Cubicle cows

I am torn.

I the one hand I immediately feel uncomfortable with the idea, as I don’t naturally feel that being constrained will maximise animal welfare (which is the reason why you would want to constrain the actions of the farmer).  This comes from the “factory farm” argument.

On the other hand, I don’t know how these “cubicles” make the animal feel – could it be that they are happier in them?  I don’t know exactly what these cubicles are like, and whether an “investment” in them would actually be beneficial for cow welfare.

This way of framing the argument says “it is costly for farmers to invest these in facilities that will improve animal welfare, so they are doing too little” – actually implying the opposite result to the factory farming argument.

A few weeks ago I was at a presentation on dairy cow welfare.  In it the presenter was complaining that farmers had invested too little in these sorts of facilities, as in many ways (the animals health, ease of getting to feed, stress levels) these facilities would improve animal welfare.  If this is true I would have to say I am pro.

However, I do not know enough about the current scheme, or the preferences of cows, to decide whether I think it is a good idea.  Hopefully, any policy will explore the impact on animal welfare before we policy is made.

I do have one strong view though.  Stop sending me facebook group invites suggesting that I should sign a petition.

  • “Stop sending me facebook group invites suggesting that I should sign a petition.”

    This.

  • I seriously think that these types of claims or feelings come from people who have never even seen a farm in most cases. As someone who grew up raising life stock, you have to understand that the methods being used have been around for millennium and have never stopped working. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    So, we as humans somehow know that cattle are stressed in their environment, because we can read the feelings so well of animals, because we’ve got big egos and are pros. We even know that dogs and cats like to be dressed up in halloween costumes that would make the average 5 year old child cringe.

    The problems of the world only have to do with us and the fact that we get bored and can’t leave anything alone.

  • Unhappy cows don’t produce as much milk as happy cows.

    I don’t think there are animal welfare concerns about this way of dairying in principle. There might be in practice if staff don’t do their work properly but that applies to conventional dairying too.

    However, the cheapest way to convert grass to milk is to leave cows to graze pastures.

    There are very few countries with the soils and climate which enable stock to graze outside all year and that provides us with a natural advantage.

    It also enables us to counter food mile fallacies with facts – our produce has a smaller environmental impact, even when shipping is taken into account, than Euorpean meat and milk even though it’s produced closer to its markets.

  • @Homepaddock

    In production terms I think the individual farmer is in the best position to figure out how to use their stock for sure – and as a result I would never look at attacking these things on individual efficiency grounds.

    The way I see it there are two “anti” arguments, both externalities:

    1) It will damage NZ’s reputation – damage that is felt by all farmers even though the choice to do it (and thereby benefit) is only felt by a subgroup.

    2) It will hurt the animals and the farmer doesn’t internalise the full impact on these animals when making a choice.

    I do not buy the first argument at all, given that this practice is so heavily entrenched overseas, and given that there is little actually “anti” it overseas (people don’t buy our milk for the free rangeness of it as far as I can tell).

    The second argument is the concern – but it isn’t clear whether we have too much or too little of this practice for animal welfare. As I said a few weeks ago I was being told NZ farmers were selfish for NOT doing it, now I’m being told they are selfish FOR doing it. What is a caring farmer supposed to do?

    Furthermore, as you say if cow production is correlated to happiness a fair amount of the externality may well be internalised in the market anyway.

  • Tussock

    At first glance, this is a crazy idea which will ruin the scenic beauty of McKenzie Country, before its backers go bust.

    But this view is clearly naive and out of date. Recall that

    1. Farmers are doing this. Therefore it must be OK.

    2. The Waitaki District Council has approved the idea, without public notification. Therefore it must be OK.

    3. MAF say the proposal is ‘greener’ than the old pasture based grazing. Therefore it must be OK.

    4. Jeanette Fitzsimons, Green Saint, endorses Herd Homes. Therefore it must be OK.

    5. Serial pollution offences by one of those involved are disregarded in the ECan application. Therefore it must be OK.

    6. Most South island rivers have dairy pollution anyway, so a bit more won’t hurt. Therefore it must be OK.

    So what’s the problem?

  • Tussock

    Ah yes, I forgot the ETS. Farming of course is almost home free under the new legislation, but the government still pays the Kyoto bills.

    The good old NZ taxpayer may be soon subsidising this outfit at almost $2m annually.

    Apparently, the ETS will cost NZ $30k for the average farm. If this means $100 per cow per year for the average 300 cow herd, and these boys are going to run 18 000 cows or 60 * average herd size, well…..

    This runs out at 60*$30k per year, $1.8m.

    Taxpayers can ponder this as they drive past. But then they are not getting a commercial return on their investment in the high country stations either, and tenure review is handing over lakefront property for peanuts.

    So it must be OK.