VIEWS SOUGHT ON FARMERS’ ATTITUDES TOWARDS FUTURE OF DAIRY FARMING

There has been public controversy in recent years about indoor dairy farming. Research has found that there is public concern about environmental and welfare implications of a move away from pasture-based systems towards more year-round housing. However, no studies have been carried out about farmers’ attitudes towards pasture-based and indoor systems.

The ‘Cows eat grass, don’t they?’ initiative carried out by Orla Shortall, a researcher within the James Hutton Institute’s Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences in Scotland, focuses on farmer, stakeholder and public views about the future of the dairy sectors in the UK and Ireland. The project involves a survey of dairy farmers to listen to their views on the future of their industry.

The survey is for any commercial dairy farmers in the UK and Ireland, and takes around 10-15 minutes to complete. Questions cover production systems and opinions.

“It’s an important time for dairy farming in the UK,” said Orla. “The sector has moved away from one type of system based on seasonal grazing and housing. There’s a feeling that the industry and the public are out of step about the realities of dairy farming and this survey aims to collect rigorous data on farmers’ views on the future of their industry to help provide more clarity on this subject.”

As a goodwill gesture, £2 (and the equivalent in euros) will be donated for every survey completed to charities helping struggling farmers: the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) in England and Wales; the Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RSABI); Rural Support in Northern Ireland; and the Mind our Farm Families phoneline in Ireland run by Pieta House and the IFA. The project aims to raise £1500 for these charities in total.

The survey can be found at http://surveys.hutton.ac.uk/docowseatgrass. More information about the project can be found at www.docowseatgrass.org.

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