Last week I attended the first Global Farm Platform Conference ‘Steps to Sustainable Livestock’, held in Bristol.
The event was promoted as a ‘go to’ event for academics, researchers, NGO’s, policymakers and livestock producers working toward sustainability of ruminant systems. Presentations by researchers from all over the world covered themes including Consumption of Human Food by Livestock, Feeding animals optimally and Husbandry systems appropriate for local environment, culture and economy.
I was delighted to be credited as co-author of a paper given by Professor Michael Lee, Chair in Sustainable Livestock Systems and Food Security at Bristol University. Professor Lee’s presentation ‘Grazing towards sustainability’ referenced work I have done in evaluating the economics of robust dairy cow breeds on a simple, pasture-based system against high output cows managed on a more intensive regime. Whilst my own contribution was very small, it was really rewarding to be part of a conference that sought to forge closer links between researchers and farmers.
As the conference themes mentioned above suggest, the event delivered a holistic approach to the production of meat and milk, looking much wider than the usual themes of most farming industry conferences. This is something that Free Range Dairy has been promoting for some time, urging farmers to look at the value they deliver from their farms, rather than simply the volume they produce. As Professor Lee pointed out in his paper, the sustainability of any farming system needs to meet the needs of:
- Society – providing a valuable, healthy product that consumers want to purchase
- Economy – providing the healthy food within a profitable business
- Environment – ensuring the farming practices minimise emissions and maintain other ecosystem services
We believe that pasture-based dairy farming can deliver on all of these points can also give dairy cows the kind of life they deserve too. Conference speakers repeated concerns about increasing competition for human-edible protein, as additional feed is required for the projected increase in demand for animal products across the globe. However, ruminant livestock have the ability to produce high quality human food from feedstuffs of little or no value for human food, like grass. That’s why Free Range Dairy is pleased to be forging close links with researchers in the UK to help farmers graze towards sustainability. Another good reason to support us and keep Britain’s dairy cows in fields!
Presentations from the Global Farm Platform Conference will soon be available to download via the website http://www.globalfarmplatform.org/conference-intro/