A Rollercoaster of a Few Months at the Ahimsa Dairy

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It has been a challenging end to 2015 for the Ahimsa Dairy and oxen.

For a long time we have been planning to move our milking cows from the Kent Commonwork Farm to our Groby (Leicestershire) neighbour’s farm, where we would set up our mobile milking unit. Our Groby site land is without electricity – which we need for the processing of milk – so the arrangement with our neighbour had solved that problem for us … THEN, as with best laid plans of men and cows, things began to go wrong a month or so ago. One of our neighbour’s cows reacted positively to a routine bovine TB test. This meant their farm effectively went into lock-down … no animals allowed to enter or leave for a 60 day period.

Groby Resident Ahimsa Cows

It seemed the only option open to us was to move our milking cows onto our own site – in with the rest of the Ahimsa herd. This would mean we have the electricity problem, and we would also need to get our trailer approved by both the local authority and Food Standards Authority.

But then disaster hit us directly. Rosie, one of our resident cows also reacted to the TB test. Poor Rosie, who is such a sociable cow, she has had to go into quarantine and wait for a new test. We are desperately hoping she will be okay.

Rosie – happier times

The diagnostic test for TB is hopelessly unreliable, but vets have been instructed by the Government to interpret results severely. Their stock answer is always to kill rather than to find humane solutions.

So like with our neighbour’s farm, now we could also not bring our milking cows onto our own site.

But with our Commonwork Farm (Kent) partnership over, we have to move our cows before the end of this year. Kind friends on Facebook gave us ideas and encouragement, and one man even suggested we share his five-acre field with some sheep. But he was located far from Leicester – where both our trailer and the man who does our milking are based.

Temporary ‘cow tent’ at neighbour’s farm for our milking cows

So over the past weeks we been desperately approaching other farms in the Leicester area. Just a few days ago a farmer said yes. Last Friday we put up a tent, filled it with straw, and bedded down our six milking cows and three year-old calves. Phew! Unfortunately this farmer does not run an organic farmer, so we will lose our Soil Association badge for a while, but needs must. And indeed, we are extremely grateful.

Weathering the Storm

We are not out of the woods yet. We still have to get a raft of approvals before we can actually sell our milk. In the meantime we are faced with the prospect of throwing away our cows’ precious milk – at least until we get a green light from the council. On top this, there we are anyway living with continuing uncertainty from our land owner regards the long term tenure of the land we are using at Groby.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Violet being milked – Hand milking – one of the advantages of relocating to Leicester

Because of the question over long term use of the Groby land, we are now looking at three separate sites with the aim of securing our own land, trying to assess which will be ideal for our vision and which will be within our means – more details to come on that soon.

The support from our friends in 2015 has been heart-warming. Without it our struggles would have been all the more difficult. Let’s hope that 2016 brings us better luck.

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