Debatable: Should the Uni turn campus grass into a dairy farm?

Debatable: Should the Uni turn campus grass into a dairy farm?

Debatable is a column written by the Otago University Debating Society. The Debating Society welcomes new members and meets at the Business School every Tuesday at 6pm.


I cannot think of a convincing downside to introducing intensive agricultural grazing on Union Lawn. As we are all well aware, our beloved Uni is in financial turmoil. So, when faced with the choice between completely culling the language programme or turning Union Lawn into the mirror image of Southland, I think it’s a real no brainer. 

The first benefit is, of course, money. If the past 40 years of economic growth in our country is anything to go off, dairy’s a winner in the money-making department. Cow-ching. Sure, some may point to the harmful effects this kind of farming can have on the environment but who’s to say we can’t make it sustainable? Rope in the Environmental Management majors for practical, real-world application of their degree right on campus. 

Secondly, and more wholesomely, the intensive dairy farm would unite two desperate factions of Otago: the BCom breatha and the science majors. These two groups rarely interact and, in reality, probably have a lot to learn from each other. Having large herds of cows on campus will give them both something to talk about – the economic impact or the cow’s biology, or where the money they get from their Auckland dairy farm-owning parents comes from. And as for the smell, when it’s already between unwashed Gregs and whatever vile thing is spewing from Gregg’s, the introduction of a couple hundred dairy cows is probably going to be negligible. Besides, a couple months in Dunedin and you get used to the smell of the livestock trucks pretty quick. This is just adapting on a bigger scale, right? 

If intensive agriculture is going to make money and bring people together, why is it a bad thing? It might just be the solution to get Otago back on track. 


Intensive dairy farming on Union Lawn is a slippery slope. If Otago adopts this practice, it’s arguably only a matter of time before other uni campuses do the same. And that’s the problem: Otago students lack the skills and, in a lot of cases, the attention spans (thanks TikTok) to effectively conduct successful dairy farming. We specialise in a fairly limited range of things here at Otago Uni and the idea of looking after a couple hundred cows, when we can barely manage to look after ourselves, is simply a step too far. Cows cannot survive on instant noodles. 

What would probably end up happening is that, within a year, the engineering weirdos up at UC will have figured out a way to make a farm more efficient than ours and we will, once again, be coming second to something from Canterbury. 

If we still want to go down the farming route, the best option is to shift to chicken farming. We’d still get all the benefits, just in the form of cheap eggs and without having to work with the likes of Fonterra. Life would be so much easier because chickens are so much easier to maintain than cows. 

And finally, dairy’s just bad for the environment and, as a uni, we at least like to pretend to care about that environment. Chickens represent a more sustainable option than cows and our already polluted Leith won't be suffering from dairy run off. 

Considering all the factors above, intensive dairy farming just isn’t the best choice for our uni. But hey, there’s no use crying over non-existent milk. 

This article first appeared in Issue 13, 2024.
Posted 8:05pm Sunday 26th May 2024 by Otago University Debating Society.