Kasia Szymańska, University College Dublin
The age-old question of how we are going to feed the ever-expanding global population and tackle hunger, remains wide open. By 2050, an additional two billion more people will be added to the planet, making it necessary to feed a total of nine billion. At the same time, the global demand for animal-based protein continues to rise. The future of food production rests in providing adequate amounts of nutritious, safe and affordable food that is sourced sustainably.
To gain insight in to different food production methods, and specifically the veterinary practices and legislation surrounding livestock, I traveled to Sweden and New York State. I received support from the Thomas O’ Hanlon Award from the School of Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, Ireland, an AVMA accredited school, where I am a rising third year veterinary student. The summer provided me with the opportunity to consider different approaches to dairy herd management as well as look closer at antimicrobial usage and animal welfare standards.
My summer began with the Distriktsveterinärerna, or State District Veterinarians, who are employed by the Swedish Board of Agriculture. I was based in southern Sweden, which is also known as the country’s “milk belt”. Here, Falun red houses and grazing cows dot the countryside. Although only about 17 percent of the farms have 100 dairy cows or more and the average herd size is about 70 cows per farm, yields are around 9,500 kg (20,944 lbs) of milk, per cow, per year. A majority (47 percent) of the country’s cows are kept in free stall barns with the common breeds being Swedish Red and Holstein (2012 Swedish Board of Agriculture). During the summer however, all cattle older than six months graze outdoors for at least six hours per day, as mandated by legislation aimed at promoting high animal welfare standards.
While in upstate New York, I spent time at the Countryside Veterinary Clinic in the foothills of the Adirondack mountains. The clinic is next-door to the largest Kraft Philadelphia cream cheese manufacturing facility in the United States and is flanked by long stretches of corn fields that are used for animal-feed.
Depending on the year, New York State hovers at number three or four in the ranks of top milk production in the county. The state also happens to be the largest producer of yogurt in the US, supplying much of their milk to the makers of Greek-style yogurt at Chobani.