orla.shortall's blog

Vegan pie or rose veal? Catering to a broad church at the Ethical Farming conference

It’s not often you see a vegan lunch option at a farming conference on a dairy farm. But that was part of the ‘broad church’ approach at the Ethical Farming Conference: a farming conference about agricultural sustainability organised by four farms in Scotland, taking place on the Ethical Dairy in Dumfries and Galloway.

What does grass fed milk mean?

A man in California is suing Ornua: the organisation that markets and sells Irish dairy products abroad over claims that Kerrygold butter is “grass-fed”. The man is claiming false advertising because Irish cows do not subsist on grass alone but their diet is supplemented by grain and meal which may include genetically modified (GM) ingredients.

‘Cows eat grass, don’t they?’ at the Edinburgh Fringe 2018

The ‘Cows eat grass, don’t they?’ project took to the stage at the Edinburgh Fringe for a second year as part of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas, a public engagement initiative to connect academic research with the public. This provides an excellent opportunity to engage with people who wouldn’t normally be involved in research about the dairy industry.

Cows are happy inside: fact

This week I learned that spraying cold water into a new born calf’s ear will shock it into life if it’s not breathing but has a heartbeat. Apparently inside of the ear is quite close to the brain, so this jolts the calf alive when other techniques won’t work. It must be a huge relief for the farm worker, to prevent a calf with a heartbeat fading away.

What does it mean to be a 'good' dairy farmer?

Farming is both an art and a science. Dairy farming in the UK is poised between being a traditional backbone of the rural economy and a high-tech industry. We need to understand what farmers and other stakeholders value within this sector in order to understand how they make decisions. The idea of the ‘good farmer’ is a useful concept within rural sociology for understanding farmer decision making (1,2). Farmers make decisions that are in line with the ideal of being a good farmer, in their own eyes and that of their peers.

A farm by any other name....

I’ve often been caught out by language and terminology during interviews with farmers; not least in the North East of Scotland (e.g. not realising ‘backend’ means autumn and farmers were saying they vaccinated their cattle in the autumn. I was thinking "I'm pretty sure you're supposed to vaccinate them in the neck..."). I say cow for all cattle when a farmer might use it to mean a female bovine animal that has given birth at least once.

'Cows eat grass, don't they?' at the Edinburgh Fringe 2017

As a society we may be losing touch with how our food is produced, but one thing we all know is that milk comes from cows and cows eat grass. But is this the case anymore? And does it matter if this is changing? These are questions I wanted to explore in an event with the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas at the Edinburgh Fringe, organised by the Beltane Public Engagement Network on the 24th August 2017. The idea behind the event is to bring academic research into the public domain and facilitate discussion.