Ethics and Animal Welfare on our family’s dairy farm
The Little Big Dairy Company is an Australian owned dairy brand that delivers Single Source Milk directly from our family’s dairy and on farm factory.
Our family has a long seated passion for dairying and a move from the Hunter Valley in 2004 to Dubbo in the Central West of NSW enables us to carry out this in the highest quality, most efficient and sustainable way with the cows at the heart of our family operation.
In 2013 these values saw us vertically integrate the family dairy with each family member having a role from the farm to the factory. Allowing us to share the unique milk produced directly with our customers.
Uptake of new practices and technology on farm allows us to deliver milk under world best practice animal welfare conditions. A comprehensive vaccination program is followed on farm to ensure the health of our animals is upheld with a focus on prevention rather than treatment. Antibiotics are used only when required for ailments such as pneumonia, mastitis or injury where cow comfort is nonnegotiable. Milk from cows treated with antibiotics is diverted from mixing with milk intended for human consumption. Technology in the dairy directs this milk to the dump line and the computer system does not allow operator error. Our on-farm milk processing factory tests every load of milk received for antibiotic residues to make 100% certain there is never any present in the milk. You can be assured that we do not use any hormones at all at any stage of our operation. Because we vaccinate and treat with antibiotics when necessary we are not an organic company – but prefer to focus on sustainable practices across our entire operation.
On farm practices focus on cow comfort and health at the forefront of all operations. Things like frequent milking, not over milking, close monitoring of time of milking, access to fresh water and balanced diet ensure that cows have reduced likelihood of becoming sick and requiring treatment. The diet fed to all our cows plays an important role in their health. We work with our animal nutritionist vet Neil as well as our local vet Don to ensure we are meeting the nutritional demands of each cow ensuring their diet enables them to most efficiently function within happy and healthy conditions.
Part of ensuring a healthy diet for our cows is access to secure underground water that we rely on for irrigation to grow pasture (oats, rye grass and clover in Winter and summer forages in Summer) and fodder crops (like corn) throughout the year. Irrigation allows seasonal pasture for grazing year-round, with the surplus pasture to be conserved as silage for feeding out in times of the year where there is less availability for example during the drier summer months. This way they get to eat grass year-round! Of course, milking cows require more than grass alone to meet all their nutritional needs, their balanced high energy diet includes a range of things like grain, hay and natural additives like canola meal (canola husk left over from oil production) and mill run (wheat husk left over from flour production) all of these off farm fodders are sourced from local farming families. Due to the individual requirements of the cows, for example stage of lactation or age, we keep them grouped as herds, for this reason they are not ‘free range’ – imagine the chaos!
Healthy, happy, comfortable cows that have been cared for and bred for generations to produce large volumes of milk in modern dairies with contemporary milking machines (first used in Australia over 100 years ago) means that their evolution has been as such that their teats are short and square not long and angled out. This means calves find it very difficult to hold the teat in their mouths to suckle and have sufficient milk transfer. This poses a problem in the early moments for both the calf and mother cow. The cow has a large volume of colostrum that needs to be milked to ensure her health and to avoid mastitis or milk fever. She is also more interested in heading back to her friends in the dairy herd, than mothering her calf, another trait that has been lost over the recent generations of evolution of the high producing dairy cow. The newborn calf needs to receive high quality colostrum – at least 6 litres in the first 12 hours of life. High quality colostrum containing all the required antibodies is not produced by all newly calved cows, and so the colostrum is tested before being fed to the newborn calf, ensuring all requirements are met in the first few hours of life and preventing further intervention later on.
Bull calves (boy) and heifer calves (girl) are both reared the same way on our family’s dairy farm with bulls being grown out for breeding on other dairy farms across Australia or for entry into the beef industry at around 10months of age. The heifer calves grow up to become the future milkers on our farm or on other dairies. We often sell lines of up to 200 cows at a time to other dairying families, allowing us to milk the younger generation of genetics that have been so meticulously planned. Our family love the Holstein breed of dairy cows and is a registered stud. The stud name is Tomargo Recluse. The genetics selected for breeding are mostly Canadian and American sires, which result in lovely, milky, efficient dairy cows we like to work with. Each cow has a registered name and pedigree and their happiness and health allows us to share the milk produced here with many, fairly supporting the economy in which is was made.
Other on farm technologies and practices that contribute to the health of our cows are things like routine hoof trimming (like a pedicure for all cows) and de budding horns when calves are young (under a veterinarian approved program to reduce them injuring one another with horns). Equipment that improves hygiene in the dairy such as teat scrubbers which makes sure every teat is super clean before milking occurs and moisturizing antibacterial spray post milking is applied- just to name a few! Milk meters and computers that recognize the transponders each cow wears tracks the milk produced by each individual cow and even what time of the day she was milked and her location in the dairy. As they are creatures of habit they are almost always milked around the same time in the approximate same location in the dairy. This attention to detail allows us to work closely with our cows and ensure they are treated with the best care as well as have traceability of each litre of milk.
Sustainability through the entire supply chain means care for the farm environment of which we are custodians. It is our intention to dairy in a way that is respectful and sustainable in the environment in which we operate, to minimize our footprint and improve efficiencies where possible. Technology allows us to do this with operations like re using effluent water as irrigation and spreading manure across pastures to supplement biochemical fertilization.
We brand the milk produced as The Little Big Dairy Company Single Source Milk. Single Source means that all the milk we sell comes solely from our family’s dairy farm, it has complete traceability through the entire supply chain. The intimacy and integrity of the product and on farm practices is assured to be cruelty free and ethical to the upmost level.
The Little Big Dairy Company is a local Australian family owned business with a passion for producing and selling Single Source dairy products from their family’s dairy farm. We love talking with our customers that share our value for knowing the origins of their food, and we welcome you to please get in touch if you have any questions about the practices on our family’s farm.