Intensive Dairy Farming

If I was a farmer I’d be looking to win some friends in the cities and towns given the free ride they are getting regarding climate change impacts and planning.

So why would a bunch of dairy farmers want to consider placing 18,000 up to 17,850 cows indoors for up to 8 month of the year. There is a proposal for farms on this scale down in South Canterbury.

On the face of it this is not the way to go. However the Federated Farmers rep on the radio interview even suggests that environmental concerns is one of the reasons for considering this.

Anyone who has driven around Caterbury and Southland might politely suggest that perhaps those locations are not the best places for Dairy farming and that the environmental impacts of intensive irrigation are already producing adverse effects.

New Zealand has a competitive advantage in pastoral farming where animals feeding grass for beef and dairy out perform other farming practices in the global village.

“For many Kiwis, ‘dairying’ has already become a dirty word with effluent running off farms and fouling waterways and untaxed greenhouse gas emissions being responsible for a large proportion of this country’s carbon footprint.

Now a dairy farming group is proposing an intensive form of dairying that critics equate to the factory farming of our ‘clean green’ product. Protagonists see it as an efficient enhancement to one of this nation’s most important forex earners.” Radio NZ

http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/ntn/ntn-20091207-0909-Intensive_dairying-048.mp3 (duration: 17?45?)

I’m beginning to think that no-one has even read “The Omnivores Dilemma” by Michael Pollan where he journeys through the U.S food production systems with shocking results.

Here is an intro from Pollans website

“In this groundbreaking book, one of America’s most fascinating, original, and elegant writers turns his own omnivorous mind to the seemingly straightforward question of what we should have for dinner.

To find out, Pollan follows each of the food chains that sustain us—industrial food, organic or alternative food, and food we forage ourselves—from the source to a final meal, and in the process develops a definitive account of the American way of eating.

His absorbing narrative takes us from Iowa cornfields to food-science laboratories, from feedlots and fast-food restaurants to organic farms and hunting grounds, always emphasizing our dynamic coevolutionary relationship with the handful of plant and animal species we depend on.

Each time Pollan sits down to a meal, he deploys his unique blend of personal and investigative journalism to trace the origins of everything consumed, revealing what we unwittingly ingest and explaining how our taste for particular foods and flavors reflects our evolutionary inheritance.

The surprising answers Pollan offers to the simple question posed by this book have profound political, economic, psychological, and even moral implications for all of us. Beautifully written and thrillingly argued, The Omnivore’s Dilemma promises to change the way we think about the politics and pleasure of eating.  For anyone who reads it, dinner will never again look, or taste, quite the same.”

Read the introduction and first chapter of The Omnivore’s Dilemma (PDF)

I’d think it is time for Federated Farmers and the promoters of this particular dairy scheme to listen to consumers.

As an aside NZ exports something like 97% of all milk so clearly we don’t need any more.

Whatever the merits of this particular project and there are none in my opinion; this is part of a much wider debate that affects our tourism marketing and wider environmental thinking.