Bulletproof vest clad volunteers try to get Israeli dairy farms functioning again
Soldiers and farm volunteers in Israel are now forced to wear bulletproof vests as they feed and milk the cows on the kibbutz farms attacked by Hamas.
Normal operations on those farms are slowly recovering but many have suffered serious damage as well as a loss of workers and cattle.
Following a period of five days of not being milked or fed, the cows on the farms in the military no go zone are now receiving food as trucks carrying forage are allowed in under armed military guard.
One farm was forced to turn all its cows loose to fend for themselves as there was no feed for them on the farm or no-one to feed it. Those cows are still wandering around the kibbutz.
KIBBUTZ AND MOSHAV FARMS
Israel is home to around 115,000 cows producing around 1.6 billion liters of milk per year. There are two farming systems in Israel including 164 kibbutz farms, built around the communities, and another 573 larger private farms called moshav farms.
It was the kibbutz farms within 10 kilometers from the border with Gaza that were attacked with numerous farm staff being shot at and killed.
Many of those workers killed are from Thailand and the Thai government is now helping those who escaped return back home.
That leaves a huge void of farm workers, but a move is now underway to train volunteers who have traveled from all around Israel to help out on the farms.
Sivan Lacker, founder of Mutual Dairy Farming in Israel, an organization that promotes cow welfare, said work on the farms was slow but progressing.
She said: “The dairy farms that were attacked are slowly recovering.
After five days without any food they were able to bring trucks in with feed for the cows. This is all being done with military escort since it is still dangerous and rockets are still being sent by Hamas every day.
“The cows are being milked by volunteers from all over the country. Some have dairy farming experience, but most of them don’t. All the dairy managers and whatever staff is left from their team, those that survived the attacks, were evacuated to a safe zone.
“One farm let the cows loose, since it was too dangerous to stay and the cows are walking around the kibbutz.”
TRAINING FOR VOLUNTEERS
Lacker and one of the dairy farm managers have created a training scheme to help teach the volunteers about dairying.
Lackerk added: “My friend Sarit Yucker, who is a dairy farmer from the north, and I have decided to create a fast basic dairy milking training for volunteers that want to learn before they go down south to work on the farms.
“Some of the farms are dumping the milk since the tanks were damaged during the attack. A few farms are now managing to send the milk to the dairy to be processed.
“We need the volunteers to keep the farms running as a lot of our Thai workers were murdered. The ones that survived escaped and the Thai government is helping them return to Thailand.
“Some of the reports we are getting from the farms are heart-warming. A young lad of 19 years old had previously worked on a kibbutz farm before joining the army. Once the farm was attacked he went back to the farm, and was the only one there and managed to do everything on his own.
“Sadly, there are a number of cows that have died from starvation since the attacks happened. The volunteers and army are doing their best to manage the remaining cows and get them milked and fed,” she said.