Leicester

New home for 'slaughter-free' Ahimsa dairy farm

Oxen in a field Image copyright Ahimsa Dairy Foundation
Image caption Ahimsa puts oxen to work on the farm, whereas male calves are killed or sold for meat in conventional dairy production

The UK's first "slaughter-free" dairy farm has moved to a new permanent home - where it hopes to provide a model for other farms to copy.

Dairy cows are usually culled when they get older and cannot produce as much milk, and their male calves are normally killed or sold for meat.

At the Ahimsa dairy in Rutland, oxen are put to work and cows can "retire".

The farm was previously on rented land in Leicestershire but has secured its future with land bought in Manton.

Image copyright Ahimsa Dairy Foundation
Image caption Cows like Draupadi, who is almost 13 years old and is the "matriarch" of the herd, are allowed to retire rather than being killed

Nicola Pazdzierska said that while their milk was more expensive, many people were willing to spend the extra.

"We charge a lot more for the product but part of that money is going into our cows' pension fund, and at the same time, we don't think milk should be a cheap product," she said.

"In London a pint of craft beer can sell for £6.20, so we don't think it's unsustainable for our milk to sell for £4.50 a litre at a farmers' market, or £3.50 for members.

"We want to make the model replicable so other farms can follow."

Conventional dairy vs Ahimsa dairy

  • Dairy cows are normally slaughtered after about five years when they stop producing as much milk, but Ahimsa cows go into retirement
  • Male calves are normally killed shortly after birth or sold for meat, but the Ahimsa dairy puts them to work on the farm
  • Newborn calves are normally separated from their mothers, but they stay together as grazing partners at the Ahimsa dairy
  • Cows are usually artificially inseminated, but Ahimsa cows are impregnated by bulls
  • Ahimsa cows are milked by hand rather than by machine
  • Ahimsa cows can choose between sheltering in a barn or grazing freely on organic pasture

Source: Ahisma Dairy Foundation

Image copyright Ahimsa Dairy Foundation
Image caption Padma is blind in one eye and would have been culled on a normal farm, but is "as happy as Larry"

The Ahimsa Dairy Foundation was founded in 2011 and originally produced milk in partnership with an organic farm in Kent.

The organisation was inspired by the farm at Bhaktivedanta Manor, in Hertfordshire, which is run by the Hare Krishna movement, after being donated by Beatles musician George Harrison.

The cows would produce milk in Kent and retire to the Ahimsa farm in Groby, in Leicestershire.

All of the organisation's 30 animals now live at the new farm in Manton, Rutland, and all of the milk production is there too.

In future, the farm aims to produce its own cheese and also create a visitor centre.

Image copyright Ahimsa Dairy Foundation
Image caption Primrose is not used for milk production as her father was a beef bull, but she is "still a valued member of the herd" and is good at finding the best grass and forage

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