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Looking at life from a calf's point of view

If dairy calves could speak, what would they say and how would they like to be reared? Lindsay Whistance, a researcher at University of Aarhus, Denmark, who has spent many years observing animal behaviour, will be considering this question at an event at Trefere Fawr, Penparcau, Cardigan SA43 1RL on Wednesday 28 October 2009. This event is being organized by Organic Centre Wales as part of the Farming Connect Organic Development Programme and is suitable for all dairy farmers.

Aled Rees, co-director of the family business at Trefere Fawr, manages 200 ha. All of it is organic, some of it owned and the rest rented. The enterprises include an organic dairy herd of 140 black and white cows, 50 ha of winter and spring cereals, and a 30-cow beef herd of which 20 are pedigree Herefords. These share the grazing with a flock of 150 mainly Lleyn x Texel sheep, of which 100 will be lambing in February and the remainder are traditional Welsh Mountain ewes lambing in April. Throughout the summer and early autumn, Aled's contracting team organise the crimping and bagging of cereals for livestock farmers across West Wales.

Lindsay Whistance, a researcher who lives and works in Denmark, describes herself as an applied ethologist who looks at livestock systems from the animals' perspective. Lindsay said, “I generally approach problems from the animals' viewpoint rather than a system's, to try and encourage farmers to focus on their role as sole caregiver within any given system.”

Existing organic standards ensure that animal welfare is given the highest priority, but organic farmers are not complacent about the present level of welfare and recognise that animal performance in terms of health status and growth is best when a rearing system delivers what is best suited to the animal's needs.

“Lindsay Whistance is an excellent speaker who can enthrall farmers who have spent a lifetime with animals as she explains why animals behave the way that they do,” said Philip Jones of OCW, the event organiser. “Lindsay is a very practical person who began her career by milking cows, which is what triggered her desire to gain a better understanding of animal behaviour and led her into her present area of research.”

The event starts at 1.30pm with a presentation, followed by a viewing of the calf rearing unit on the host farm. The event will end with light refreshments and is free but numbers are restricted to 20, so farmers should register with Phil Jones OCW on 01970 622248 to ensure a place and check the arrangements.


Further information

1. Phil Jones OCW; 01970 622100.

Notes for editors

1. Organic Centre Wales is funded by the Welsh Assembly Government to provide information on organic food and farming to producers, food businesses, consumers and others. It is based at Aberystwyth University and run by a partnership consisting of the ADAS, the Organic Research Centre Elm Farm, and the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University.

2. The Organic Conversion Information Service (01970 622100) is funded by WAG to provide information to producers considering conversion – an information pack and up to three free on-farm visits are available.

3. The Organic Farming Scheme is now closed and those that applied during the last application period will be informed by the Assembly before 1st December whether their application was successful.

4. Farming Connect, working closely with its partner organisations, provides one to one support, knowledge, expertise, training and advisory services tailored to the needs of farmers in Wales. Many of these services are fully funded or subsidised and the service is both flexible and accessible. You can register with the Farming Connect Service Centre on 08456 000 813 or contact Farming Connect directly at your nearest WAG Divisional Office. OCW is funded by Farming Connect to deliver the Organic Development Programme.

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