We are on a mission to revolutionise the dairy industry. We want to prove that a kinder approach to dairy farming is possible and then encourage others in the dairy industry to change.
Unlike almost every other dairy farm in the world, we have stopped taking calves away from their mothers shortly after birth. We now leave the calves - including the male calves - with their mum to suckle naturally. It means we get less milk, but also less stress. Less stress means a better life for the cows, their calves and for the people who work with them.
We are the largest farm in the UK using this system and we want to prove this is viable at scale. We are now confident that it is. If we can prove cow with calf dairy farming works we know other farmers would transition to this method.
Our food production model is addressing the challenges of sustainable food from a dairy-based system using a mix of agroecology and agro-technology approaches that dramatically cut waste, improve energy efficiency, facilitate natural processes and reduce our dependence on external inputs, following the principles of ‘lean production’.
So why are we asking for support?
We need funding to help us share what we've learned - open-source ethical farming is our goal! We also need funding to help with the up-front costs.
Issue 1 – Farm Costs
Transitioning to any new farming system is expensive – eye wateringly expensive. We always knew it would be. When farmers transition to organic there is financial support available to help to cushion the blow, but this is a brand new approach so there is no support scheme to help with managing costs while we transition. Which brings us to the second issue…
Issue 2 – Investors
We have been actively seeking business investors for about two years to support this project. We were assured that this would be easy to fund via ethical investors, but that now seems to have been a little naive. Since we want to share our model not monetise it, and since our goal is to prove this concept works, not make massive profits, it would seem we are a poor fit with traditional investors. We want open source ethical farming, we don’t want to keep what we’ve learned to ourselves! We have also explored conventional borrowing, but because we are tenant farmers that makes things more difficult.
Issue 3 – Demand
We have been blown away by the demand for our products, thank you to everyone who is supporting The Ethical Dairy by buying our cheese. The problem is that at the moment our production facilities are tiny, which means our batch sizes are very small, and the cost of the testing regime that Food Standards Scotland ask for is prohibitive. Up to £5.50 per kg of cheese we produce goes on testing – that’s more than the cost of the milk! To overcome this we need to equip a new production facility sooner than we had expected which, as you might expect, leads to…
Issue 4 – Production Investment Costs
We need to buy bigger production equipment and we need to connect our new cheese dairy to our farm anaerobic digester so we can use coo-poo-power to provide the energy for our cheese making! Increasing production will also result in a whole bundle of additional transition costs. For example, instead of selling some milk fresh and putting some into cheese, all our milk (i.e. our income) will be put into cheese. But it takes months to mature our cheese, which means that for around a year we will have virtually no income to pay our team to make our cheese and look after the cows and calves.
Another Important Reason
The other reason why we have started this crowdfunder is because people have asked us to. We have been contacted by a number of members of the public who want to support the development of a new dairy system with which they are comfortable. Some of the most passionate advocates for a kinder approach to dairy farming are those who have stopped consuming dairy products entirely. This crowdfunder will give people a way of supporting this new approach to dairy farming more directly.
Why Support Us?
We are hopeful that people might support us for the following reasons:
- To help us prove there is a viable alternative to conventional dairy farming that could be rolled out to other farms, demonstrating that we can have both a successful dairy industry and high welfare for our animals.
- To help us increase production so that we can meet the demand for ethical dairy products
- To demonstrate to investors that profit isn’t everything
- To support our wider environmental regeneration activities
- To enable us to support other farmers to transition to cow with calf dairy farming
- To support unpasteurised cheese production in Scotland
It might sound like we are asking for a lot, but to put some context into this, we have personally invested the following in developing this new approach:
- £530,000 for a new dairy building to allow calves to be kept with their mums
- £25,000 on a pilot project that failed spectacularly but taught us how to get it right
- £150,000 on changes to buildings and fields to allow cows to keep their calves
- £100,000 renovating a derelict building to be our new cheese production facility
Our ultimate goal, once we have proven this model, is to share our experience with other farmers so that they can transition to cow with calf dairy farming more easily having learned from our mistakes.
We are currently being contacted on a near daily basis by other farmers who want to know more. They want to try ethical dairy farming but they want us to prove it can work first.
Support from you will help us make everything happen faster. The faster we can prove the model, the sooner other farms will start to transition to cow with calf dairy farming.
You can help by sharing our story, buying our cheeses from our website or by contributing to this crowdfunder.
Help us start a dairy farming revolution. Thank you.