This is a social science research project exploring farmer, public and stakeholder views about indoor, pasture based and high input dairy production systems in the UK and Ireland.
The dairy sectors in the UK and Ireland are in flux and it is claimed that decisions facing the dairy sector now will have lasting impacts for the sector, and society more widely, for decades to come. Animal production in industrialised countries has been undergoing a process of intensification for decades. For the dairy sectors in countries such as the USA and Saudi Arabia this process is far advanced, with the majority of production taking place in large, indoor housing units.
The dairy sector in the UK is a diverse sector with a variety of different production systems, and is currently undergoing rapid change. The dairy sector in Ireland in contrast is nearly all grass based. There are ambitious plans in Ireland to double milk production after the removal of milk quotas, and certain actors want to make sure the sector stays on grass and farmers do not move towards the higher yields available in more intensive systems.
Indoor dairy farming means that milking cows are housed all year around. Cows are moved indoors so they can be fed high energy diets to increase milk yields. Previous research has shown that the public are generally not in favour of indoor dairy farming. It is claimed that indoor dairy farming results is worse welfare and health outcomes for cattle and the public does not want further industrialisation of agriculture. Voices within the dairy industry counter this by pointing out that the quality of management and stock keeping skills are more important than the type of production, and large scale, high tech farming is not a bad thing.
Indoor and high input dairy farming are controversial and timely research topics. This project involves carrying out interviews with key stakeholders and farmers in the dairy sectors in the UK and Ireland, observation on dairy farms and research with the public. The results will be made available through blogs, academic papers and public engagement events.
The project is funded as a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellowship for three years. The British Academy is the UK national body for research within the social sciences and humanities.
The advisors for the project are:
Dr Lee-Ann Sutherland - Senior Social Scientist at the James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen.
Dr Kate Millar - Director of the Centre for Applied Bioethics, University of Nottingham.
Dr Áine Macken Walsh - Senior Research Officer, Teagasc.
Dr Jenny Gibbons - Senior Dairy Scientist, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board Dairy.
George Jamieson - Dairy, Education and Skills Policy Manager, National Farmers Union Scotland.
David Finlay - Dairy farmer, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland.