“Living in Australia means living on Aboriginal land.
Getting the right fire solutions on country will take a huge shift, involving many good people in many different ways. Everyone is going to be affected if we don’t become aware of how we all fit together to support change.”
(Steffensen, Victor: Fire Country- How indigenous Fire Management Could Help Save Australia, Hardie Grant Publishing, 2020)
Welcome to the June Localising Leanganook newsletter. In this edition you’ll find information about:
Reconciliation Week Activities- Castlemaine
Castlemaine Free University event- Mutual Aid Mapping Project
Hepburn Solar– Business and Farm Program
Heritage fruit trees available from Harcourt
Nalderun crowd funding enables purchase of culturally significant land
New Economy Network– Conference Proposals
Walking Together Project– Castlemaine and Bendigo
Repair Cafes– ‘How-to’ Workshops
Climate Action Solidarity in Castlemaine
Sharing space with Castlemaine Institute
Waterwatch volunteers wanted for Forest Creek
Olive season curing
Census Field Officer Recruitment
New Economy Network- Housing Week On-line Seminars
Seed Savers– Hepburn and Castlemaine
Healthy dams, healthy animals
World Localisation Day– June 20th
Shaping Mt Alexander shire
Calf-at-foot dairy in Harcourt
Food for Thought
1. Reconciliation Week Activities
Covid restrictions have resulted in some Reconciliation Week events being cancelled. However, with the easing of regional lockdown restrictions, a number of events have been extended and others will take place at a later date. For more information and updates go to: https://www.facebook.com/events/141383658012070/?ref=newsfeed
The Reconciliation Week Exhibition at Castlemaine’s Market Building will re-open for an extended period from June 4th-10th! Check out the wide range of works and displays from local Aboriginal artists, as well as local Artifacts and Stories!
Castlemaine Documentary Film festival are teaming up with Nalderun Film, (Central Victorian Indigenous Film Festival) to present: FIRESTARTER: THE STORY OF BANGARRA DANCE THEATRE
5-7:30pm, June 10 at the Castlemaine Theatre Royal
Kicking things off at 5pm, Nalderun will screen an entertaining retrospective of the awesome community work that Nalderun Education Aboriginal Corporation has done over the years, cultivated from their extraordinarily huge amount of archival footage by Ira Barker. This will be followed by a panel discussion with members of our local indigenous community and Nalderun.
Then, after a brief intermission, the Castlemaine Documentary Festival will present the brilliant Firestarter at 7:30pm, accompanied by the launch of the new website and the full Festival Program for CDOC 2021, scheduled for 24-25 July!
2. Castlemaine Free University- Mutual Aid Mapping Project
What: Exploring the Central Highlands Local Provisioning Mapping project
A free event but the bar will be open for drinks to purchase.
No need to book. But, for updates regarding Covid-19 limits, other queries and to get on our e-list contact — firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: This event is confirmed to go ahead within the regional Victorian covid restrictions.
Hear about the Central Highlands Mutual Aid Mapping project, a work-in-progress showing all kinds of local production and support services you can access. Think local markets, enterprises, associations and cooperatives showing us the possibilities of collectively sustaining ourselves. Engage with the panel on how you might like to use the map in your everyday life and even participate in developing the map.
Five Central Victorian locals. Brasilian academic and consultant Mirella Gavidia, who grows food and regenerates Dja Dja Wurrung country; Ellen Madigan, who grows, caters, researches and advises on food; Karl Fitzgerald, instigator of the Central Victoria Mutual Aid Mapping project and Director of Advocacy, Prosper Australia; Ian Lillington, permaculture practitioner, teacher and writer; with Castlemaine Free University Anitra Nelson as MC.
3. Hepburn Solar- Business and Farm Program
Rebates for solar on businesses:A new solar panel rebate worth up to $3,500 for businesses is now available through Solar Victoria’s ‘Solar for Business Program’. Eligible businesses who rent and own their premises are able to apply for a rebate for systems sized up to 30kW. Businesses that are running from 9am-5pm are ideal candidates for solar as they use lots of their solar during the day and do not have large consumption during evenings.
Applications for the Solar for Business rebates have opened and Solar Victoria has encouraged businesses to secure quotes before applying.
Grants for solar on farms: Agriculture Victoria is offering grants between $20,000 to $250,000 for eligible farms to install solar.
Many farmers might be too busy to manage the process of applying for the grant, designing the solar system and coordinating the install process, so the Hepburn Solar Bulk-Buy is here to help! If you are primary producers with a total on-farm energy bill of over $8,000 a year, get in touch with the Hepburn Solar Bulk-Buy team via 1300 466 274 or visit https://mash.org.au/hepburn-shire/ and request a quote.
4. Heritage fruit trees for your garden
Fruit trees are available to order now from Carr’s Organic Fruit Tree Nursery. order now, Trees will be ready to pick up from the farm at Open Days in early July. Harcourt-grown citrus trees are also available for sale. Most citrus trees that you can buy at nurseries are grown in hothouses in a much different climate. We’ve noticed that they often experience a shock that can take them a couple of years to get over when transplanted into our climate, so we’ve been experimenting with growing them from seed here, to see if we can produce trees that suit this climate better. We’ll be really keen to hear back from people that buy our citrus trees as to how they grow when they’re planted out.
Why try heritage varieties?
There’s a couple of reasons we’re focusing on the older varieties. The first is that most modern varieties coming onto the market are patented, which means they’re not available to micro-nurseries like ours until they come into the public domain, which can take 20 years or more.
But the other reason we have a lot of fruit trees you’ve never heard of is that we’re focusing on heritage varieties. These are old varieties that have gone out of fashion, or in some cases almost completely disappeared. They’ve been superseded by newer varieties.
Modern varieties are bred to suit modern food systems. They might have a “better” flavour, have a more uniform colour all over the fruit, colour before they’re ripe, have tougher skin so they don’t bruise as easily when they’re picked, or withstand storage or transport more easily. All things which give them mass appeal to a wider audience, and make them easier to pick and transport to markets and consumers that are a long way from where they were grown, including overseas.
Just because heritage varieties don’t fit these criteria doesn’t mean they’re not great fruit! It’s just that they suit local food systems much better than the sort of mass-produced, large-scale fruit production that fills supermarket shelves.
Fragar peaches are a great example. They’re stunning, huge, white-fleshed peaches. They have a delicious flavour that’s much more complex than a typical modern peach (which tends to be just sweet, or worse – have no flavour). Fragar have much more depth of flavour on your palate.
Unlike modern varieties which tend to be more uniform in colour these beauties have a gorgeous pale pink blush over a creamy yellow background – divine to look at, but they show every bruise. They’re also quite thin-skinned with soft, juicy flesh. but they do bruise quite easily, particularly when they’ve been tree-ripened, which is definitely the best way to eat them. They’re the perfect peach for a backyard, food swap, or even local farmers market – but not to put on a truck and send hundreds of kilometers!
Even if a heritage variety isn’t the absolute best in terms of flavour, or texture, it still has tremendous value. As our food systems get bigger and more industrialised, they also get simpler. The number of different types and varieties of fruit, vegetables, and even meat that we eat in our modern diets has dramatically declined in the last few years.
There are literally thousands of varieties of apples, but how many could you name? Maybe 10 or 12? And how many do you usually see on the supermarket shelves?
According to Dr. Christine Jones, modern fruit and veg have also become much less nutritious due to soil depletion, which is backed up by this research. Dr. Jones’ theory is that these two factors – simplification of our diets, and reduced nutritional status of our food – is leading to a whole raft of health consequences for people.
Here are some heritage varieties available:
Bess Pool apple (1824)
Calville Blanc d’Hiver apple (France, 1600s)
Gravenstein apple (1900s)
Menagerie apple (France, 1700s)
Spring Grove Codlin apple (England, 1810)
Sturmer Pippin apple (England, 1830s)
Early Rivers nectarine
Briggs Red May peach
Coe’s Golden Drop plum
Robe de Sergeant prune plum
Head to our shopfront on the Open Food Network to see the types of trees available this year (standard, dwarf, fruit-salad, etc.). Then click on “shop” to see the list of trees. Click on any entry and a pop-up box will tell you the history of the tree, characteristics of the fruit, and which varieties will pollinise them.
Trees can be pre-ordered up until June 30, and then casual sales of left-over trees will also be available at the nursery’s open days (see the dates below), but many varieties will sell-out quickly via pre-orders.Nursery pick-up/open day sales: Saturday 3 July, Sunday 4 July, Saturday 10 July, and Sunday 11 July (all from 10 am to 4 pm). If you have any questions please send an email at email@example.com.
7. Newstead Landcare
The first planting for 2021 will be on Sunday June 13th. We will be continuing our work by the Loddon River at it’s confluence with the Muckleford. The area is looking fantastic with a few years’ growth in our previous plantings and the soil will be soft and moist with the rain.We will start work at 9.30am and work until morning tea at 11. Bring some gloves and a mug for morning tea. Hammers and digging tools would also be useful.
Directions to working bee: go 2km from Dig Cafe southeast along Panmure St/Cemetery Rd (almost to Muckleford Creek crossing). Wear sturdy boots as terrain is undulating.
8.Walking Together – Balak Kalik Manya – Feedback on Management Plans
Djandak’s Walking Together – Balak Kalik Manya Project is a four-year project committed to writing site-specific management plans for two sites within Dja Dja Wurrung Country: Kalimna Park in Castlemaine and Wildflower Drive in Bendigo VIC. Both sites were selected because of their proximity to growing townships and the increasing pressures of urbanisation slowly encroaching closer and closer to these park boundaries.
Since workshopping management plans with Djaara members, community members, and government stakeholders, our respective management plans for Kalimna Park and Wildflower Drive have now reached a draft phase and are ready for review and comments by impassioned stakeholders. Djandak are seeking your feedback as a user of either park who can provide valued subjective knowledge that we might not have considered within our current draft plans.
The project is exploring how we can increase community connection with nature, how to improve visitation rates and encourage appropriate use of these sites, all while maintaining and improving biodiversity. The project will promote Djaara employment and assist in Djaara reconnecting with traditional practices of land management.
Daylesford Repair Cafe is running a series of ‘how-to’ workshops during 2021 and 2022, in addition to the usual repair tables, so community members can learn repair skills. April’s cafe focussed on basic hand sewing and mending with Jane Knight. In May, a good number of people turned up to learn how to sharpen knives and tools with Mark Hallett. In June, the cafe will run a workshop on basic bicycle maintenance and repair, with Jeremy Yau and Finn Ryan. Future workshops include: understanding electricity and electronics; darning and patching; taking things apart and putting them back together; basic woodworking; sewing machine maintenance; and home plumbing essentials. For more information contact Nikki Marshall (firstname.lastname@example.org ) or Danny Kinnear (email@example.com), or https://www.facebook.com/daylesfordrepaircafe/
Next Daylesford Repair Cafe: Sunday June 20th, 1-4pm at Victoria Park Pavillion, Daylesford-Ballan Road
And here’s an article in The Guardian – The fashion of fixing
“It used to be more businessmen, wealthier ladies, a lot of resoling shoes, but the mentality behind fixing things has changed … and the language has changed – they’re younger people and they don’t want things to go to landfill, they say that”.
Meet Australia’s fashion fixers: ‘There’s no apprenticeship, it’s more Bruce Lee style’As people become more conscious of reducing waste, Australia’s professional menders are welcoming a new wave of customers.
The school strike for climate rally in Melbourne on May 21st was supported by Castlemaine locals at Victory Park with music, speakers and a good crowd who gathered in solidarity at the park. Uncle Rick did a welcome to country, several locals spoke including Trevor Scott and Bernie Tonkin and $220 was raised towards the local School strike for climate future fund.
Photo: Trevor Scott
11. Castlemaine Institute- sharing space
Castlemaine Institute is formally at 16A Lyttleton St now and is looking for coworkers (permanent desk or hot-desk pass) to share this lovely space with. Are you a local researcher, academic and/or consultants who might be interested? The Institute hopes to cultivate a quiet thoughtful space while also developing a learning culture together with opportunities for structured knowledge sharing and networking.
Castlemaine Institute is a research and action hub for people working on bold transformations in economies, communities and landscapes. The Institute is a trans-disciplinary team working to deliver projects, policy and research in the areas of: Economics, Housing and land use, Health and wellbeing, Adaptation and biodiversity conservation, Regenerative urban environments, Arts and culture, and Democracy and civil society.
The space provides a north facing, tastefully fitted office able to support multiple uses from quiet study to brainstorming sessions, events, lectures and meetings; printer/photocopier, internet, heating/cooling; kitchenette, storage/shelving and library; an outdoor patio with a unique vista over historic Castlemaine rooftops; a kitchenette, soon to be expanded to include a small private meeting room.
The Victorian Government is providing funding to support Landcare and environmental volunteering groups and networks for on-ground works, education, and capacity building projects that protect, enhance, and restore our land and natural environment. A total of $2.55 million is available for project and support grants across Victoria.Up to $30,000 is available for on-ground works, capacity building activities, community education and engagement that protects, or improves natural assets such as native vegetation, native fauna, waterways, wetlands, and soils. Up to $500 is available for assistance with costs such as insurance, incorporation and operational needs, or meetings and events or newsletters, websites, and other communication.
ELIGIBILITY: Grants are open to all Victorian Landcare and environmental volunteering groups and networks that have a focus on on-ground land and natural environment improvement work. This includes Landcare groups and networks, ‘Friends of’ groups, Conservation Management Networks, Committees of Management, Coastcare groups and Aboriginal groups and organisations working on Country.
TIMELINE: Applications close – 5pm Wednesday 16 June 2021. Recipients will be notified in August 2021. Projects to be completed by Wednesday 30 November 2022.
13. Waterwatch volunteers wanted for Forest Creek
Since 2006, dedicated volunteers have surveyed water quality along Forest Creek in Castlemaine VIC every month. They monitor waterway health using methods outlined by the Waterwatch citizen science program. At the recent Castlemaine Landcare Group AGM, volunteer Matt Kennedy gave a report on Waterwatch findings along Forest Creek, and invited anyone interested in volunteering for this worthy cause to get in touch.
‘We take turns to monitor four sites monthly on Forest Creek, simple chemistry and water meters used with visual observations and data loaded into a public database for use by scientists and for catchment management,’ says Matt. ‘A monitoring session takes about 2-3 hours but is quicker as you get familiar with it. Training is provided by current volunteers and North Central CMA, with regular check-ins by the CMA to maintain quality assurance.’
If you are interested in becoming a Waterwatch volunteer with Castlemaine Landcare Group, contact Matt Kennedy (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)If you are interested in becoming a Waterwatch volunteer elsewhere in the Mount Alexander region, contact your nearest Landcare or Friends group. To find your group, contact Connecting Country’s Landcare Facilitator, Asha Bannon (email: email@example.com ) or visit our website – click here
Tis the season to brine olives. Or salt them, if you prefer. Whether you’ve grown them yourself or foraged them from bird-sown trees, it’s late Autumn that you want to pick and cure them. There are many ways to cure olives, but the essential thing is that you extract the glucosides from them – the chemicals that make the olives very bitter when just picked.
You can do this by curing them in water and changing it daily, or by brining them, or dry salting them, or salt and then smoke them… so many options!
Freshly picked, locally grown, low miles travelled, home cooked, yummy food. The first rule of MaLETs is the swap system. Bring in something you have an excess of and swap it for something they have. Sign up and away you go! That’s it. And you can definitely talk about the rule. And you can go into debt or credit.
MaLETS is trialling new ideas to involve more members, including teams to help run the the market stalls. If you are interested contact Matt Gibson (secretary), on mobile: 0423140881 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. All Members are welcome to help @ anytime or at every market.
Another item for thought is to reintroduce a weekly bulletin of items available for swap/sale, services want and available or helping each other out, eg working bees in members.
The 2021 census is coming around in August 2021. the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is recruiting field officers.The roles are short-term and available in all major cities and regional areas nationwide. The working hours are variable and will include weekdays, weekends and evenings. Employment contracts start from 13 July 2021, and contract lengths vary from 2-3 months.
Field Officers assist the ABS at a local level by delivering Census instructions and by visiting households that have not responded. Field Officers play a vital role in our communities as they promote Census participation and answer peoples’ questions. To apply for a 2021 Census Field Officer role, you can submit an application online now at https://censusjobs.adecco.com.au/.
17. New Economy Network- Housing Week On-line Seminars
When: Monday 7th to Friday 11th June 2021
Cost: General admission is FREE, but if you’re waged, please donate to support the work of the organisers. BOOK YOUR TICKET. One ticket gives you access to all the talks, all week.
CO-HOSTED BY NENA & CO-HOUSING AUSTRALIA
How can we ensure safe, affordable and sustainable housing for everyone in Australia? Join NENA for a week of discussions about housing and human settlements, hosted by the New Economy Network Australia (NENA) and Co-Housing Australia. Hear from practitioners and researchers, from dozens of organisations, who are coming together to discuss the social justice and environmental sustainability issues of housing and human settlements in Australia.
NENA Housing Week will feature lunchtime and evening ONLINE seminars (Mon 7th to Thurs 10th), which will culminate in an online round table discussion (Friday 11th June) discussing the availability, affordability, design and sustainability of Australia’s housing and human settlements. One of the goals of the Housing Roundtable discussion will be to identify key actions to include in NENA’s Civil Society Strategy for a Wellbeing Economy
**Webinar discussions Monday 7th to Thursday 10th June:
*Lunchtimes (12noon to 1.30pm AEST)
* Evenings (6pm to 7.30pm)
**Final ‘Roundtable’ Discussion and suggestions for shared strategies:
In Castlemaine seed packets are available at the library. In Hepburn shire, seeds are available at Hepburn Wholefoods in Daylesford. If you have seeds to donate please leave them at the front desk at Castlemaine library. You will find alexanders, purple sprouting broccoli, carrot, chamomile, coriander, kale (black and red), lettuce, mustard, parsley, rocket and pink poppy.
Help yourself to some seeds and grow some wholesome, awesome, flavoursome winter veg.
19. Healthy dams, healthy animals
Connecting Country’s ‘Healthy Landscapes’ project is delivering a 2021 series of education workshops for farmers and other landholders. With funding support from the Australian Government’s Smart Farms program, Connecting Country is also developing a written guide for local farmers and other landholders on how to restore healthy landscapes in the Mount Alexander region. The final education event will be a local farm tour of dams and waterways, and opportunity to learn about how to restore them to improve water quality, create wildlife habitat and provide other benefits to your property.
Connecting Country has been following the Sustainable Farms project run by the Australian National University (ANU). Their work has included researching the far-reaching benefits of improving biodiversity around farm dams. It has been fascinating to hear from the landholders involved, who have seen benefits for both livestock and native animals from restoration of their farm dams.
The ABC recently published an excellent summary and interview with a landholder involved in the project. She has seen their farm change from a ‘moonscape’ to a refuge for native animals, while also improving water quality and the farm productivity. To read the original article – click here
Transforming the typical Australian farm dam into an ecological ‘wonderland’
A restored dam with healthy water for livestock courtesy of the thick ground cover (photo: ANU)
Trudi Refshauge’s property at Wyangala, in Central West New South Wales, was once described as a ‘moonscape’, but today it is a refuge for birds, reptiles and insects. Trudi Refshauge’s dam at Wyangala is now a ‘native wonderland’. ANU research shows healthy dams lead to an increase livestock weight gain. Most farm dams exceed the safe water consumption threshold for animals. The transformation began with the Sustainable Farms project run by the Australian National University, which looked into the far-reaching benefits of improving the biodiversity around dams on farms.
Ms Refshauge fenced off the livestock, planted an array of native trees, shrubs and reeds, and built an island for frogs in the middle of the dam.‘It’s a native wonderland and nature has taken care of a lot of it,’ Ms Refshauge said. ‘We’ve got the most gorgeous local eucalyptus trees, little native birds are nesting around it, we’ve got turtles in the dam and even native ducks.’
Dam good for bottom line
Barred from direct access, the livestock drink from a trough fed by the dam. Ms Refshauge said the stocking rate on the farm had increased since the improvements were made. ‘The cattle don’t mind,’ she said. ‘In fact, everyone says our cattle are fat.’ The dam is now a haven for birds, insects and reptiles
ANU research ecologist Benjamin Scheele said the scant existing research showed ‘higher quality water has about an 11 per cent benefit in terms of weight gain’.He said the cost benefit factor ranged from 1.5 to 3, which meant the investment in infrastructure to fence off and trough from a water source would pay off at the market within a few years.‘Farm dams play a vital role in our ecosystem across farmland,’ Dr Scheele said. ‘Most farm dams are pretty desolate places that were built a long time ago.’
To revive a dam, Dr Scheele says, livestock access must be restricted to reduce the amount of animal waste washed into the water.That allows vegetation to establish itself on the surrounding walls and filter out material as it gets washed in.
Hosted by Local Futures, World Localisation Day is a celebration of the emerging worldwide localisation movement which aims to restore the community fabric and human-scale, ecological economies, with a central focus on local food systems.Starting May 15th, the worldwide program will highlight and celebrate localization and will culminate on June 20th with the official World Localization Day.
MID-MAY TO MID-JUNE
National, regional and local WLD events hosted by collaborators
We have collaborators and events confirmed in over a dozen countries on six continents, and the list is growing. Many are planning online events due to the pandemic, while others aim to do face-to-face events – ranging from talks, discussions and workshops to hands-on activities and creative celebrations – all with a focus on localization. These events are scheduled to take place between mid-May to mid-June.
Local Food Feasts
Since shifting the food system from global to local is the single most effective way of reducing environmental breakdown and restoring secure livelihoods, we are developing a campaign to encourage individuals and groups to host Local Food Feasts. These events offer a festive way to highlight localization and underline the vital importance of local food systems. We are aiming to have at least 1,000 ‘local food feasts’ around the world. Please let us know if you are interested in hosting a Local Food Feast as part of your program. In any case, we hope that you can share our Local Food Feast invitation with your network. More about this soon.
WEEK OF JUNE 20TH
During the week preceding June 20, Local Futures will host an online program with international reach, featuring localization leaders, stories and experiences from around the world. On World Localization Day itself there will be an online celebration, music, short films and more.
Local Futures will be promoting and highlighting the five-week program in its totality, rather than focusing mainly on June 20th, which will be primarily a celebration of the efforts that have gone before.
WORLD LOCALIZATION 2021 DAY VIDEOS
Local Futures is creating two short videos for WLD that can be shown at all the events hosted by WLD collaborators, as well as on June 20th. These short videos will be the thread that connects all the diverse WLD events together.
SHORT VIDEOS OF INSPIRING LOCALIZATION EXAMPLES
As part of the World Localization Day program, we would like to feature short videos of inspiring localization initiatives from different parts of the world – North and South, and rural and urban. But we need your help. Are you able to share a decent quality video recording of your own work or an inspiring localization initiative in your area/country? This can be a project or campaign related to local food and farming, local finance, local independent businesses, place-based education, local governance, local sustainable manufacturing, decentralized community-owned renewables, etc. It can be an existing video (with permission from and credit given to the filmmaker), or a new video recorded specifically for this purpose, for example, on a smartphone. If you have a short video of an inspiring localization initiative for WLD, please let me know asap.
Mount Alexander Shire Council acknowledges that happy, healthy, thriving communities only happen when the community itself is deeply involved in the decisions that affect it, big and small. So the Shire is launching Shape Mount Alexander, a new online space to get involved in the decisions that affect you and your community.
The new Shape engagement hub is a place where you will be able to scroll through, or search for, projects that are underway where your thoughts will make a genuine difference to the final outcome.It’s a new space that will let you get involved early, and help the shire understand what your views and priorities are much earlier than in the past. It will also become a place where we can close the loop with you, and let you know precisely HOW your input on a project made a difference.
Once you’ve registered an account by clicking the ‘Join’ button at the top of the page, you’ll be able to explore all the exciting projects, offer your input, and ‘follow’ projects so your get updates delivered straight to your inbox.
This new online community engagement hub, which we’ve called Shape Mount Alexander, will form the foundation of our ongoing efforts to work more closely with the incredible community here at Mount Alexander Shire. Keep coming back to the site, too – we’ll be putting up new projects as they emerge!
22. Calf-at-foot dairy in Harcourt
Sellar Farmhouse Creamery runs a calf-at-foot practice where calves spend their first three months nursing from their dam. Sellar Farmhouse is part of the Harcourt Organic Farming Coop.
The modern dairy cow produces far more milk than required to raise her calf so sharing that milk when done fairly isn’t detrimental to the calf. There are many factors to keep in mind when deciding how to raise dairy calves; whether practicing immediate removal, through to cows nursing until they next calve, every dairy farmer has a system which works best for their situation.
Time: Raising healthy calves takes time however you choose to do it in a dairy system. Removing calves young means you then have to invest the time in bottle feeding them. Running calf at foot means you have to spend time training, separating and weaning cows and calves. If the calf has no need for humans to feed them, building a relationship of trust takes much longer.
Health: This is a very complicated debate. At it’s core, I don’t think many would argue that calves allowed to nurse from their mothers grow up to be healthier more resilient animals. They also tend to be healthier calves as their dam will change her milk to the needs of her calf. If a calf gets scours the dam will lick it’s bottom, create the antibodies needed and pass them back to the calf in her milk, incredible. The overall protein structure of healthy milk, feed fresh, at body temperature is also the most digestible feed source for a young calf. To be cost effective, some dairy’s feed the mastitic milk to calves which then can lead to gut problems due to degraded protein structures and bacterial overload. So when breeding for future milkers, cows raised on their dam tend to be more resilient. In many ways a cow is little more than a rumen on legs, thus healthy gut = healthy cow.
Monte and Carlo feeding from Ginger
There are risks though from raising calf-at-foot. If you’ve ever watched a calf feed you’ll know they are not gentle. Unlike the consistent, smooth milking cups, a calf can be very violent when feeding, often creating cuts, bruising, pulling and once the milks all out they will continue to suck until mum kicks them in the head and walks off. This increases the risk of a damaged udder which can lead to infections and mastitis. The flip side of this is that the best thing for an infected udder to be regularly milked out which the calf can help with.
Johne’s disease is another key reason for removing calves young. A chronic wasting disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis. It invariably leads to the death of the animal. One of the key ways it is spread is through milk and thus an infected cow will infect her calf if left to nurse. Different states have different restrictions surrounding Johne’s disease and how serious it is taken. But for many dairy’s who test positive, removing calves is a obvious measure to eventually breed the disease out of their herd.
Physiological:This is the ongoing ethical debate which is always problematic as we humans try to anthropomorphise animals. Some will argue it’s better to do it quickly at the start before a bond is formed as it’s more traumatic later on, others will argue that it’s cruel to remove a calf while it’s still nursing. I think probably all arguments have some merit. There is also the case that all animals are individuals and particularly in the breeds which have been breed specifically for dairy, many of the maternal instincts have been lost. Meaning that there are cows out there who don’t give a stuff about their calf, while others will destroy you if you try to come between them.
All I can talk to is the experience I’ve had which is that that first week after calving my cows are super hormone charged, then things settle down a bit. They are also highly vulnerable in those first couple of months and thus for me, the less stress I can put on the cow the better. My priority will always be the health of the cow, what she needs she gets. If her calf is far too violent and damaging her udder then I need to restrict the time they spend together, I learnt this the hard way with Berta.
The bond shared between cow and calf is a beauty to watch, even when reunited as adults it remains strong.
Cost: If raising calves separate to their mother you are either paying for milk powder or using the milk you’ve just milked out of the cows.There are wages to calculate from having to prepare milk, feed calves and clean equipment, plus in my experience there are significant hours spent treating sick calves, mostly from scours. However with the calf-at-foot program, while I still have the hours of training, separating and weaning calves, I believe this comes in as less hours. There is beauty in reuniting dam and calf in the morning after milking and often tears (mine) in the evening as I chase calves around the paddock trying to catch them.
Berta is incredibly maternal. Iggy and her bond is just as strong 3 years on.
However the main reason people separate calves is that we are in the business of selling milk, not raising calves. So you’re aiming to raise a calf for less cost that you can get for it’s mothers milk. This may be by selling calves young and letting someone else pay to raise them, using lower quality milk which you wouldn’t sell anyway, buying cheaper milk powder, feeding less and in many set ups, culling the boys very early. If dairy calves where valued for meat as they should be then there would be far more incentive to raise them. The other factor is that if we moved back towards dual purpose breeds such as the Dairy Shorthorn then their bull calves would carry the same value as beef animal, thus the incentive to grow them out.
So what do we do?
At Sellar Farmhouse Creamery, calves live an average of 3 months with their mother depending on when the cow is ready to drop to once a day milking. Calves have the day and evening milk while I take the morning. Our average process for weaning calves: week 1 – stay with mother all the time; week 2-3 – Calves spend the night in a pen attached to the milking parlour, while they cannot put their heads through the fence to drink the cow can reach into the pen to groom and have contact with the calf. This allows her the ability to go out and graze, then return to check on the calf. After morning milking the calf is reunited with the cow who will have milk left for feeding her calf. week 4-12 – Calves gradually spend longer on their own, in the pen to begin with and then separated by an electric wire. They begin to live independently to their mothers and visa versa. The aim is to always have two cows calving together so calves are never left on their own and have a buddy. week 12 onwards – eventually the calves are only let back in with their dam for a quick evening drink and eventually this stops completely when the cow is considered good to be milked only once a day.
23. Food for Thought
Listen to podcast with Indigenous leader, Dr Anne Poelina
NENA member, Michael Bayliss, recently interviewed Anne Poelina (NENA Indigenous Economics Hub) in his Post-Growth Podcast.
Listen to the podcast here,
or download the MP3 version!