As of May 2016, construction of our new dairy building has been completed and we have passed certification as a Grade A Dairy and licensed Creamery. We sell Greek Yogurt, Ice Cream, butter and several cheeses.
The Dairy at Long Dream Farm aspires to achieve the highest possible standards of happiness and general welfare for our cows, bulls and calves. This means not only providing a long, healthy life outdoors, but also preserving natural social interactions and the love of humans.
We recognize that there are many people who aspire to consume dairy products from cows living in a peaceful, friendly outdoor environment eating a nutritious diet that suits their unique digestive systems. We are proud of our ability to arrange the farm around the natural herds and cattle social bonds between mother and calf, sister and sister cows, bulls with their own companions, grandmothers and calves, etc. All of our calves are raised in the herd, receiving human and bovine socialization and friendship. Our oldest cows stay in the herd as well, with our gratitude for years of friendship.
For more about how we perceive the dairy industry, its likely disruption and a possible future, please read this.
Animal Welfare in Focus
In general our standards of animal care are aligned with those of the Animal Welfare Approved organization (by whom we are certified) which may be the most rigorous and scientifically based available. Some essential elements of our practices:
- Our cattle live outdoors year round, never in barns, with access to pasture in synergy with our other farm animals, especially chickens
- We raise heritage cattle breeds and crosses which are well suited to outdoor life, mixed forage and are naturally robust with long reproductive lives
- All of our cattle have regular human interaction from bottle feeding and play as youngsters to brushing and other training as adults
- Calves are kept with their mothers at least until natural weaning (at least 7-8 months) and often longer
- Calves spend all day with their mothers and are in a communal pen at night within sight and smell
- Our cows are not pushed for high production: they are milked only once a day and are often given days off. Some of the cows alternate as brood cows who supplement the nutrition (and provide night time supervision) for the calves.
- Heifer calves are not bred until they are at least 15, and typically, 18 months old. We typically will breed cows every 1.5 to 2 years.
- Bull calves and steers are kept as part of family groups and we do everything possible to keep cows with their best friends most if not all the year. Multi-generational cow families are common on the farm.
- Our animals are not dehorned — a painful procedure that can disrupt their natural heat regulation. We also, of course, do not dock tails, an especially cruel practice as the tail, among other purposes, is the cow’s fly swatter.
Slaughter Free Dairy
It is commonly understood, but less often discussed, that most dairies are highly dependent on the meat industry for their financial viability. To lactate- produce milk – cows must breed and produce calves, usually on a yearly basis. Apart from the female calves some of which are raised as replacement milk cows, the vast majority of calves are separated immediately after birth and raised for beef. Commercial dairies also cull their milk cows as their production declines and sell them for meat. Long Dream Farm feels it should be possible for people to have the choice to consume dairy products without coupling to the meat industry. We hope that many people who consider themselves vegan will consider our products.
We know of two slaughter free dairy operations with commercial components which have been started in the UK and US (Pennsylvania). These are associated with religious organizations and have significant charitable support. Although it is difficult to find details of how the logistics and economics work, the intent appears to be to provide sanctuary for all their milk cows and descendants in perpetuity.
Our motivations are not rooted in particular religious beliefs; rather we are compelled by our love for the cows as individuals to produce the most ethically unchallenged milk products possible in a mode that is sustainable and provides a template for scaling the model assuming there is support from our customers.
Currently our herd consists of about 75 cows and 45 calves. We are milking around 25 cows and are on track increase our milking population to about 50 using heifers we have calved, raised and trained on the farm. By careful breeding practices, considering and maximizing production of the cow-calf herd on a portfolio basis, and extending lactation we will be able to produce dairy products economically while providing sanctuary for all our milk cows, bulls and their offspring for their natural lives.
We sell a limited number of calves to trusted and vetted farms/breeders who agree to our farm’s animal welfare standards and our slaughter-free conditions. Most of the calves are meant as pets or lawnmowers. Occasionally we will sell breeding stock with the right contract in place. We will never sell steers or other animals as ‘feeders’. That said, we have no way of guaranteeing absolutely that calves we sell will not be used for meat or that a female is not bred without our consent. We feel though that by carefully vetting our buyers and by providing full refund returns we can reduce these risks to a very low level. We are also offering sponsorships allowing people to adopt a cow, bull or calf; these sponsorships entitle people to make their adopted friend part of their lives including regular updates and visits.
The economic implication of this and our once-a-day (share-) milking is that our milk is more expensive to produce than that coming from commercial dairies although there are significant long term economic benefits to sustainable operations that focus on the health and low-stress existence of their animal partners and respect the environment. Details of the economics of the slaughter free dairy, its asymptotic growth and our sanctuary endowment will be provided on request.