British and Irish Guilds member Chris McCullough recently travelled to Austria to report on the specialised production of hay milk in the Alpine region.
The tour was hosted by members of the Austrian Farm Writers Guild together with the European Network of Agricultural Journalists.
Chris joined 16 fellow journalists from other European Guilds for the three day trip which took in some of the best scenery in Austria.
Trips to dairy farms were top of the agenda but the tour also visited Lindner Tractors in Tyrol which was also very interesting.
Chris said: “It’s hard to believe that dairy farmers throughout the world are struggling to make a living from herds with hundreds of cows when some Austrian farmers can yield a good living from under 20 animals.
“A number of dairy farmers in different regions of the country are milking cows high up in the Alps producing what is called as hay milk or Heumilch in local language.
“Hay milk is produced without the use of silage or any fermented feed and is higher in Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. It is not only good for consumers but it also produces better cheeses and chocolate and it attracts bonuses for the small farmers who produce it.
“Producing hay milk is a very traditional method of dairy farming in Austria, as well as in some parts of Switzerland and in France.
“In fact, cows on this system are only fed sun dried hay and some concentrates in the winter time and just luscious meadow grass, clean water and fresh air in the summer grazing time.
“The feeding of silage is prohibited and is closely monitored by ARGE Heumilch, an organisation set up to co-ordinate the hay milk producers and market their milk.”
The Hausers have 18 Fleckvieh cows that they milk twice per day in the Alps for hay milk.
“These type of trips give excellent opportunity for journalists to visit other countries and learn of the farming systems there and to report on any similarities or differences between countries.”