You can’t get milk without a calf, so everything we do starts with these little ones. From the day they are born, our cows are treated to the high animal welfare standards that organic farming demands.
We know some breeds of cow are better suited to life on an organic dairy farm than others, so these are the ones we choose to breed from. We use breeds that not only produce good quantities of milk, but, more importantly, have a greater natural immunity to, and resilience against, disease.
Many non-organic dairy farmers use the black-and-white Holstein Friesian cow, which is bred more for its high yields and less for its ability to resist disease. This usually means a greater reliance on the routine use of antibiotics. There is emerging evidence that the routine use of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic-resistant superbugs so we don’t like to use antibiotics in this way. We only use them in situations where a cow is ill and the vet tells us there is no alternative.
Farmers will choose to calve their cows at different times of the year to suit their farm and farming system, so they can provide you with a year-round supply of milk.
A couple of months before the cow is due to calve, she is given a rest from milking so she can prepare for the birth.
On a non-organic farm, weaning (when a calf is taken off an all-milk diet) can happen once the calf is around six to eight weeks old, but we leave ours on a diet of whole milk for 12 weeks. It’s more expensive, but we have found it gives the calves a much better start in life. Cows are social animals, so on our organic farms we keep our calves in groups to let them make friends and groom each other.
The female calves are called heifers and are usually added to the dairy herd. Males are called bull calves and are mostly sold to be reared for beef. One or two bull calves may be kept so they can be used for breeding when they are mature.
We keep fewer cows per hectare than a non-organic dairy farm. It means the animals have more space which can reduce stress and they have the freedom to roam. For their whole working life we aim to keep the herd as stress-free as possible. It means when you buy organic milk, you can be sure it comes from high-welfare farms.How we make milk