Mega Dairies on the Rise Globally?

Mega Dairies on the Rise Globally?

Dairy cows increasingly forced indoors in larger operations

The demand for milk in the UK, and around the world, is increasing. Cheaper milk is imported and driving more and more small dairy farm owners out of business. To keep up with higher demands and increase profit margins, many dairy farms in the UK are trying to model themselves after large U.S. dairy operations.

Nocton Dairies put in two applications in 2010 for a large-scale dairy farm. The first application was withdrawn, and included plans for approximately 9,000 cows (what would have been the largest dairy operation in Western Europe). The second application emerged a few months later with a somewhat more modest–although still immense–figure of 4,000 cows. Both applications sparked much opposition from local residents, and several environmental and animal welfare groups.

As of February 2011, over 60,000 people had signed an online petition to protest the creation of the mega-dairy. Locals cited foul smells and traffic impact as priority concerns, whereas activists focused on methane emissions and animal welfare (in such factory dairy operations, the cows are confined indoors and cannot move freely, are fed and milked intensively, repeatedly re-impregnated, and their calves removed from them right after birth). The far-reaching public outcry against the creation of this facility is a great example of community mobilizing against corporate interests. Nonetheless, the application for the intensive dairy, with some modifications, may be resubmitted.

Efforts to stop mega dairies are also underway in many parts of the U.S., too.

On the opposite side of the hemisphere, the Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF) is planning a large–many thousand cow strong–dairy operation in Bangalore, India. The primary purpose of the dairy will be to produce milk for export to other Asian countries. The carbon footprint of this mega dairy will be significant. In addition, there’s a proposed industrial milk production zone in Nellore, in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh that could encompass 40,000 cows and the participation of New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra. India’s leaders are seeking to increase the country’s overall dairy production, possibly with subsidies and other benefits. It remains to be seen: Can Indian environmentalists and animal welfare groups successfully challenge KMF like their British counterparts?

Photo courtesy of Compassion in World Farming