veg box delivery last Thursday but because I got a double whammy of veg a fortnight ago I didn’t get one. Hopefully once I get the routine of the veg boxes a bit more organised I won’t run out of milk again.

So how did I cope with this annoying situation and lack of milk I hear you ask? Well I just said to my friend, ‘we haven’t got any milk, so you’ll have to have it black or have a herbal tea’, which is what we both did and it didn’t actually do us any harm. When I dropped him home in the evening we were able to park the car outside the co-op as the parking restrictions are lifted after 6pm and obtain milk.

What surprised me was that when I thought about it there are so few local ‘convenience’ stores and where they do exist it is a total nightmare to park. The supermarkets have all got somewhere to park right outside the entrance making it convenient to stop there. If I didn’t do my shopping by bike I would find it more inconvenient to stop at the local shops, green grocers and markets.

One thing is for certain- I’m not going to cave in to the power of the supermarket (not yet anyway!). This experience was my first real test but it also made me more resolute. If anyone else knows or has noticed anything about ‘the way of the supermarket’ then please write a comment.