Vienna, 1 June 2023 – At the beginning of this year, global animal welfare organisation, FOUR PAWS started collaborating with French office of FiBL (Forschungsinstitut für biologischen Landbau) together in the “Gentle Dairy” project. The goal has been to evaluate what biologically might sound impossible: to have animals – in this case goats – produce milk without being pregnant (gestating). In a three-year collaboration the scientists looked into possibilities of natural induction of lactation in non-gestating goats. The clue: no hormones are added. The desired outcome is to reduce the number of offspring and to prevent unnecessary suffering of animals.
The dairy industry causes immense suffering for billions of animals as well as having a negative impact on the climate. Ways to reduce the amount of manmade greenhouse gases by reducing the numbers of farmed animals therefore are highly needed. A recent project by FOUR PAWS in collaboration with FiBL France on twelve goat farms in Southern France now looks into ways to refine the production of goat milk in a better and more animal friendly way: goats might no longer have to be gestating to give milk. If succesful, this project might find application with other mammals and on a bigger scale.
Daniela Haager, project member and animal welfare scientist of FOUR PAWS: “At the core of this project we have investigated which factors have an effect on the induction of lactation of non-gestating goats, animals that are in the same herd with gestating goats but are not pregnant. Those factors range from the presence of kids in the herd, the race of the goats and the number of times a female goat has given birth. All of these components might have an influence to induce lactation – the official term for making milk without pregnancy and birth.
“What is especially important is to understand that we entirely refrain from giving the animal any substances, be it medicine or hormones. We therefore like to name it natural induction of lactation. If we see this project thriving it might also be applicable to other mammals which would raise the bar of animal welfare significantly as fewer animals would be transported, fattened and slaughtered as the offspring is reduced.”
Daniela Haager, project member and animal welfare scientist of FOUR PAWS
With 1.5 million dairy goats, dairy goat products are a major industry in France. Goat farmers in France reported that some non-gestating, non-lactating goats spontaneously produced milk when brought into the milking parlour together with lactating goats and the key factors in initiating milking in non-gestating goats seem to be the presence of kids (goats´ offspring) in the barn and teat stimulation in the milking parlour. There have also been reports from sheep farmers, but so far there has been no research into the use of this method in other mammals.
Overproduction of dairy bears many climate risks
Over 80 per cent of the world´s agricultural land is used for animal agriculture. With a continued production growth of animal-based products this goes to the costs of forests and other ecosystems. The land use for cow’s milk is more than tenfold that of plant-based milk. Measures must be undertaken to mitigate the impact on the environment. Livestock farming accounts for 1/6th of all manmade greenhouse gas emissions of which one third is caused by the dairy production.
World Milk Day
World Milk Day is organised once a year (usually on 1 June) to promote the consumption of milk internationally. It was launched by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Dairy Federation (IDF) in 2001 and is organised in over 30 countries. The aim is to promote milk as a natural and healthy drink worldwide and for all ages.
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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org