Farmers like Hermann Tausend are finding it increasingly difficult to survive. He wants politics to say that food is worth more – and milk is not traded on the stock market.
Report by Magdalena Latz, Plaika at Gerzen
The "astronaut" has problems today. His laser can not properly grasp the misshapen structure in front of him. Usually he facilitates the work of Hermann Tausend, without him the farmer would have to milk his cows by hand. But now the robot does not manage to put its teat cups on the cow's teats. Again and again the silver arm swings back and forth under the udder. The cow patiently undergoes the procedure.
At his farm in Plaika near Gerzen in Lower Bavaria, Hermann Tausend keeps a herd of 80 "McDonald's cows", as he calls them. They belong to the Simmentaler Fleckvieh with which the fast food chain advertises. Thousand operates solely dairy farming and grows the feed for his animals himself. Every day they get a mixture of willow and rapeseed meal. "Cows like constancy, they love to eat the same thing all the time, and while no one of us likes roast pork with dumplings three days in a row."
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However, Thousand recognizes other parallels between cows and humans: some are especially friendly and like to be petted, others are rather shy. "And the ones in the back," the 41-year-old pointed to the other corner of the stable, "is a very stupid cow, she always pulls out some rubbish, so we had to isolate her." The played severity in his voice disappears as he looks at her.
Here in the outdoor climate barn, the walls are open. The comfort temperature of a cow is about six degrees. Large fans hang on the ceiling to make the animals more bearable on hot summer days. The stable is species-appropriate and almost bioconform, emphasizes Tausend again and again – outside it would only need an additional walkway. Ten years ago, the stable was rebuilt, which was financially difficult to handle.
Thousands of farms are family-run: his mother supports him while working in the stable, while at the same time taking care of his three children with his wife. If there's a lot to do on the field at harvest time, Thousand employs a mini-jobber. He can not afford additional employees.
40 cents would help him. If he got those per liter, everything would be easier, he says. During the day the farm produces about 1500 liters. Currently, the milk price in Bavaria varies between 35 and 36 cents. For a thousand, that's just how it works. But two years ago it was only 25 cents at times. "That was a disaster." Bigger repairs on the machines were not allowed at that time, and he could not do anything.
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In his opinion, agriculture is too much driven by the market and is too dependent on it. "The fact that discount stores can advertise that they have lowered the price of butter is a huge problem: they dump food at dumping prices," he says. His desire is for politics to promote food being given a higher status – and farmers to be remunerated accordingly.
He is also worried about political decisions such as the proposed free trade agreement between the European Union and the common South American market Mercosur. He fears that countries such as Brazil or Argentina will then be able to deliver significantly more beef at the same tariff conditions into the EU.