Latest news from Big Barn and our producers.

Technology to get cows in our fields again

I took this picture yesterday when I recognised the beautiful setting. I then spotted the sheep and realised that sheep farming contributed to the view and that 50 years ago the field probably would have also had cows.

The cows have gone as the modern food industry, dominated by supermarkets, has forced dairy farmers to get big and efficient or diversify in to something else. As a result the number of dairy farmers in the UK has gone from 45,000 in the 80s to 9,850 in 2015, and the threat of mega dairies like the USA, where 32,000 cows rarely taste fresh grass, grows.

Some people welcome this change and celebrate the quite countryside with no noisy cows mooing in the early hours. And to see milk cheaper than water in some shops. For a previous blog about milk click here.

Cows on grass a thing of the past?

Cows on grass a thing of the past?

Others, like me, worry about the sustainability of modern farms, the separation of consumer from producer, animal welfare and commodities, and huge sheds, in fields, instead of food.

Technology and mechanisation has played a large part in the move towards industrialised farming with massive machinery allowing commodity crops to be grown with 1/10th of the workforce required 70 years ago. At last it is also working for the small farmer with websites like our helping people avoid the supermarkets and buy direct and for dairy farmers, robotic milking machines that cows love.

The video below shows a dairy farm of 180 cows selling their milk to the national supply chain for around 20p/l to be pasteurised and homogenised (bad for us all, especially kids). What I think we need is smaller dairies selling direct to local people and giving a choice of raw milk or slow pasteurised. More here

I would rather see smaller dairies than the one in the video using milking machines. I hope the time saved milking the cows could be used to organise direct delivery to local people, schools, and businesses, giving the farmer a much better price.

So exciting times. Please keep an eye open for a dairy setting up near you and try out what should be a much better product. Or let us do it for you and register for our post code specific newsletter and we will keep up up to date on all local food news.

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