Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dairy Farmers Care for their Cows Like You Care for Your Pets

The following post was written by John Parker, an independent agricultural writer from Ashtabula County, Ohio. The pictures are from our dairy farm.

Most folks who have a pet, with few exceptions, give that pet the best of care because they enjoy that dog or cat or whatever animal they have.

For those of you who live in town, keep in mind that dairy and other livestock farmers give their animals that same best of care, again with very few exceptions. They do this because they know it is the right and humane way to treat their animals – and they wouldn’t make any money if they mistreated them.

Practices followed by dairy farmers to provide excellent care are interesting and involve the health and comfort of their cows. Some of these practices include;


Comfortable cows relax in our freestall barn
Housing animals in freestall barns allow them to move around freely giving them a comfortable place to lie down when they want to and access to feed and fresh water anytime. Farmers use sawdust, sand, straw or mattresses for bedding. These barns are kept free from drafts and warm enough to keep water pipes from freezing during the winter. Large fans, water misters and roll up sides provide ventilation to keep cows cool in the summer.


Cows are fed a balanced ration prepared by our nutritionist
Dairy farmers want their cows to eat a healthful, balanced diet that provides the necessary nutrients to produce milk and maintain their body weight. Many farmers hire nutritionist to test the feed that goes into the cows and recommend the additional protein, vitamins and minerals the animals need. Farmers go to a lot of time and expense to give their animals the right feed.

To keep legs and feet healthy regular hoof trimming and use of disinfectant foot baths are regular practices on dairy farms.

The milking machine is on each cow 4 to 5 minutes
Milking the cows is another operation where excellent care is given. Udders are washed and sanitized before milking and teats dipped with a disinfectant after the machine comes off to prevent organisms getting into them in the barn.

Milk is cooled immediately to 38 to 40 degrees to keep it healthy. Milk is also one of the most tested food products for bacteria and antibiotics that you will find anywhere.

We could go on and on talking about the practices dairy farmers large and small follow to keep their animals healthy and produce a safe, healthy food for us. They spend a lot of time and money to feed us and to protect the food supply while keeping their animals healthy and comfortable.

John Parker writes a regular column titled Farming Footnotes which is featured in the Geauga Maple Leaf Newspaper in Northeast Ohio. Thank you John for providing interesting information on agriculture topics!

10 comments:

  1. I couldn't help but notice the picture with a dog in it in your most recent post. It made me want to go back to this post, because I just can't help asking you:

    Would you exploit your dogs body for years for your own financial gain? Would you artificially inseminate her and then sell her male puppies, immediately after birth, to be butchered? Would you take her female puppies away from her immediately and raise the social animals in isolation for 3 months? Would you hook her up to a metal machine to pump the milk out of her that was meant for her puppies? Would you feed her foods she didn't evolve eating? Would you send your dog to slaughter when she could no longer able to produce milk? Would you eat dog meat or drink dog milk from any dog?

    If the answers to any of these questions are 'no,' then you are wrong. Dairy farmers do not treat their cows like the majority of people treat their cats and dogs.

    I am not naive enough to think that all farms operate like Conklin Dairy. I also don't think smaller farms contribute to the same environmental degradation, same levels of animal abuse, or any worker's rights violations that are all commonplace on industrial-sized farms. I also am not under the delusion that you're making the big bucks by working in the dairy industry. But at the end of the day, you are still exploiting a woman's reproductive cycle for your own gain and then sending her to be killed when she can no longer be used for your own financial benefit. This is a far cry from the way we treat our 'pets.'

    I know you are likely to respond with the facts about the way your cows are fed, sheltered, and cared for in the most humane way possible. But those facts, as nice as they are, don't address the point I've made here, animals used in food production are treated as commodities and not like family companion animals.

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  2. Livestock and companion animals serve different purposes but both deserve excellent care. Animals can’t speak to us so we measure their level of comfort and satisfaction by observation. If a dairy cow is content she eats, drinks, lies down, chews her cud and produces milk. We observe these characteristics in our cows daily.

    Our animals produce milk and beef. You may choose to avoid consuming animal products, which is your right. But the majority of American’s enjoy meat and milk as part of a healthy diet. I can tell consumers with 100% confidence that we care about our animals and it’s our #1 priority to make sure they are well cared for every day. That includes our cows and our dog.

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  3. Wow, deleting my comments to keep the truth from your readers. Sort of pathetic.

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  4. In response to your comment, “Anonymous”. I’ve been writing this blog for over one year and in that time have only deleted two comments. The reason those comments, including the one you left yesterday, were deleted is because they contain links to websites that unfairly bash animal agriculture to push a vegan agenda. My goal is to have conversations with people about what we do on our farm. I’m glad when people comment, positive or negative, and find each comment an opportunity to dialogue about what we do on our farm. But a few people are not interested in having conversations, they write with the goal of furthering their own agenda. I believe lifestyle choices, such as being vegan, are your right. But I will not promote your cause with a link on my blog. When I comment on other blogs and websites, I always use my name because I’m proud to be a family farmer.

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  5. Farm animals, such as dairy cows, pigs, beef steers/cows and chickens, are food animals with the purpose of producing food for human consumption. Pets, such as dogs and cats, are companion animals. Regardless of their purpose, all animals deserve good quality care.

    Regarding milk production, there are many factors that contribute to the amount of milk each cow produces. These include the weather, feed quantity and quality, water quality, housing conditions, overall health, stage of lactation, genetics, the amount of time she spends lying down and other management practices. Generally, cows that are well fed, comfortable and healthy produce more milk. Milk output per cow varies significantly, much more than 3%-4%, based on the factors I mentioned.

    When I look at information and studies, I examine a variety of factors; Is the information current or dated? Is the source credible? Who funded the study? What was the sample size? Does the information seem reasonable? If the study is about something I’m very familiar with, I’ll examine if the results are consistent with my knowledge and experience. I would consider the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a credible source for examining radiation in milk.

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  6. You didn't respond to any of the points raised by Anynomous on April 18, 2011 11:45 AM, which is understandible because you have no credible defense against them.

    You don't send your pet's puppies to slaughter, neither do you send your own pets to slaughter. I have no doubt you care well for your cows, but don't try to paint a prettier picture than reality.

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    1. Why do you think all animals should be treated like a "family pet"? Live stock animals are not family pets...

      What do you do for a living? Please let us know so that we can bash your way of life as well as you bash these people's...

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  7. The purpose of my blog is to share information about what we do on our farm and dialogue with people who are interested in how food is produced. I will do my best to answer the questions of Anonymous 1 and Anonymous 2.

    Our animals serve a very important purpose of providing nutrient-rich food for people. After calves are born on our farm, they are raised to produce food – milk and/or beef. My blog titled, Bessie Provides Milk and Beef, talks about the production cycle of animals on our farm. Check out my blog Newborn Calf and Fresh Cow Care or Growing Up on Our Farm - Calf to Heifer to Milk Cow to learn about why calves are housed in individual hutches after birth.

    The process of milking cows with milking machines is quick and comfortable for the cow. In fact, when our cows are in the milking parlor, many of them are chewing their cud which is the ultimate sign of a calm, content, happy cow. All of our calves are fed milk produced by our cows. Cows produce plenty of milk to feed the calves and to feed people. Our cows are fed a balanced diet recommended by a nutritionist – see my blogs Dairy Diet – What do Cows Eat? or Our Cows Diet – Part 2 to learn more.

    As I mentioned before, livestock and companion animals serve different purposes but both deserve excellent care and are important in the lives of humans. The decisions we have to make as food producers are not always easy. We can care for animals while understanding they serve an important purpose. It seems that Anonymous 1 and Anonymous 2 want to paint livestock production as cruel and barbaric. That simply is not the case. I stand by the fact that we care for our cows just as well, if not better, than many people care for their pets.

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  8. i love this website. i am a dairy farmer in pa and im running to be our county dairy princess. i was looking for different points to put in my speech about how dairy farmers spoil their cow and people don't think we do. I also loved how you promoted our industry to that person. i love how explain the life of a cow on a farm. i LOVE this website.

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    1. Thank you for the kind comments! Good luck in the County Dairy Princess contest. It's great to have young people involved in dairy. I wish you the best!

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Thank you for reading my blog and taking the time to comment! I’m opening the doors of our farm to share with you and enjoy engaging in discussion. Please be respectful in your comments. I reserve the right to remove posts that include name calling, slander, and vulgar language or contain links to websites that assault animal agriculture.

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