Organic farming is about working with nature rather than against it and every independent advisory agency, government department, public figure and campaigner recognises it as the way we need to farm in order to safeguard the future of our planet.

You may have noticed that the UK’s dairy industry is under scrutiny over the poor treatment of animals, unethical methods of production and the exhaustion of land. At the same time, demand for milk is increasing and it’s important to know the differences between organic milk and regular milk so that you can make a conscious choice as a consumer. Here, we offer an insight into our organic cattle, just one example of why organic farming is better for our health and the planet.

Reversing environmental damage

Organic farming methods are not only proven to reduce the stress put on our environment but can actually reverse some of the harm already caused. Grazing cattle such as ours can help restore grasslands and soil, sequestering large amounts of CO2 in the process and making them a huge part of the diversity at our farm. The manure that we use from the cows enables us to recycle nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous to the soil, encouraging the growth of new vegetation and sequestering even more carbon.

Full lifecycle of nutrients

Encouraging a full circle of life at the farm is important to us. Aside from the benefits in sequestering carbon, reusing our cattle’s manure allows us to recycle nutrients in the formation of our crops, producing delicious, high-quality produce for us to enjoy. This rich manure is high in nutrients and extremely fertile, acting as an excellent natural fertiliser for our crops and making up an integral part of our organic farming methods, returning nutrients that our cows took from the soil, back to the soil and into our future vegetables, fruits and herbs. We are proud of the cycle we have created and of the wastage we avoid by reusing manure.

Better quality, better nutrition

A recent article by Soil Association mentions that average yields in UK organic milk production are around 20% less than in intensive production. Whilst our milk yields may be smaller than the more intensive farms, we are proud that our organic milk is high in quality. Not only is it deliciously rich and creamy but recent analysis by Glasgow and Liverpool Universities found that organic milk has more beneficial omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin E and beta carotene than non-organic milk and 68% higher levels of essential fatty acids. This is because our cows are happy and healthy, consuming high quality organic fodder grown on our farm.

Happy, healthy cows

We couldn’t have high quality, nutritious milk without a happy herd. It all starts with our cows and we strive to ensure they have the best possible lives; from the minute they are born, our calves are looked after with the highest standards, with each staying with their mother for 5 days, taking full advantage of her milk for up to 14 weeks or until it is ready to move to natural solids. At no point do our calves consume a powdered substitute so that we can utilise their mother’s milk elsewhere. The solids they move onto consist of a forage-based diet of silage and hay which is grown on our organic pastures, allowing the natural rumination process to start. 

Natural rumination process

The natural rumination process is a huge benefit of our cows’ forage-based diet, allowing our cows to regurgitate the cud until they have extracted every possible nutrient from it. Our organic grass and silage is ideal for this natural regurgitation process, unlike a corn or grain-based diet which makes regurgitation difficult and makes the extraction of nutrients difficult. Our cows’ diets are made up only of grass and hay in the summer, with some homegrown organic cereals added in the winter to give them some extra protein during the cooler months. The goodness and vitamins they gain from their food and the natural rumination process feeds into the milk and meat we consume, offering a continuous cycle of nutrition from field to fork. 

Using the right breeds for organic

We are extremely proud of our organic pedigree British Friesian and heritage Gloucester herds and we only breed cows that beautifully suited to an organic farming system. Aside from not feeding our cows any growth hormones or routine antibiotics, their organic feed is GM-free and they remain in the same social groups throughout their lives. The proof that we are working with the right breed can be seen with their long, healthy lifespans and high lactation rates. We would also never take milk from a cow unless at the peak of its health and we monitor ours closely to ensure they are healthy and happy.

Our packaging

Aside from organic farming, the packaging of our milk is another area where we take great care. Our milk’s Ecoclean pouch is made from Calymer which contains 40% chalk, a natural material that uses minimal energy to produce and that requires no chemical processes to extract it. Produced in the UK, our pouches are not transported by air and come hygienically sealed, eliminating the need for an additional washing process at the point of filling. Our milk production runs to nearly a million litres a year so our pouch represents a significant effort to reduce our carbon footprint compared to the standard HDPE plastic bottle that you see dominating the supermarket shelves.

Positive choices for the future

We know that demand for milk is increasing despite the negative attention in the press, so it’s important that we as a provider and you as consumers make positive choices to safeguard the future of our planet’s precious resources. At Daylesford, we are constantly striving to ensure we tread as lightly as we can on this planet, making improvements to our organic farming operations, packaging and energy usage year on year. You are invited to join us on this journey to a sustainable future and to choose organic the next time you buy milk. We’re sure you’ll notice the difference.

The next time you visit our Cotswolds farm, take a walk to say hello to our heritage Gloucester herd – you’ll find them very friendly. Look out for brown cows with horns and a white cross on their backs; these are the heritage Gloucesters who provide us with the delicious creamy milk that makes up our award-winning single Gloucestershire cheese. We were instrumental in saving this breed from extinction – but that’s a whole different story, to be told soon…