AN EXCLUSIVE female herd and keeping calves alongside their mothers for longer are the cornerstone characteristics of Congupna’s How Now Dairy.
Co-founded by Cathy Palmer and Dr Les Sandles, How Now Dairy, whose farming practices are a first for Australia — materialised after Ms Palmer wanted to produce dairy products in a “kinder” way.
“When I found out the truth about conventional dairying — that half a million calves a year are slaughtered at five days old — I could not reconcile that with myself and I just figured if I am this passionate about it there’s got to be more people like me who enjoy dairy products but feel there’s got to be a kinder way.”
Rather than the calves heading to an abattoir, they are raised by their mothers until they are fou — months old.
“In September 2016 our first calf was born, and we left them (mother and calf) alone for a couple of days and then Les carried the calf into the dairy with mum and milked mum and that was the start of How Now.
“That’s the only cow we’ve taught the system to. She taught every other cow and they just naturally did it.”
While the herd is now an all-female contingent, at the beginning, in 2016, this was not the case.
“We didn’t have the money when we started,” Ms Palmer said.
“We used beef bulls so then we have the boys and we’d grow them, and they would still go to meat from about three onwards.
“But now we are using sexed semen, so we only have females and the idea is that the girls will spend their time here, get weaned at an appropriate age, which is not two weeks—it’s more like four months, and then they grow up on the farm.”
Ms Palmer said the benefits to the animals’ health from farming this way was obvious.
“It’s absolutely astounding.”