62 thoughts on “The brand vs battery cows

  1. I was at a tourism conference recently, with Tourism New Zealand. There was overwhelming support for the 100% Pure campaign, both from our (Kiwis) perspective, but also it is recognized overseas as one of the best branding promotions in the world. I just don’t get why NZ industry and agriculture don’t take up this brand with a vengeance. It’s a complete winner of a brand, now we need to live it.
    Shrink wrapped cows are NOT a step in the right direction.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0 (+6)

  2. Like any group, there are some extremists in the mix. The key thing here is that there is big profits on offer for a few very self interestered and myopic extremists.

    NZ Inc. – not a chance, its ‘No.1 Inc.’ all the way.

    An interesting point made by Morgan Williams recently is that NZ is a ‘village’ with the status of a country, and there are too many people too close to governance. That is too many self interested No.1 Inc’s too close to our decision makers for sound policy decisions that benefit NZ Inc. in general, rather than the myopic interest of special interest groups.

    e.g. If this goes ahead, and if dirty dairying is not reigned in, NZ Inc. loses, but a few people stand to win big.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1 (+7)

  3. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  4. Something about the hooves, the fur and the grass eating makes me think they are optimised for outdoors grazing…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0 (+11)

  5. “Anyone ask the cow,?” asks BluePeter.

    Yep, I did. The cow said it’s a travesty against nature. The McKenzie Country is no place for us, she said, we need to be out under God’s sky (she was a spiritual kind of beast I noticed). She finished by declaring that the men responsible for the applications to factory farm cows in that environment were greedy b*astards and I had to agree with her.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 2 (+10)

  6. There appears to be an assumption that the cow prefers to be outdoors. Well, it might, but hadn’t people better find that out before leaping to conclusions?

    Are there any studies on cows health/mood/lifespan/socialisation patterns indoors vs out?

    That would be interesting, don’t you think?

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  7. “It is generally assumed that pasture provides cattle with better welfare compared to indoor housing systems. Pasture is a natural environment for cattle, which allows the expression of normal behaviour and provides ample comfortable lying space and the opportunity to lie in stretched positions. However, as milk yield increases, high- yielding dairy cows may not be able to fulfil their nutritional demands from pasture alone, resulting in them becoming hungry which is a welfare problem.

    The aim of the first experiment is to determine whether high- yielding dairy cattle have a preference for indoor housing or pasture and to determine what factors influence preference.

    An exploratory study was conducted to determine whether high genetic merit Holstein dairy cows (n = 32) in mid to late lactation had a preference to be indoors or on pasture. Twice a day, from a choice point equidistant (44 m) from indoor housing and pasture, cows individually chose whether to go indoors or to pasture. They were then free to move from the indoor housing to pasture and vice versa 24 hours a day. Two measures of choice were recorded: the decision taken at the choice point and then the time spent indoors and at pasture. To try and establish what influenced their decision weather conditions were recorded indoors and outdoors, milk yield was recorded, the cows were given a lameness and BCS score throughout the experiment, manual behaviour observations were conducted daily and IGER behaviour recorders were fitted to the cows to determine jaw movements, bouts of jaw movement and to discriminate between eating and rumination at each location.”

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  8. I haven’t got a barrow to push here, other than wondering what the cow prefers.

    But isn’t saying things like “battery cows” a little unscientific? Propoganda? Does it invite a reasoned, adult debate on the topic?

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  9. BP – see Jeanette’s coverage on a similar topic 2 blog posts ago “Herd homes vs cubicles like home vs prison”

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  10. DO you know if anybody has put in a request for the Minister for the Environment to intervene?

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  11. Cows are/were forest edge dwellers, browsing on a range of grasses, shrubs, broadleafed ‘weeds’ etc. and able to shelter when ever they chose. To measure their preference between indoors, eating trucked-in grain and outdoors, in an exposed paddock where sappy pumped-full-of-urea grasses grow exclusively, is a nonsense, though it suits your cause BP.
    Forest-edge is best. Ask any cow.

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  12. I don’t have a cause, other than I expect the animal to be treated well.
    I only buy free range pork and eggs.

    When I see propoganda like “battery cows” I assume the writer is probably an unbalanced zealot, who, as a species, don’t tend to be interested in the truth, so I am left to conclude the truth may lay elsewhere.

    In this case, however, I think I agree with you, although I would like to see the studies on the cows welfare given different types of systems before reaching a conclusion.

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  13. BP, I think I’m with you on herdhomes for cows. As I read the harper-adams video above, they like having a choice.

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  14. Is the housing that appears in that video I linked to what is being proposed, or is it something else?

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  15. I worked on a dairy farm some years ago and got a close-up look at cows in the field. They’re placid enough about their lot but that’s no reason to think that it’s a good situation for them to be in. Do we have to have milk? Do we have to have beef?
    I think not. There are alternatives for both food and economy.

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  16. >>I think not. There are alternatives for both food and economy.

    That’s an entirely separate argument. Anyone got an answer to my question? What is the difference between what is being proposed, and the video I linked to above?

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  17. BP, the applications all specify “Cows will be housed in cubicle stables…” which are very different from the herd homes mentioned. Given the close analogy to caged laying chickens (lack of individual space, no freedom to move, unable to express natural behaviours) I think the term “battery” for this form of cow housing is perfectly appropriate.

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  18. Interesting how similar the words ‘buttery’ and ‘battery’ are, yet only one of them has any romance.
    ‘Battery’, Blue, think steel bars and concrete and see if you can squeeze some romance out of that (for the advertising overseas that is – I’m not expecting you to take a romantic view of anything).

    ‘Our New Zealand Butter – raised on good old-fashioned concrete and steel – You can taste the difference!”

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  19. Farmgeek,

    The video I linked to describes them as being cubicles, which look fine, and the cows preferred to go into them rather than stay outside 66% of the time, when given a choice.

    I want to know if there is a difference between what is being proposed and THAT video?

    Because to liken those cubicles, with free wandering area around them, to restrictive cages is misleading.

    So, what is the truth? Anyone?

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  20. There is so many thing’s wrong with the dairy industry that it’s hard to know where to start.
    Since this is about the shedding up in the MacKenzie I’ll go for that.

    Cows should NOT be in that country, end of story. The reasons are many, to may to cover here. But a couple of important ones for a start. They are putting shit in the head waters. Now I didn’t think it took to many brains to work out what is wrong with that, but it seems I’m wrong. How many years is it going to take before that causes MASSIVE problems?? How long before that free running river gravel isn’t free running????
    Blue seems to think shedding is the answer for looking after the cows. Dairy farmers are not known for their stock care, the only thing they think about is money. FACT.

    It is long past time the government stepped in and did something about the dairy industry and the way the land is treated by cow cockies. I’ve discussed this with a lot of farmers that agree.

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  21. farmgeek has told you what the applications say: “Cows will be housed in cubicle stables…”.

    a cause for concern, in addition to those of whether housing cattle inside at all has consequences for their mental and physical health is the vagueness of this description.

    regardless of any of these arguments it is clear that a great deal of external inputs are required to make these farms productive: they are fundamentally unsustainable. the argument should end there.

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  22. The video I linked to above also describes them as cubicles. Have you watched it? The cows look rather free-ish, and choose to go into them, most of the time, as opposed to staying outdoors.

    The definition of “cubicles” is obviously a very loose one.

    The issue appears to be the size of the cubicles and free walking areas.
    Does anyone have these details?

    great deal of external inputs are required to make these farms productive. they are fundamentally unsustainable

    How so? Aren’t you unproductive unless distance inputs like food, electricity, furniture, and telecommunications are “applied” to you?

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  23. “AN AMBERLY farmer with plans to build controversial dairy farms in the McKenzie Basin has one of the worst compliance records in Southland.”

    Southland Times Thursday 2 December.

    Mr Cornelius Zeestraten said that his compliance history should not make any difference to the consent applications.

    Wait! Listen! What’s that melodious bird singing so eloquently? Look at the curious tuft of white feathers at its throat! Astonishing!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0 (+1)

  24. Like this perhaps?
    Environment Southland During the 2002/03 year, 15 Abatement Notices were issued.
    summary of offence
    That Cornelius G Zeestraten and/or his
    agent discharged effluent from more than
    590 cows to land in contravention of
    Condition 7 of the Resource Consent
    200857

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  25. That might be a case for why this farmer in particular should not be granted permission, but it rather obscures the question:

    Are cows happier, or just as happy, living inside?

    The studies I’ve seen appear to show that the cow doesn’t really care, and shows a slight preference to being inside.

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  26. BluePeter’s milking us for information. he’s got his questions off-pat.

    He might like to re-ask his question:
    Are cows happier, or just as happy, living inside?
    thus:

    Are cows miserable, or just as miserable, living inside?

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  27. incidentally folks, a guy just sent me some US talk about pasture-fed aka free-range ranching compared to grainfed etc.. It finished up with a ref to the NY Times recently sourcing this comment:Pilot tests conducted on various farms have also shown that free range cattle fed certain supplemental diets, such as flaxseed and alfafa crops grown on-site, can lower enteric emissions.

    Worth a look.?

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  28. Excellent. Just saw on the news that the Minister isn’t going to call in these proposals because he obviously doesn’t think that this is a matter of national significance. And we have been reassured by one of the companies that this is better for the environment! This from a director of a company that describes itself as ‘an investment vehicle for New Zealanders living in Australia” who lists his address as Mount Maunganui. Minister -this is a local issue but some local issues do have NATIONAl significance. Obviously this isn’t JFK’s assassination or the moon landing but given that the investors don’t live in NZ, Fonterra doesn’t like it, AND it’s making the national news maybe this IS an issue of national significance!

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  29. I agree with Nick Smith – there’s nothing to see here! Mr Cornelius should be given the Green light to go ahead with his plans to ease the suffering of the McKenzie cows and if our overseas markets do challenge our ‘grass-fed’ claims, we can say,
    “Take it to Cornelius and Nick”.
    It would be a great shame if dairying in New Zealand should suffer a major set back, but the rights of an individual farmer and his supportive company, be they focused here or in Australia, must be paramount! The Greens must stop their ‘ban this and ban that’ approach and support innovation like this. Remember, the cows will be better off, and so will we be.

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  30. I have always found that it is best to do the opposite of what Nick Smith says
    For example Nick Smith wanted us to be part of that whole invade Iraq thingee that was so sucessful .

    He is quite quite mad

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  31. Quote from BluePeter “Here’s a study:

    http://www.harper-adams.ac.uk/press/article.cfm?ID=2967
    The cows, given their own choice between inside and out, preferred to go inside.”

    Actually the conclusion was undecided, because last year’s results conflicted with this years results.

    This study was extremely biased. The cows had the CHOICE to go inside (where, incidently, the space was ample and clean; and there were additional food sources)

    The problem with factory farming is that the cows *don’t* get this choice; they are confined in spaces where they cannot lie down or turn around. Hardly preferable for the cow.

    These submissions (from “companies” with no open profile that I could find) request permission to keep 7000 cows on one ‘farm’ indoors for at least 8mths of the year. This is not how a cow or any animal would choose to exist, and it is certainly not healthy or better for production.

    Let’s keep our eyes on the ball folks!

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  32. Looks like few have taken a scientific approach to this question.

    People assume they know what conditions cows prefer, but haven’t tested it. When you “ask the cow”, the tests I’ve seen appear to indicate that the cow isn’t particularly bothered either way.

    Can only conclude that the Greens are pursuing their anti-dairy agenda. Inclined to agree with Federated Farmers at this point – the Greens can’t have it both ways in terms of stock management.

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  33. Are cows miserable, or just as miserable, living inside?

    That’s a question as to whether to practice dairy farming at all.

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  34. Or rather whether to practice it in its present form.

    I say “No”.
    I’m not surprised, btw, that you are

    ” Inclined to agree with Federated Farmers at this point”

    not surprised at all.
    However, you have over-simplified the issue. There are not only two approaches to keeping cows.
    Your ‘ask the cow’ approach is very entertaining. Do you take the same approach to forming your opinion about other farming practices here in New Zealand? Do you ‘ask the sows’ and ‘ask the hens’? I’d really like to know.

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  35. There are not only two approaches to keeping cows.

    Never said there wasn’t, but it appears to me the reaction to keeping cows indoors is mostly hysterical, not reasoned.

    IF the cow isn’t particularly bothered (in all respects) about option A or B, given the two scenarios we’re discussing here (pens vs outdoors), then the animal welfare argument against pens appears to be bogus.

    There may be other reasons intensive dairy in that region are not a good idea, which I’m open to, but one thing at a time.

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  36. As for the water issue, how about linking his permission to operate to water purity? i.e. if analysis shows water quality has degraded by X due to his operations, then he loses his licence to operate?

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  37. I would rather see a bond equal to the value of the stock farm paid before permission is given.

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  38. “As for the water issue, how about linking his permission to operate to water purity? i.e. if analysis shows water quality has degraded by X due to his operations, then he loses his licence to operate?”

    Yes! Yes, Blue! That’s it!

    Now, let’s apply that standard to dairy farming in general …

    Hang on …!!! This would mean the destruction of the whole dairy industry in New Zealand!

    BluePeter! You extremist, you!

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  39. This would mean the destruction of the whole dairy industry in New Zealand!

    No, it wouldn’t. The very fact you walk this earth, Greenfly, means you create an impact on the environment. YOU damage it by your very presence.

    So, we’re not talking about zero impact. We’re talking about minimising impact.

    What is an acceptable level? I guess that’s debatable, huh.

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  40. BP “IF the cow isn’t particularly bothered (in all respects) about option A or B”

    an inconclusive trial consisting of 12 cows is your evidence that 7000 cows are going to be healthy kept indoors for 8 months of the year? Do you think what you see in that video looks anything like what 7000 cows kept indoors will look like?

    it seems to me that there is no real accurate description of the conditions the cows are going to be kept in and given the history of the applicant for cutting corners its safe to guess that he’s not going to be spending extra money on any creature comforts for these animals.

    as for the sustainability:

    “How so? Aren’t you unproductive unless distance inputs like food, electricity, furniture, and telecommunications are “applied” to you?”

    sure, but there is only one of me not 7000 and I’m not crapping in the MacKenzie basin.

    I agree with you that most New Zealanders including myself do not live sustainably but the writing is pretty clearly on the wall that we should be trying to become more sustainable, not less. The profits coming out of these cows will go to a group of people in another country but the price paid by the rest of us in terms of water pollution, emissions and deforestation for palm kernal feed will be shared by all.

    you are kicking a dead cow defending this BP…

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  41. “I guess that’s debatable”

    Tell you what BP, how about you go live in the barn with the cows and conduct your side of the debate from there.

    If you’re really “talking about minimising impact” how can you argue that this proposal minimises impact in any way? Short of turning the MacKenzie basin into an open-cast mine you couldn’t really have a greater impact than putting 18,000 ruminants there.

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  42. an inconclusive trial consisting of 12 cows is your evidence that 7000 cows are going to be healthy kept indoors for 8 months of the year? Do you think what you see in that video looks anything like what 7000 cows kept indoors will look like?

    No, that’s why I was asking. But it seems that no one can produce any better research which proves it’s a bad thing. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, so my first port of call is to consult the research.

    I agree with you that most New Zealanders including myself do not live sustainably but the writing is pretty clearly on the wall that we should be trying to become more sustainable, not less.

    I agree in the sense that we can’t possibly live an unsustainable existence, or humans wouldn’t be here.

    I guess we need to define terms. What does “sustainable” actually mean?

    you are kicking a dead cow defending this BP…

    I’m not defending it. I’m asking questions. There doesn’t appear to much in the way in the way of reasoned answers, however.

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  43. Tell you what BP, how about you go live in the barn with the cows and conduct your side of the debate from there.

    Which would prove what? In the video I linked to above, it looked rather pleasant.

    a greater impact than putting 18,000 ruminants there

    You may well be right, but lets see the plans and figures. The McKenzie basin isn’t exactly small.

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  44. “There doesn’t appear to much in the way in the way of reasoned answers, however.”

    The problem is BP that the RMA does not specify much about the conditions the cows will be kept in. have you ever been anywhere near a cow, bp? I have milked my fair share, having grown up on a dairy farm and I can tell you that when they’re free to roam in a well-grassed paddock they will wander around all day, spread out, socialise and generally be pretty contented. when you pen them up for any length of time they are certainly more stressed than when allowed to roam, in my humble opinion.

    I don’t think the main argument is the animal cruelty one however, the environmental impact and the impact on NZ’s dairy brand are the one’s that will be more important to NZ. these farmers will be stealing profits from the rest of NZ’s dairy farmers in the form of lower milk prices from our compromised brand image.

    all the external food that is brought in – millions of tons a year – and water that is diverted is going to come out of the cow as mostly poo and some milk. So we’re taking water out of the catchment and adding in tons and tons of nutrients. in addition to the emissions costs of shipping the food in and milk out (largely paid for by the taxpayers) there can only be a major negative impact on the environment from this imbalance. and the profits are all going to offshore investors so win win win for NZ.

    there must be better places to farm…

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  45. The problem is BP that the RMA does not specify much about the conditions the cows will be kept in.

    Well, it should.

    you pen them up for any length of time they are certainly more stressed than when allowed to roam

    Again, that sounds plausible to me. But it would be interesting to see studies along the lines of the one I mentioned above. My hunch – and of course I could be wrong – is that cows prefer a mixed environment. Many animals appear to, except for my cat, which prefers inside to out, particularly the roofspace.

    all the external food that is brought in – millions of tons a year – and water that is diverted is going to come out of the cow as mostly poo and some milk. So we’re taking water out of the catchment and adding in tons and tons of nutrients.

    Again, that feels right, also.

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  46. BP – it’s funny to hear you demanding to see studies which prove whether indoor life or outdoor life suits cows better. Have you no common sense at all? If ever there was a case of someone failing to see the wood, because of the trees, this case that you are quibbling over would be it.
    There are people here who have worked with cows, spelling it out for you, but in your ivory-tower manner, you insist on ‘seeing the studies’. It’s a bit embarassing to watch, I’m bound to say.

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  47. heh no one’s even bothered to down-vote because they realise this conversation is such a trainwreck that it’s pointless even reading it enough to vote. maybe that’s what BP wants

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  48. “Well, it should.”

    I quite agree.

    In the abscence of any real info from the applicants we can assume the minimum standard they will have to meet will be the animal welfare act 99, and I believe housing animals as described fails on the grounds of not allowing cows the “opportunity to display normal patterns of behaviour” under section 10 though I can’t find anything that specifically talks about cows or dairy farming.

    cows, like other herding animals, naturally develop pecking orders and for this to happen they need a certain amount of space to be able to avoid getting in the way of those above them. I think when cows are packed in in much larger numbers than is usual, there will certainly be far more stresses relating to contesting the pecking order. This is the case for almost every other species of mammal from lemmings to monkeys to humans.

    I can’t imagine them exhibiting natural behaviour in such a manifestly unnatural environment.

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  49. I think it’s time Blue went on a tour of dairy farms.

    A dairy farm may have an excellent hedge row that provides great shelter from the elements for the stock. What do dairy farmers do? They get the dozer in and knock it down, that space will provide grass for another .6 of a cow. That is all they care about.
    Money rules the industry, and that starts at the top via Fonterra. They are a dog company to work for. The whole industry is the same. I worked on dairy farms when I was younger, and I’ve worked on construction for Fonterra. If you think any of them care about anything apart from money you have some learning to do.
    When it comes to land care and stock care the minimum is done, if they can cut a corner and get away with it they will.

    I do see some dairy farms well run of course, the herd size seems to be around 400-500 tops, these small dairy farms do seem to be more in tune with the stock and the land compared to these big plants.

    Go do six months on a cow farm and see what you think at the end of it.

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  50. very interesting to find that blue peter comes here for his research consultations; yet I wonder where he stands on the predominant issue of all factory herd farmers — to wit, the cow is a machine.. and must therefore be treated as a machine.. repaired from time to time as a machine.. retired into recycling (meat, glew, hide, whatever) as a machine..

    for as a machine any moral sense arising from life and living upon our planet can be dispensed with..

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  51. here are people here who have worked with cows, spelling it out for you, but in your ivory-tower manner, you insist on ’seeing the studies’.

    Well, I have first hand experience of weather, but I’m guessing you’d rather listen to the IPCC. Rightly so, probably, even thought I disagree with the IPCC.

    I understand what they are saying about cows. Sounds plausible to me, however it would be easy enough to prove this, surely. Like the study I cited with two minutes of “research”.

    Would make your case 100% water-tight, in terms of the animal welfare angle, wouldn’t it?

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  52. If you want to go down the path of research, there has been plenty on other forms of stock, free range with adequate cover when they want it and stock does very well.
    Same goes for best time to milk, the cows prefer to be milked around midnight. Do you know of many dairy farmers that milk then Blue???
    A friend of mine did research on the cover over several years via MAF, but that would mean less grass for the cows……

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  53. Thanks. I do find myself agreeing with the Greens stance on animal issues quite often, however I’m not involved in this industry, so my knowledge of it is light.

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