Are you wondering what a herdshare is like? Have you only seen commercial dairy farms, possibly large buildings in the middle of green fields, but no livestock to be seen? Here are some of the differences, and why more and more people are joining herdshares to access farm-fresh local meat and dairy products.
Average Dairy Farm
Small herd, privately owned and shared by many local families, not selling milk.
Large herd, owned by one family or business, selling milk to processors which then sell it to the public.
Providing food security to many families.
Providing a cooked product to grocery stores.
Milking up to 20 cows or up to 30 goats (or sheep – BC has at least one sheepshare). Most commonly 3 to 6 cows or 10 to 20 goats.
Milking large herds of cows. The average commercial dairy farm milks 135 cows (source: B.C. Dairy Association) and the largest in B.C. milks over 3,000.
Grass fed and grazing on the pasture as much as possible, lots of sunshine for Vitamin D production.
Cow are living indoors. Some farms let heifers and dry cows have access to the pasture, but milking cows are usually kept in the barn.
Healthy diet based on long stemmed forage promotes healthy digestion and resilience to pathogens like E-coli and salmonella.
High protein diet, based on GMO corn silage. High energy diet favours maximum production but compromises the overall health of the cow.
Solid manure is composted. Small number of animals sustainable on a small acreage.
Liquid manure spread on fields, high rainfall washes it out, resulting in high nitrate levels in lakes and in the ground water.
Healthy animals are cycling and reproducing in a natural rhythm without the use of hormones.
While the bovine growth hormone is not legal for use in Canadian dairy cows and the milk is advertised as “hormone free”, fertility hormones are used routinely. Hormones are used to manipulate the cows’ estrus. Embryo transfers are common practice and require intensive hormone treatments, those hormones end up in the milk, in the environment and in the water.
Families who own the animals are directly involved in the care of their animals, and thus see first-hand and monitor the conditions their animals are housed in. The agister is directly accountable to these families. Ongoing on-farm education for parents and children about the animals’ needs and good farming practices.