The initiative, called My KuhTube, run by the Lower Saxony Association of Milk Producers, gives viewers a sneak peek behind the barn doors to let them know where their milk is coming from.
The project, launched in May 2013, has had 145,390 hits on its video channel and over 115,000 visits to its website. And the online “Kuhmmunity” is becoming more popular, with around 60 percent of viewers returning to the website.
“Sixteen milk farmers signed up to take part in the project and were keen to introduce us to their farms in a straightforward and friendly way,” Christine Licher from the association told The Local. “It’s true that opening your farm up to effectively the entire world has its own risks, but for all the farmers taking part, the advantages outweighed the disadvantages.”
Every week two new video diary entries show short snippets of the day-to-day life of milk farmers, their families and their cows. Viewers can accompany them on a tour of the fields, into the din of the milking shed and on a trip to a cattle market.
The videos are meant to reveal the reality of life on a modern milk farm and challenge consumer perceptions. And yet the participants do not wish to indulge in cheesy nostalgia for the past. For them, the project proves that they have nothing to hide.
“We want to show what life and work on farms in the region is really like,” said the association’s spokeswoman Jessica Kraack.
The documentaries cover an explanation of why cows chew the cud, the farmers’ Christmas with their cattle and the birth of a new batch of calves. Viewers can see for themselves the light, airy stalls and green fields for the cattle.
Licher hopes this will improve the image of modern farming practices in Germany. “The videos show that the milk producers truly care about the wellbeing and health of their herds. They often have a personal relationship with each individual animal,” she said.
The project’s more intimate approach aims to build trust between farmers and consumers. Recent public scrutiny of mass food production has angered some and those taking part in the project are eager to challenge the image of cattle as mass produced.
In the face of a string of scandals surrounding food production, farmers are also concerned that support from their customers is beginning to turn sour. They say that real voices from the field of milk farming in Germany are rarely heard and the true face of farming is seldom seen.
“From today’s perspective, there would be an outcry over the animal welfare standards of 150 years ago“, said Amos Venema, one of the milk farmers.
Compared to a hundred years ago, the stricter standards of modern-day cattle breeding ensure much safer milk and much healthier cows, the farmers insist. Issues such as sustainable farming and good animal welfare are becoming more relevant with competition from abroad.
And the Lower Saxony farmers say they are keen to help producers in other regions set out their stall online.