The “Happy Cow Way” determines how we treat our cows and how we treat the land our cows graze on. We will work with Happy Cow farmers to incorporate these practices with the cows and land that supply Happy Cow Milk Co.
The Happy Cow animal welfare policy starts with the five freedoms, which are globally recognised standards for animal welfare.
We believe all calves should stay with their mothers and suckle naturally. This relates to Freedom 4 & 5 above.
We believe calves should be weaned when they reach the appropriate size and no longer need milk. This is usually at 8-10 weeks of age.
At weaning, a plastic nose flap clips onto the calves nose. (This is not painful) This makes it more difficult for the calf to suckle and it concentrates on eating grass instead.
In the following months, the calf gradually becomes independent from its mother as it no longer requires milk. At this point, the calf is put into the neighbouring paddock and the cow and calf are able to meet at the fence and touch noses etc. As the week goes by, the cow and calf eventually stop visiting each other and they go about their separate lives as they would in nature.
Our cow and calf practice is fundamental to the Happy Cow system and our goal is to move all farmers in our network to take up the calf and cow practice.
Antibiotics should be an absolute last resort and only be used under veterinary supervision. We believe antibiotic use should be used as outlined in many New Zealand Organic Standards.
Responsible winter grazing
Cows may be grazed on crops over the winter but precautions and backup plans must be put in place for cold and wet weather. These precautions may include stand-off pads, sacrifice paddocks or a covered barn. This is to ensure the cows are not in discomfort or distress.
When it comes to the environment, we work with a simple rule. Cows put nutrients into the ground and plants take nutrients out of the ground. We promote farming practices that allow cows, plants and crops to work together.
The key to Happy Cow’s environmental approach is making it possible for fewer cows by paying the farmer more than twice as much per litre.
We don’t believe in monocultures. Diversity is at the core of the Happy Cow Way. That means diverse pastures which include herbs, legumes, and perennial grasses which promote diverse microorganisms, insects, bugs and birds. We rotate our crops and cows around the farm.
Our mixed system means farmers don’t require high fertiliser inputs associated with monoculture agriculture.
Nitrate leaching from dairy cows is mostly a result of cow’s urine patches. These patches have a high level of nitrogen in them which seeps through the soil profile and into our waterways. Nitrate leaching is worst during the wet periods of the year such as autumn and winter.
It’s how we graze our cows over these critical wet periods of the year that has the biggest impact on nitrate leaching.
We encourage farmers to adopt winter systems that give cows as much space or area as possible. But the best way to reduce nitrate leaching is to plant a “cover crop” immediately after the cows.
These crops absorb the excess nitrogen deposited by the cows before it can leach through the soil profile. It’s a simple but effective technique that uses crops to mitigate some of the impacts of cows.
Of course, stock intensity is a major driver of nitrate leaching. We believe in most cases a lower stocking rate of two cows per hectare is appropriate and we will work with farmers to achieve this by paying more per litre.
The farmers who are interested in Happy Cow Milk are at the forefront of sustainable dairy. All waterways will be fenced and planted in line with current regulations.
The aim is to reduce methane emissions by having fewer cows. We’ll enable this by paying farmers more for each litre of milk.
How we’ll enforce this
Change doesn’t happen overnight. The Happy Cow roadmap for implementation begins with aspiration and will progress towards enforcement as we are able to prove the model works for farmers, retailers and customers.
The Happy Cow system is based on transparency. Customers will know exactly which farm their milk comes from and we’ll provide information about the practices on the farm. The more consumers support Happy Cow, the more power we’ll have.