This week Eyes on Animals spent 5 days at a dairy farm in northern Germany that keeps the calves for at least 3 months with their mothers in the herd. It is one of 5 dairy farms in between Hamburg and Flensburg that produces milk for a new label called ElternZeit, which means “ Parent Time”.
These dairy farms do not see new-born calves as an unwanted by-product, but instead keep them, give them a good quality of life and eventually raise them for beef. We are much more in favour of this method of producing dairy compared to the conventional method of separating new born calves from their mother right at birth and shortly thereafter transporting most of them off the dairy farm. This “ closed” method of producing dairy means that there is no need to transport unweaned calves or fatten them in separate large veal facilities far away. Here the calves get to learn from the adults, socialize, run and play. The mothers get to take care of their young. Because dairy cattle produce at least 27 litres of milk per day, and a calf only drinks about a third to a half of that per day, it means that the milk can be shared between calf and human consumer. Of course the milk is more expensive (2 euro per litre instead of 1 euro) but the quality of life the calves and cows get in exchange makes every extra cent worth it.
Back in 2014 we were promoting this concept of producing dairy also in The Netherlands and published our report about the benefits, called Giving Milk a Good Shake. Our report was also discussed in the Dutch TV consumer show Tros Radar. So far a label for dairy coming from cows that get to keep their calves does not yet exist in The Netherlands but we are working still hard on this idea together with a group of Dutch dairy farmers. We are also informing Beter Leven to include this is their criteria for 3 stars in the future.