A new study by Newcastle University proves that organic farmers who let their cows graze as nature intended are producing better quality milk.
The proof is in the pasture.
Gillian Butler, livestock project manager for the Nafferton Ecological Farming Group at Newcastle University, who led the study says:
We have known for some time that what cows are fed has a big influence on milk quality. What is different about this research is it clearly shows that on organic farms, letting cows graze naturally, using forage-based diet, is the most important reason for the differences in the composition between organic and conventional milk.
So what’s the difference? Butler explains:
We’ve shown that significant seasonal differences exist, with nutritionally desirable fatty acids and antioxidants being highest during the summer, when the cows are eating fresh grass and clover.
Interestingly, the learning point here has more to do with grass and less to do with organics. The researchers also studied a low-input non-organic farm which grazes their cattle from birth to death entirely on grass. Milk from these farms also had significantly higher levels of nutritionally desirable fatty acids and antioxidants, which was a direct result of the extensive outdoor rearing and fresh forage intake.
Butler gives props to these “New-Zealand type dairy systems”, uncommon in the UK, and project co-ordinator Professor Carlo adds:
This paper is a major milestone in the project and clearly shows that if you manage livestock naturally then it’s a win-win situation for both us and them.