'Countryfile' viewers shocked as Matt Baker visits 'zero grazing' cows on dairy farm

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Countryfile - Matt Baker - (BBC Studios/Pete Dadds)
Matt Baker presented the report on 'zero grazing' dairy farming on 'Countryfile'. (BBC)

Viewers of BBC's Countryfile were shocked and angered by a segment on a "zero grazing" dairy farm where cows "spend much of their life inside".

Matt Baker visited a family farm in Northern Ireland that has cut costs by bringing fresh grass to the cattle inside their barns rather than letting them out to pasture to graze.

Baker said: "[Farmer Richard Lilburn] swapped their whole way of farming to a model known as ‘zero grazing’ with their cattle spending most of their year indoors in two 210 foot barns filled with all the latest gadgets.

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"Rather than grazing outdoors, they now have fresh grass brought to them."

Read more: Matt Baker swaps TV career for full-time farming after mum trampled by sheep

The former One Show presenter went on: "The zero grazing system used by the Lilburns means the cows spend much of their life inside. This way of doing things does have its critics, who feel cows should be mainly outdoors."

The cows at the Lilburn's farm remain inside as part of the 'zero grazing' system. (Countryfile/BBC)
The cows at the Lilburn farm remain inside as part of the 'zero grazing' system. (Countryfile/BBC)

Many viewers were upset by the report, claiming it was "cruel" and "unnatural" to keep cows in this way.

Some also argued that the BBC show had been "one-sided" in its coverage of the dairy farming technique.

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Nigeynugs tweeted: "Be honest #countryfile, it’s factory farming cows under the banner of ‘zero crazing’. It’s cruel , unnatural and not in the best interests of the animals. Shame on the farmers and shame on @BBCCountryfile for promoting and glorifying it in a very biased way."

Linda W tweeted: "I still can't see why #countryfile portrayed the cows never going outside and having the calves being taken off them at less than two hours old a positive thing. I really don't want milk from those poor cows."

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JennoRon said: "Dont usually watch countryfile but caught 2 minutes of it. Presenter was saying the dairy farm was a ‘no grazing’ concern where the cows were indoors all the time. How extremely unnatural and cruel."

Kate Peach commented: "Shocking coverage of cows which never go outside. Where is the debate? The implication that this is the future and is ok is appalling."

MaisieMooCow wrote: "Cows need space. They shouldn't be locked indoors.#countryfile"

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Elisa Allen, director of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said: "British farming paints a picture of idyllic barnyard scenes of years gone by, but that’s total rubbish.

"PETA applauds the BBC for opening viewers’ eyes to show them that many cows on today’s dairy farms spend their lives in hellishly unnatural conditions, rarely, if ever, allowed outside and deprived of everything that is natural or important to them, including the right to graze, socialise, and raise their young – in other words, to be cows.

"Viewers outraged by this mega-farm might further consider that cows on all dairy farms – even those labelled “free-range” or “organic” – are trapped in a cruel cycle of artificial insemination, in which farmers forcibly insert a metal rod into their vaginas, and their beloved calves are torn away shortly after their birth so that the milk nature intended for them can be sold for cheese instead. 

"When the cows’ bodies are spent, they’re pushed onto a lorry and sent to the abattoir."

Matt Baker's family have documented their new life in 'Our Farm In The Dales'. (Channel 4)
Matt Baker has his own family farm in Durham. (Channel 4)

A BBC spokesperson told Yahoo UK: "Countryfile has been following the Lilburn family in County Down throughout the year, and in this episode they explained their approach to dairy farming, known as 'zero grazing' or 'cut and cover'. 

"This method was recognised in the Best Practice Guide of the Agricultural & Horticultural Development Board in 2019 and has increased significantly over recent years, which is why Countryfile felt it was an important subject to feature.

Read more: Matt Baker opens up on his One Show exit

"It was made clear in the programme that the method has its critics and the report also addressed the different ways this farming family feels they are ensuring the welfare of the cows is protected.”

Baker left The One Show last year and moved back to the Durham Dales with his wife and children to take over running his family's farm after his mother was trampled by sheep.

The Lilburns' farm is Red Tractor- and Farm Quality-assured.

Yahoo UK has contacted the family for comment.

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