Great news ! All of our efforts over the past 6 years at stimulating a real change within the dairy industry are starting to pay off. We really wanted the dairy industry to take more responsibility and show concern for the fate and welfare of the unwanted calves born on dairy farms ! Soon there will be a separate label on dairy products coming from Dutch farms that keep the calves with the mothers in the herd for several months instead of separating them at birth and transporting them off the farm when still fragile and dependent on milk. This was our idea to prevent all the welfare problems we saw during the sale and trucking of thousands and thousands of unweaned calves throughout Europe, and to offer cow and calf the opportunity to have a relationship and enjoy all the other benefits of staying together.
It all started in 2014 when we published a report about our investigations of unweaned calf transports and also of dairy farms in the Netherlands that were keeping their calves in the herd, with their mothers, on the farm. This report interested the very popular TV show Radar, which interviewed us and some of these farmers about this concept and benefits. This led to questions in parliament and a motion was passed in the House of Commons to aim in the near future for calves to remain with their mothers also in the dairy industry. It raised a lot of commotion and even serious negativity from some dairy producers, but also curiosity and positivity and hope among others ! Today those farmers that are enthusiastic about this idea and the new opportunities it can give them met at an online conference.
The conference was hosted by dairy farmer Corne Arnsems from De Ruurhoeve (whom Eyes on Animals met in 2017 and since have been trying to market this idea together), organized with the help of Eyes on Animals, the Dierenbescherming and Landbouw Innovatie Brabant and financially supported by Stichting Barth Misset. The aim was to inform dairy farmers about the project to develop a “Calf by the Cow” concept label for dairy and beef products in the Netherlands and find 10 dairy farmers that want to be involved in the pilot project. All dairy farmers participating want to help out and were very enthusiastic ! A dairy farmer from northern Germany, Hans Möller spoke to the participants about how he got the concept “Eltern Zeit” (Parent Time= calf by the cow) started in Germany. Five German dairy farms produce for Eltern Zeit and their separately labelled products (dairy for now, meat from the extra calves will come later) can be found in numerous stores and wholesale distributors in northern Germany.
All in all today showed that there is a strong interest and positive group effort which can lead to a new market for dairy and meat coming from dairy farms where calves are not separated after birth but kept with their mothers.