Slaughter free milk in action
The Lotus Trust has finally found a suitable farm to produce slaughter-free milk after two years of searching. Working in partnership with OMSCo (Organic Milk Suppliers Cooperative), an organic dairy in SE England has agreed to pilot the production of Ahimsa milk with a select herd of cows.
Commonwork is an environmental charity, study centre and an organic dairy near Sevenoaks in Kent. It has a well established educational programme which explores local and global sustainability. The thrust of its work is towards a just and sustainable world. Due to parallels in its vision with The Lotus Trust for a fairer world, one where there is collaboration and connection with nature, it has agreed to run this first pilot.
Ahimsa milk will be produced to the following minimal standards:
- No cows, calves or bulls will be slaughtered
- Cows can graze freely on open pasture
- Cows will be protected for life
Commonwork Organic Dairy is fully responsible for all milking cows. The Lotus Trust has set up a new not-for-profit organisation – the Ahimsa Dairy Foundation (ADF) which will be responsible for on-going care of all non-milking cows, specifically calves, bulls and retired milking cows.
Cows at Commonwork are looked after to Soil Association organic standards, this means they are not injected with hormones or steroids; they are on a diet of non-GM forage (mainly plant leaves, stems, legumes and grass) primarily grown on the farm; they graze in open fields during spring, summer and autumn. Winter housing is spacious and they have areas where they can walk around with access to food 24 hours a day. The health and welfare of the cows is foremost, they are treated with homeopathy and alternative treatments when possible, and antibiotics are used when no other approaches work.
Although hand-milking is preferable, this is not possible at Commonwork and not viable for our initiative at present. The cows are milked with care using milk machines twice a day. Initially, a herd of 10/12 cows will produce milk separately for the Ahimsa project, milk is collected in a separate tank to ensure there is no cross contamination through separate milk lines . Cows will give birth to calves once every two years, a maximum of 5 calves in a lifetime. This will take place both naturally through the use of a bull or sometimes by artificial insemination. This is not our option of preference, but for practical reasons we may need to resort to this method at the present time. Elder cows will be retired to a cow sanctuary after their final calf – at approximately 13 years old.
New born calves are kept with their mothers for the first four to five days. They will receive colostrum (the first milk from a cow after giving birth) rich in antibodies and mineral directly from their mother after birth. Calves are gradually weaned after three months of receiving milk. Our belief is that this could be further improved with more direct interaction between mother and calf and a longer weaning period, a standard we are working towards.
Male calves are thereafter passed onto the care of Ahimsa Dairy Foundation (ADF). Female calves will likely join the milking herd. We are exploring innovative new ways of working with bulls.
All animals are under the jurisdiction of Commonwork until they enter retirement at which point they enter into the care of the ADF. Commonwork are committed to ensuring the highest welfare standard of the Ahimsa herd. They regularly communicate and consult with us on the health and wellbeing of cows in their care. Our herdsman will also regularly check on the wellbeing of all ahimsa cows.
MILK PROCESSING & DELIVERY:
Milk is processed, pasteurised and bottled at Commonwork farm through a separate company. Bottled milk is then transported to a milk depot in NW London from where it is delivered in perfect condition to your door or drop-off points across London. Secondary products are produced by hand and to the highest quality through an artesian home based process.
The base price of Ahimsa milk is £2.25 per litre – plus 15p for delivery to the door/ drop-off point (it will not be sold through retail outlets at present).
- £1 – production, processing and bottling of milk
- 65p – pension fund, hospice cost, vet costs
- 30p – administration and overheads
- 30p – capital cost, reserve contingency fund
Ahimsa milk is more expensive than conventional milk. This is because our cows, calves and bulls are never slaughtered.