Cattle vets have responded to news that the Nocton Dairies project has ground to a halt by reminding commentators that the plans were dropped because of environmental, rather than welfare, considerations.

Cattle vets have responded to news that the Nocton Dairies project has ground to a halt by reminding commentators that the plans were dropped because of environmental, rather than welfare, considerations.

Cow on a farm. Image courtesy Eric Dufresne from Trois-Rivières, Canada.A number of welfare and farming groups, including the World Society for the Protection of Animals, the Soil Association and vegetarian campaign group Viva!, have voiced delight at the scuppered plans.

However, large animal vets have dismissed claims that Nocton Dairies would have been a “cow prison”, saying its developers demonstrated a commitment to good welfare.

BCVA president John Fishwick, who claims that good welfare relies on good stockmanship and husbandry, regardless of herd size, said he believed Nocton’s directors were planning on high welfare standards on the farm.  

He told vetsonline: “It would appear in this case the application has been withdrawn from concerns by the Environment Agency rather than concerns over animal welfare. Personally I was pleased to see many indicators that husbandry and welfare would have been of a high standard on this unit, when one of the partners spoke about the proposals at a recent BCVA meeting on large herds.” [As reported in Veterinary Times Vol.41, No.7]

DairyCo vet Karen Lancaster said welfare was not an issue addressed as part of the company’s planning application, however, but claimed Nocton’s welfare statement showed “the implementation of best practice in everything they were [planning on] doing” with welfare at the centre of their farming strategy.

DairyCo vet Karen Lancaster.She said: “They have been taking the best advice and put a lot of thought into the [welfare] document – and central to that document they were going to employ a lot of highly trained staff.”

“As a profession we work with farms day-to-day and do see large herds with extremely high standards of welfare, often because they have people dedicated to looking after certain welfare issues, such as just looking after foot health or new calves.”

Miss Lancaster also believes the Nocton directors have done the dairy industry “a good turn” by getting farmers and other stakeholders to discuss health and welfare issues around building and running large units.

She added: “Even if it [Nocton] doesn’t go ahead as it stands now I think it’s raised a lot of interesting questions for the industry as a whole in terms of how we provide food security for the UK – it’s been a very expensive way for Peter [Willes] and David [Barnes] to have done it but it has served a good purpose in furthering debate.”

Main image courtesy Eric Dufresne
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