The Dairy Oracle: A cultural and design exploration of New Zealand dairy
The intensification and expansion of New Zealand’s dairy industry have caused animal welfare and environmental sustainability issues to arise. Animal welfare issues directly impact the physical and mental wellbeing of cattle, and environmental sustainability issues contribute to climate change, impact human and animal health and cause biodiversity loss. As the first step to creating a better world for dairy cattle and sustaining the environment for future generations, this research investigates how cultural and design research can be used to understand what New Zealand dairy is today and imagine what it could become in the future. Semi-structured interviews and an observational site visit were conducted with the Happy Cow Milk Company founder and one of their dairy farmers. The interviews and site visit focused on developing an understanding of the participant’s values, their relationships with their cows and the land, and how they address their dairy farming concerns through their farming practices. This cultural research provided insight into what the participants considered the most significant animal welfare and environmental sustainability issues in New Zealand and how these issues could be addressed through alternative dairy farming practices and farmer, cattle, and environmental relationships. The cultural research then inspired the development of the experimental discursive prototype, The Dairy Oracle. This prototype aims to prompt discussion around existing understandings of New Zealand dairy farming and spark imagination around the future possibilities of dairy farming. It was tested at a local farmers’ market to investigate its potential. The findings from the event reflect and discuss how The Dairy Oracle was engaged with by shoppers at the farmers’ market, its potential to address the design objectives, and how it could be developed in future research.