We Stopped De-Horning

Stope de-horning Cows! Cows from Mossgiel Organic Farm are not de-horned.

The practice of de-horning cattle is one which we do not engage in at Mossgiel Organic Farm. The practice is normal within conventional farming as young animals, with the intent of making life on the farm safer for farm workers and other livestock. When Farmer Bryce took over Mossgiel Farm and converted it to be an Organic Dairy Farm, he stopped the practice of de-horning the cattle too. With a vision of natural farming, he wanted to find how cattle having their horns as nature intended affected their natural behaviour (plus he thinks Ayrshire cattle with horns are pretty awesome too).

Many years ago, cattle would have horns and live in small herds on family farms. During winter, the cattle were kept in byres to ensure they did not have to endure the cold wet weather we experience in Scotland. Having horns meant that farmers, farm workers and cattle could be seriously injured due to the confined spaces. An issue was also apparent during times of cattle being boisterous out in the pastures – with ‘boss cows’ ensuring the timid heifers knew who was boss with a swift bash of the horns, again causing injury.

Here at Mossgiel, we adapted our sheds and management to allow the girls to keep their horns without having the issues of yesteryear. This was pretty expensive for us and took a lot of planning and we still monitor everything we do to ensure it’s the right thing for us and the Mossgiel Girls.

In order to change a Farm from de-horning to leaving the horns on the Cows, many adaptations have to be made to ensure human and animal safety. These changes aren’t cheap either – with the average spend of £2,000 to £4,000 per cow on each dairy farm (the average dairy farm has 170 cattle, so that’s big money) just to build a normal shed for a typical modern dairy farm, the costs simply do not justify altering again at extra cost to move to a horned cattle system, when milk prices are being driven into the ground by supermarkets and mega-dairies.

This is the economic reality of such ideas and visions. At Mossgiel Organic Farm we work with our supporters to ensure our Gold Standard milk is exactly how you wish. We are extremely lucky that due to our unique relationship between our supporters and ourselves that the few extra pence on top for our Gold Standard milk allows us to farm in this way. The realities are however that unless we change our food system and how money is managed from Fridge to Farm, we are unlikely to change the Scottish farming in this way.

Our Gold Standard Milk is produced exclusively from the Cows at Mossgiel Farm, rather from the collective of MossgielOsliebrae and Drumsmodden, as our Whole Milk and Semi-skimmed Milkis. It carries a premium in price. This is mostly due to our Calf-At-Foot policy leaving us with less Milk to sell to our customers: young Calves are thirsty beasts! This premium is, in part, also due to our policy of not de-horning our Cows. The investment made in the infrastructure needs to be made back.

This brings us back to the concept of commercial campaigning.

Calf-with-Cow

Calf-At-Foot

Calf-with-Cow means Calves stay with Cows until they are weaned

We operate a Calf-with-Cow policy. This means that at Mossgiel Organic Farm, our calves stay with their Mothers until they are old enough to be weaned – usually between 6 and 8 months. This is when the calves begin to socialise together in groups and not stay at the Cow’s side every second of the day.

Calves are born without any antibodies in their blood and the Milk that they take from their Mother in the first 2 days is extra important in quickly building up their immune systems.

It has been the convention in the UK to remove calves from their Mothers after a day or two. This is very distressing for both the Cow and the Calf. It is also something that we believe is unnecessary and we actively campaign for other Farms to join us in stopping it as a practice.

Do baby calves drink a lot of milk? Yes, yes they do!

Does this mean that we have less to bottle and sell to you? Yes, it does.

Why do we do things this way?

Farming Organically means that we are not placing an undue burden on our Cows. An Organically Farmed Cow will produce between 8 and 12 litres of Milk per day. This compares to the figure of between 25 and 30 litres per day that conventional methods force out of Cows. Forcing Milk production adversely affects the health of the cow in many ways, the most severe of which is that it shortens its life. A conventionally farmed Cow might have a life expectancy of around 5/6 years whereas an Organically farmed Cow can live to 12/14 years.

We Farm Organically and we expect our Cows to have a long and healthy life. We therefore want them to get off to the best possible start in life. That’s why we feed them nature’s original super-food: Milk.