I had never heard of Zero Grazing until I visited ‘Hardy Country’ in Dorset recently. Thomas Hardy called it Wessex when he wrote his novels. What novels? Far From the Madding Crowd; Jude the Obscure and my own favourite, Tess of the D’Urbervilles.
The landscape remains beautiful with deep green valleys and rolling hills wherever you look but it is empty, almost no grazing animals of any kind, anywhere. Just some fat, luxuriant sheep on Hod Hill that would be exiled off to the high Cheviots near where I live and told to make the best of it. Give us a call at lambing time.
And all of this is the result of Zero Grazing a phenomenon introduced initially in Wales I think about six years ago and which basically, involves taking the grass to the cows. Not the cows to the grass. Hence empty, lifeless, Hardy Country. Where are the cows? In large sheds. On Industrial Estates.
The justification for this is, ‘pressure from the supermarkets’ who are holding dairy farmers ‘to ransom’ by holding down milk prices to uneconomical levels. Zero grazing effectively means that the farmer utilises all the grass in a field rather than as previously, when using traditional grazing methods the cow would, ’eat a third; trample over a third and slurry the remaining third’. An expert quoted in FarmersGuardian.com states that one of his clients has turned to zero grazing because he ’only’ has 50-acres with which to raise 120 head of cattle. What has this to do with ‘pressure from supermarkets’? Seems to me that if you only have 50-acres you shouldn’t even be trying to raise 120 cows. Do something else with the land. I cant quite square this statement with ‘pressure from supermarkets’, not that I don’t think there isn’t pressure from supermarkets at various points in the supply-chain but not at this point.
It is my opinion that the intensification of livestock farming has led to pain, misery and oppression for thousands of animals as well as causing environmental problems. Are cows intended to be housed in sheds, on concrete floors? The ‘expert’ quoted above says, ‘they prefer lying down’. This is factory farming by another name.