Moooving Towards Cow-Savvy Technology

In the last several years technology has become essential to everyday life. The dairy industry, however, has been using technology to improve animal care for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I always joked with my parents that our cows would get cable TV before we did because we were always investing in new technology to improve the lives of our cows while we watched the same three channels even though the rest of the world had moved on to flat screen TV’s and Netflix (true story!). Looking back, this was because by taking care of our cows, our cows took care of us.

Dairy farmers use technology to keep their cows comfortable while also making their farms more efficient. Technology allows us to care for cows in new and exciting ways. From back-scratchers to fitbits, technology improves animal care on dairy farms!

Fitbit for cows

Dairy farmers often use fitbit-like technology to monitor the health of each cow. Cows can wear these monitors around their neck, or on their ankles.

The monitors deliver information like what I get every day from my fitbit, and more. They not only monitor resting and current heart rate, steps taken, miles walked and hours slept, but how many times a cow swallows and a slew of other information that I can use to measure physical fitness and health.

Farmers use this technology to gauge the health of their animals. Farmers can tell when cows are sick before they show any clinical signs of illness, when cows are in heat and need to be bred and when cows are experiencing stress and need additional attention.

Dairy cows wearing pedometers
Dairy cows often wear collars or anklets that collect detailed information about their health!

Sensors

Sensors monitor the cows’ environment. Cows are milked with a machine that gently massages milk out of the udder, and sensors can be placed in those machines to detect any malfunction before the equipment actually begins to fail. Keeping this equipment running smoothly prevents it from harming the cows during the milking process.

Curtains cover the walls of many barns so heat can be retained. Many dairy farms use sensor technology to move the curtains up and down according to the temperature outside. This keeps the airflow and temperature inside perfect for the cows. Cow cooling techniques like fans and sprinklers also use sensor technology.

Fans, Sprinklers and Cow Cooling Galore

Cows have a higher internal body temperature than humans at about 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of their warm bodies, cows prefer weather between 40 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. So, what do farmers do to keep their cows comfortable in the hot summer months?

Cow cooling is a science based best-practice that says if we keep our cows cool and comfortable, they are happier, healthier and they produce more milk!

Some examples of cow cooling include fans, sprinklers and soakers. Fans circulate the air, sprinklers provide small mists of cool water when cows are around and soakers deliver a direct stream of water for the cows to play and cool off in. They can also turn on when the temperature hits a certain threshold, or are triggered by motion sensors that indicate a cow is nearby. The sprinklers and soakers use recycled water from other areas of the farm!

Give a little to those you love

For my parents 21st wedding anniversary they bought an automatic spinning brush for our cows. It’s mounted on a wall that the cows walk by on their way to and from the milking parlor, and anytime one of them brushes up against it, it turns on and spins. They absolutely love using it; there’s often a line of cows waiting to use it after each milking!

Automatic cow brush
Automatic back-scratching brushes keep cows clean and happy!

This kind of thing happens on dairy farms all the time. Some people find it strange that my parents didn’t get something more traditional for their anniversary like an exotic vacation, or even just a vacation. But to them, this was just as good. Watching the cows come up and use their new toy has become one of the highlights of my days at the farm and our farm tours. So, we still don’t have cable TV (although we did finally get Netflix), but we continue to invest in our cows’ comfort and we are all the better for that.

Stay tuned for another blog about how dairy farms use robot technology to improve animal care!

Separating Cows and Calves: The Real Story

Animal agriculture has become one of the most controversial topics when it comes to food. Misinformation spreads like wildfire, and some may find it difficult to make peace with eating animal products without all of the facts.

dairy calves enjoy the perks of growing up with dairy farmers to care for their every need
Dairy calves enjoy the perks of growing up with dairy farmers to care for their every need.

I am a student at one of the most “vegan friendly” campuses in the United States, according to the Princeton Review. Ironically, my school also has one of the top animal agriculture programs in the world. As a student studying animal agriculture and science at such a diverse university, I have found that one dairy question takes prevalence over all others: “Why do dairy farmers take the baby calves away from their mothers?”

Cows are different than people

There are two main reasons why newborn dairy calves don’t stay with their mothers: for their safety and their health.

To answer this question, I’d like to remind you of the very real and often forgotten fact that cows and people are very different. Cows do not exist in a family unit like most people do. They are herd animals, meaning that they are most comfortable with other cows their age and their size – their herd-mates.

Cow instincts

When a cow has a baby, her herd instinct doesn’t just disappear so that she can fulfill the joys of motherhood. For the first hour or two after the calf is born, there is a clear connection between mom and baby. At my family’s dairy farm, we keep the calf with its mother for this part. The mother licks off her baby, which aids in stimulation and getting the calf up and moving.

However, after this initial period, the cow becomes increasingly anxious. She wants to be with her herd mates. Cows are not big fans of change, and I think that we can all agree that giving birth is a pretty big change.

This anxiety puts the calf in severe danger. The cow often forgets about her calf. She walks or runs around, searching for her herd-mates and becomes extremely stressed. This can lead to the calf getting stepped, sat on, or injured in a variety of ways.

Big mama, big problems

The average adult dairy cow weighs about 1,500 pounds, while calves are born weighing between 60-90 pounds. Speaking from my own experience, once a calf has been crushed or stepped on by her exponentially larger mother there is not much we as dairy farmers or even veterinarians can do. It is heart wrenching and terrible to see this happen, and far too regular when calves are left with their mothers for too long.

Immune system health

Here, we circle back to the fact that humans and cows are different, especially when it comes down to biology. Human mothers have a different type of placenta–the sac around the fetus– than bovines. And all of the complicated biology of different placenta types boils down to this: when a human baby is born, it already has an immune system with a semi developed immune response. It may be immature, but it’s there. When calves are born, they do not have an immune response to fight off infection.

This causes them to be at a much greater risk for just about everything found outside of their mother’s uterus. Their mother, however, will produce a special milk called colostrum that will (ideally) contain everything the calf needs to start it’s immune system. But, if the calf tries to nurse off of the cow it can be put at risk.

First, cows can sometimes not be the cleanest animals. As dairy farmers we can give them clean beds to lay in, clean their barns two to three times a day and the list goes on and on. The bottom line is, if they want to lay in the dirtiest part of the barn, they can and they will, and they often do. And if the baby calf nurses on a dirty teat before it’s fed colostrum, it could get very sick.

Second, if the calf is suckling, we have no way of knowing if the calf is actually getting quality colostrum, or any colostrum at all. Sometimes cows get sick after giving birth, and that could effect the quality of her colostrum.

Misconceptions

Calve are fed by dairy farmers
Calves are fed by dairy farmers so that they get the right amounts of nutritious milk!

Finally, I want to address one of the most common misconceptions I hear about why the cow and calf don’t stay together: “if they don’t separate them the calf will drink all of the milk and there won’t be any for them to sell.”

Calves get fed milk or milk-replacer. Milk-replacer is the equivalent of feeding your baby formula instead of breast milk – it’s a personal choice. Cows naturally make more milk than a calf will drink on its own, so the choice to feed replacer versus milk is one made by each individual farm.

The best of both worlds

The bottom line is, things can and often do go wrong when the calf is left with the cow. But dairy farmers are trained to be good care takers to their animals, including the babies. That means that we feed them from a bottle or bucket to make sure they drink their milk and that it comes from a clean place. We are also able to monitor them very closely until their immune system develops, and continue to do so as they get older.

The primary job of dairy farmers is to keep their cows healthy and well cared for. Cows that are not taken care of don’t produce quality milk, so it really is in our best interest to have the cow’s best interest in mind. Calves are the future of every dairy farmer’s herd. So the same concept applies. Healthy calves grow up to be healthy cows. Caring for the calves ourselves prevents them from being injured by their mothers, and enables us to care for them in a controlled environment.

Calves and cows are separated because it is best for both their health and safety. It allows the cow to return to her happy place – her herd – and gives the calf an opportunity to begin life its with its best hoof forward! We, the farmers, can make sure the calf gets clean and nutritious milk. Farmers can tell if the calf gets sick and give it the best care possible. We can do all this while providing a high quality, all natural, nearly perfect food.

Happy Dairy Month!

Happy Dairy Month
Don’t forget to celebrate Dairy Month with all your favorite dairy products!

Diversifying dairy for June Dairy Month

Every June since 1937, Americans have celebrated hardworking dairy farmers during National June Dairy Month with an extra glass of milk, cheese pizzas, and all kinds of delicious ice creams. What’s not to love about those options? Dairy farmers help keep a lot of people happy.

June Dairy Month
Fresh, local dairy products (and more!) are becoming even easier to find.

Diversifying dairy

It’s no secret that the dairy industry has been struggling for the past few years with over-efficiency, causing increased supply as fluid milk sales, and now dairy exports, have decreased. It’s not all bad news, though! People are consuming more butter, cheese and other dairy products than in recent years. We’ve seen time and time again that today’s consumers are more interested in learning where there food is coming from. With these trends in mind, more and more farmers are diversifying their operations in some pretty neat ways.

Ice Cream

You scream, I scream, we all scream for (local) ice cream! If you’re looking for creamy flavors and maybe some taste bud adventures while supporting local agriculture, chances are you may be able to find a dairy that is processing and selling their own ice cream. Around the Maryland/Virginia/D.C. area, Rocky Point Creamery and Misty Meadows Farm Creamery are two great choices for homemade ice cream. Some, such as Homestead Creamery, may also offer their ice cream for purchase in bulk in grocery stores. The Maryland Department of Agriculture developed the Maryland Ice Cream Trail for you to follow along and hit all the creameries in the state! Most of the places included elsewhere in this article make ice cream along with their other specialties, so keep reading…

ice cream
Flavorful ice cream is a treat for everyone!

Cheese

If you consider yourself more of a cheese connoisseur than an ice cream buff, fear not because dairy farmers are also exploring the art of cheese making. Whether from cow’s or goat’s milk, raw or pasteurized, and from any one of a number of flavors, there’s a cheese for everyone. Just look at the eight diverse flavors sold around the Delmarva area with the Chapel’s Country Creamery logo. Their cheeses are made from milk from their Holstein and Jersey cattle, and range from a beer-washed cheddar to a soft brie. Palmyra Farm Cheese offers nine different flavors of cheddar for sale at local businesses and events. Cheeses can add fresh flavor to even the simplest grilled cheese or mac and cheese recipe!

Milk

If you’re just looking to stick to the basics, more farms are processing and bottling their own milk. These are sold on the farm or in grocery stores – sometimes in exciting flavors like orange creamsicle! You can often find these products in the glass bottles of your dairy case if they’re available. Duchess Dairy and Homestead Creamery in Virginia, South Mountain Creamery in Maryland, and Shatto Milk Company in Missouri are just a few examples of dairies taking matters into their own hands. Shatto, South Mountain, and Homestead even have home delivery programs for certain areas of their communities. It’s never been easier to down some dairy!

Right on the Farm

dairy calf
Visiting a farm is a great opportunity to see where your food comes from. (Photo Credit: Misty Meadow Farm Creamery)

When all of these local products make you curious as to exactly how they’re produced, you can take a trip to some farms that are regularly open to the public with organized tours and events. Misty Meadows can be a great place for a family trip, with plenty of food, animals and activities like hayrides! South Mountain Creamery is open to self-guided tours any day of the week; if you’re there around 4 p.m. you can even bottle feed a calf! Scheduled school tours are also becoming an exciting field trip for lots of youngsters.

As the weather warms up, farm-to-table events swing back into season, just in time for June Dairy Month. These meals allow guests to learn about the process of farming while dining right where food is grown! You can ask your local extension office for details on any upcoming events in your area. There’s so much more to the dairy industry than just the plastic jugs of milk at the grocery store. Many of the places I’ve mentioned balance more than one dairy food in addition to other farm products or services. That makes for plenty of options for fresh, fun food–and that’s something to raise a glass to!

Happy June Dairy Month!

How our pumpkin spice addiction supports dairy farmers

A hint of orange foliage and a slight chill in the air are sure signs that fall has arrived. At least for me, the onset of fall means the start of the pumpkin flavor craze. As it turns out, we can enjoy our most popular pumpkin treats guilt free, because we are supporting dairy farmers! As we don flannels and carve pumpkins, farmers across the country are continuing to work to ensure we have the ingredients for our favorite fall treats.

Day in and day out, dairy farmers tend to their cows. Farmers don’t understand the concept of a nine-to-five job. They are in the barn at all hours of the day (and night), making sure their cows are clean, comfortable, healthy and happy so the dairy products we buy in the store are of the highest possible quality.

A world without dairy farmers.

Pumpkin bread.

Without a dairy farmer, our pumpkin flavored goodies would not be complete. The pumpkin spice latte would just be, well, pumpkin spice. No creamy steamed milk to mix in and no sweet whipped cream to top off the beverage. In addition, the inviting scent of pumpkin bread baking in the oven would not be possible without the added butter. Lastly, my personal favorite, and the backbone of every Thanksgiving dessert menu, pumpkin pie, would be missing without heavy cream or condensed milk!

What if you don’t love pumpkin spice?

Apple pie a la mode with whipped cream.

Even the non-pumpkin spice lovers (do they even exist?) can support dairy farmers this fall. Who doesn’t enjoy a warm, homemade apple pie? Well, you need butter to make apple pie! And if you’re anything like me, a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a dollop of whipped cream are required companions.

Butter, heavy cream, whipped cream, ice cream and milk are all products of a dairy farmer’s hard work. These tasty treats are simply another reason that I believe dairy farmers should be celebrated year round.

This Virginia fall looks, and feels, much different than the New Hampshire falls I am used to. Thankfully I can still enjoy my pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread and pumpkin spiced latte (iced, of course, because it’s still in the 80’s here!), while also supporting dairy farmers!

Every Month Should Be Dairy Month

June is celebrated as Dairy Month, so I have one question for you: got milk? If not, stay tuned. I am going to remind you why you should be obsessed with this delicious beverage that has been giving us artificial mustaches since we were children. It may be cheesy (see what I did there), but I have narrowed the long list of reasons of why to down a glass of milk to three important points:

  1. Dairy products are like a bath bomb of health and wellness for our bodies

Glass of MilkI may be 20 years old, but I still go wild when someone hands me a GoGurt. If loving this childhood snack is wrong, I don’t want to be right. Slurping down a tube of this mobile dairy delicacy is proven to be good for your health. Did you know that a glass of milk a day could keep the type-2 diabetes away? That’s right, folks. In an article published by the Dairy Alliance, research has found that higher consumption of low-fat dairy foods is associated with a 40-50 percent reduced risk for type-2 diabetes. So, the next time your cute 5-year-old niece hands you a GoGurt to eat with her, go to town, buddy. She is looking out for you.

  1. Dairy does not discriminate

Okay, fine. I’m guilty. I am that girl with a complicated coffee order. I take my coffee 1/8 espresso, 7/8 whole milk. Basically, I like milk with a dash of espresso. As much as I wish I could buy into the whole black coffee movement, I just can’t. Thankfully, we live in an age where one can order a coffee drink that does not taste like coffee at all. Just like how we can order a black coffee or a triple mocha chocolate chip Frappuccino, we have infinite possibilities to enjoy the delectable taste of dairy.

Where I would buy a gallon of whole milk, some put their money towards 2% or skim. Where I choose to stop by the frozen custard shop, some stick with the classic ice cream parlor. For some, cheddar is the cheese of choice. For me, I like to chow down on some mozzarella. What I’m getting to here is that you cannot go wrong with dairy. There is something for everyone— even you weird strawberry milk lovers. Don’t worry, lactose intolerant community. You can enjoy the pure perfection of dairy, as well. Yes, you heard me right; lactose-free dairy products are a thing. So, put down your soy “milk,” and fill up a glass of the real stuff. I promise, one taste, and you’ll never go back.

  1. Dairy farmers are the real MVPs

Full disclosure: I wish I was a dairy cow. First of all, they sleep an average of 12 hours a Dairy Cowday. As if that isn’t enough, dairy cattle are spoiled. Comfort is key when it comes to milk production. Therefore, dairy cattle are provided with clean, comfortable bedding daily, aisles are cleaned multiple times a day to ensure that the barn they live in is top-notch and sprinklers and fans are installed to keep the cattle cool and comfortable.

In addition, veterinary care is top priority for the livestock. Depending on the herd size, a veterinarian may come out to the farm as often as weekly to ensure the well-being of the cattle. Who makes all of this happen? Dairy farmers. As you can imagine, this is not a nine to five kind of gig. Dairy farmers work well over 40 hours a week to ensure that these 1,500-pound divas stay happy so you can have as much creamer in your morning coffee as you desire. And to think…their livelihoods are based off whether you go buy that gallon of milk I have been trying to sell you this whole time.

Multi-generational dairy farms are collapsing under the pressure of the current market. With every dairy farm bankruptcy, another farmer’s pride is crippled, another family loses its lifestyle and another young person is turned away from farming. Buy that gallon of milk, order your pizza with extra cheese and, for the sake of our dairy farmers, their families and future generations, do not limit Dairy Month to the month of June.

What you learn when you take a cow to campus

So much of our population is so far removed from the farm that kids grow up thinking their food is made in the store. Sometimes people in agriculture joke about chocolate milk coming from brown cows, but there are some people that really do think that. A survey conducted by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy revealed that seven percent of adults in the U.S. think that chocolate milk comes from brown cows. I love talking to people and showing them where their food comes from. As a part of the Dairy Club at Purdue University I got the chance to talk to others about the agriculture industry, and I realized how much misinformation exists.

17799985_1459990627353852_5989654650842141746_nEvery year the Purdue College of Agriculture hosts an Ag Week on the main campus to promote agriculture to the rest of Purdue’s students and the most anticipated event is Milk Monday. The Dairy Club hands out free grilled cheese and milk and brings calves and a cow to campus. I assumed most students would know the basics about food production, but there were a lot who didn’t. Growing up on a dairy farm I always knew where my food came from and I thought that everyone else did too. Unfortunately, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Free food makes people stop.

I learned a lot the first time I took a cow to campus. The first task in engaging the college crowd is getting them to stop and get their attention. Hand them a free grilled cheese with a dairy sticker on the wrapping – free food always gets college kids to look up from their phones! Then point them to where the cow is to show them how that cheese started. It is interesting to see the people who know cheese is a dairy product, but don’t make the connection between the cow and the grilled cheese they are eating.

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Ready for a grilled cheese!

Cows can break the ice.

When the students go over to the cows you really have their attention and have a great opportunity to start a conversation. Everyone wants to pet the calves and as soon as they ask their first question, the dialogue is open. It could be them asking the calf’s name, if it’s a boy or girl, how old they are, no matter what it is you have started a positive conversation about agriculture. The Dairy Club also lets people try their hand at milking a cow, and apparently it is a lot harder than I thought! I grew up milking cows and it came natural to me so watching college students try something new for the very first time is fun. It gets them to sit down and get a fun, hands-on experience in the dairy industry. And then when the milk squirts from the teat, their reactions range from bewildered and shocked to completely fascinated!

Cows make people happy.

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Lined up in the rain to pet the calves!

Spending time in the barn with cows always made my day better and it’s not only farm kids that feel this way. Petting the calves would make people’s week.  I’m sure most of you understand that after a stressful week of homework, class and studying, it doesn’t take much to brighten your day. And if that bright spot involves the agriculture industry, all the better. Last year I was talking to a girl that had been by to pet the calves at least three times already that day. She was from Indianapolis and had never seen a cow before, but quickly fell in love with the two little calves we brought to campus that day. She stopped by between every class just to ‘check on the calves.’ We talked about the industry and the Dairy Club and she ended up joining the club that day! Every time we had an event with the cows, she was always the first one there. She loved working with the cows and said it always made her feel better.

People do appreciate us.

There are people that are really thankful for the dairy industry and agriculture in general. It is really nice to hear that many people do appreciate all the hard work we do. When hosting events, we always get some people that thank us for what we do in the agriculture industry. They talk about how much they love milk and cheese and know that they have the farmers, and the cows, to thank for it. We love to hear that our event is appreciated and love to hear about positive experiences with agriculture.

You can’t please everyone.

On the other side, there are always going to be people that disagree with you and you won’t be able to change their mind. One year we had a few people show up to protest milk and production agriculture. Through this experience, I learned that some people will agree with you, some will disagree, and there is a portion that falls somewhere in between. Focusing on the “moveable middle” will help us communicate about agriculture, and I believe handing out free grilled cheese and introducing them to a cow is a great impression on our part.

Milk Monday (1)

Purdue Pete getting his chance to feed dthe calf!

As a Dairy Club member, Milk Monday became my favorite day of the year. Not only did it kick off Ag Week, it was the day I got to share my passion. I got to spend all day hanging out with the calves and talking to people about the dairy industry – it can’t get much better than that. On Milk Monday, students get a taste of the dairy industry, they see how awesome cows are, realize how hard farmers work, and remember that dairy products can be a great part of a healthy balanced diet.

 

 

 

 

 

Growing up the Farmer’s Daughter

Some children grow up in the suburbs, others in the big city, some live in large mansions, others in small apartment buildings, but I believe I had the best place of all tpicture-in-front-of-barno grow up. Where would that be you might ask? My family’s dairy farm. Our farm is proudly located in the Land of 10,000 Lakes (Minnesota) and has been there for four generations. Each and every day on the dairy is something very special to me. There are triumphs and challenges, but I could not be more thankful to have been raised with agriculture in my roots. Here are three of the most important life lessons I learned growing up as the farmer’s daughter.

The cows come first. Always.

Regardless of the day or time, cow care is the top priority for my family. In my home, we do not eat supper or lunch until the cows have received their’s. We don’t clean our home, until the cow barn is taken care of. We don’t go to the doctor until the veterinarian came to check on our cows. Everyone in my family knows and fully understands that the cows come first. Farmers just like my dad, work tirelessly everyday of the year to make sure that their animals are well cared for. Imagine getting a call from your boss at 2:30 a.m. telling you to get to work right away. Most of us would question their sanity and then roll back over in bed. That is not the case for farmers. If my dad knows a cow will be calving in the middle of the night, I can guarantee you he will be up monitoring the birthing process ensuring the cow and newborn calf are well and healthy. There is no such thing as a ‘day off’ in my family.

There is always something to learn.

There are just some things that cannot be taught in the classroom. Thankfully, I have learned many life lessons on the farm. Work ethic, growing from mistakes and failure, and the importance of advocating for what you love are all proficiencies I have learned from the dairy. When you have to be up at sunrise and do not get to bed until way after sunset, you begin to be appreciative for the fact that you have a job that makes time go by in the blink of an eye. When you spend a countless number of hours preparing the land and planting your crops in the spring only to watch a hail storm destroy everything, you begin to be thankful for the fact that no people or animals were hurt. When you read and hear about organizations trying to destroy your livelihood by spreading misinformation, you begin to find the courage within yourself to stand up for what you believe in. I am a better person because of the trials and tribulations, victories and accomplishments I have had on the farm.

Family is forever. kylas-family

It is definitely not a ‘normal’ thing to have to work with your parents, grandparents, and siblings every day, but truthfully, I would not have it any other way. Each day, my family and I wake up knowing that we are taking care of cows that are producing wholesome, nutritious milk and are feeding the world. Being able to lean on your family in times of success and defeat is something I will never take for granted. We support one another in all aspects of our lives, especially when it comes to the farm.

Farming is a family affair. We farmers love what we do and are thankful for the opportunity to work alongside some of our closest friends and family. Just because a farm is large, does not make it a “factory farm” instead of a family farm. Ninety-seven percent of farms in America ar
e family-owned. Just as a person from town or a large city may want to go back to the family business, children of farmers want to do the same. With more family members wanting to continue their agricultural legacy and tradition, it is important that the farm expands in order to support multiple generations. Regardless of the size of the farm, animal care is going to be our top priority.

Do you see whfamily-farms-for-blogy life on the dairy farm has meant so much to me? I would not be the person I am today without the life lessons learned and the family who helped to raise me on the farm. I can assure you that I am not the only one who has ever felt this way. People all across the country are thankful to have been raised in agriculture and are passionate about producing our world’s food and fiber. Being an actual farmer may not be in my career aspirations, but I know that agriculture will be in my future. After all, I will always be the farmer’s daughter. 

5 things to know about dairy farming

If you read my last blog post, you may know that I am a dairy cow person. Something about those black and white spots drew me in and I stuck around for the ice cream. During my collegiate studies, I have had the opportunity to meet and speak with some of the hardworking individuals who look over these cows and provide high-quality dairy products for American families. Here are five things to know about dairy farming:

1. Animal care is the first concern for dairy farmers.  

Animal well-being and care is the top priority in any production animal facility. Dairy farmers work hard to ensure that every animal receives the best 12442717_1081168835279252_1142547140_ntreatment. Calves grow up to become the cows that produce milk, so farmers make it a priority to get them off to a healthy start. Most dairy calves are moved into calf hutches – clean, dry individual pens that have ample space for the calf to freely move about – after birth and live there for the first three months. Each calf receives individual milk feedings while also having access to water and feed around the clock. Housing calves individually prevents disease between calves, allows the farmer to closely monitor each calf, and gives the calf a clean environment to live in.

Cow comfort is important to dairy farmers because comfortable cows are happy cows. Dairy farmers provide clean, dry bedding for their cows and access to food and water 24 hours a day. Farmers closely watch the herd to monitor each cow. Dairy producers are committed to providing quality animal care.

2. Dairy farmers work with veterinarians and other experts to provide the highest quality products and animal care.

The dairy industry works with veterinarians and other experts to establish guidelines for the proper care of dairy cows. The National Dairy FARM Program is a nationwide, verifiable animal well-being program that brings consistency and uniformity to on-farm animal care and production practices. The FARM program provides resources for farmers including materials on animal care, environmental stewardship and herd health. More than 90 percent of all the milk in the United States comes from farmers who have joined the FARM program. FARM promotes a culture of continuous improvement that inspires dairy farmers to do things even better every day.

3. Dairy farmers are committed to environmental stewardship

Dairy farmers live on or near the land that they farm. They understand the importance of protecting natural resources and that caring for the land, water and air is a responsibility they share with he local community. Dairy farmers work with experts to find ways to reduce their environmental footprint, conserve water and develop renewable energy sources. Dairy farmers can recycle manure as high quality fertilizer on the fields. Federal, state and local clean water laws regulate how manure is applied on cropland, so nutrients are absorbed by crops, not groundwater. Farmers can clean, recycle, and reuse dairy cow bedding. The dairy industry has significantly reduced the greenhouse gas emissions that goes along with making a gallon of milk and has voluntarily committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emission by another 25 percent by 2020. Dairy farmers know that the key to sustainability in agriculture is only reached by being responsible stewards of the environment.

4. All milk goes through strict quality controls to ensure safety.

Dairy farmers are committed to providing a safe, wholesome dairy products like cheese, milk and yogurt. Strict governmental standards ensure that both conventional and organic milk are wholesome, safe and nutritious, so you can feel confident in consuming all varieties of milk, cheese and yogurt. Milking equipment delivers milk directly from the cows in a refrigerated holding tank to preserve freshness and safety. The milk is then quickly transported to processing plants for continued freshness and safety. Did you know that every tank of milk in the United States is tested for antibiotics? In the unlikely event that milk tests positive for antibiotics, it is disposed of immediately and does not enter the food supply. All of these measures demonstrate dairy farmers’ commitment to providing safe and healthy products.

5. Milk is a nutritious part to any diet!

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If you are a lucky calf, you can drink your milk and have your ice cream too!

Dairy is an important source of vital nutrients including calcium, vitamin A, phosphorus and protein. Dairy isn’t just milk, of course. Other dairy foods, such as yogurt and cheese, are packed with nutrients and vitamins that are part of a healthy lifestyle. For good health and essential nutrients, it is important to get your three servings of dairy everyday!

So go ahead and enjoy that glass of milk, cup of yogurt, slice of cheese or my favorite, scoop of ice cream. If you want to know more about the dairy community, visit www.dairygood.org!

 

 

 

Dairy Carrie: PETA’s Undercover North Carolina Dairy Farm Video

Yesterday, PETA struck again. This time they are attempting to slander a family farm in North Carolina. Blogger and dairy farmer, Dairy Carrie wrote an excellent blog explaining the truth behind the video. If you know anyone who believes that PETA’s work is beneficial to the welfare of animals or worse, they believe PETA speaks the truth, share this blog and shine a light on all the manure PETA spreads!

Periodically, the Alliance will be highlighting bloggers within the agricultural community. Dairy Carrie is an awesome example of a farmer and advocator for agriculture!

This afternoon I got an email about a new video that the People For Ethical Animals (PETA) had posted on their social media sites. My first thought was to roll my eyes, PETA isn’t exactly known to be the sane voice in animal welfare or even animal rights for that matter, but never the less I went and watched the video.

After watching the video for the first time I was disgusted! The video shows cows slogging through incredibly deep manure. Their legs are dirty and the amount of manure in the barn is unbelievable!

I started talking to other dairy farmers about this video and how there was absolutely no defending it when I realized something… The barn they show really is unbelievably dirty… as in so dirty that you have to ask yourself if what they are showing you is really real.

As I watched the video again I realized that the cows themselves were telling me the truth…

Peta Video from Dairy Farm

I see a lot of manure, I see cows with dirty legs. But I see something else, something that most people that aren’t around cows wouldn’t even think about or notice…

Clean Tails? Clean Tummy? Look at that bright white tail on the first cow. If she had in fact been living in filth like they show how in the world would she have kept her tail so clean? And as any dairy farmer knows, once a cow's tail gets covered in manure and she uses it to swat at the flies, her whole back gets covered in manure. I don't see that.

Our cows live in a “freestall” barn like this. The cows lay in a stall with their butt towards the alley. The alley is about 6 inches lower than the stalls the cows lay in. This is designed this way so that when a cow poops (remember cows have no problem pooping while laying down) the poop falls away from the cow and her udder.

This is our freestall barn. The girls are relaxing in their clean sand bedded stalls. We scrape the manure out of the alley twice a day while the girls are being milked.

However in this video the alley is so full of manure that if a cow was laying in the stall not only would her hips end up with manure on them, her tail would be covered in it. Once her tail was covered in manure and she flicked at flies, the rest of her body would be covered in manure as well. None of the cows in the video are dirty like that!

If you look at the cow above the knees... she's clean. Wait? What? How could that possibly be the case if she was living in such filth?

Look beyond the manure...

When I look beyond the manure I see a group of cows that are clean when if they were living in this barn they would be filthy from head to toe. I see a feed area with not a scrap of feed in it and my experience in dealing with manure tells me that this stuff has been moved around recently. While I don’t know this farmer and I don’t know the story about what’s going on here, to me it looks like these cows were paraded through this area for the purpose of making this video. The lack of feed in the feed area, coupled with the amount of manure makes me wonder if this part of the barn was being used for temporary manure storage rather than to house cows. That may be odd but it’s not abusive to the cows!

Aside from the manure situation let’s look at what the rest of the video says…

Voiceover Man Says- "This cow, only identified as '2' by a tag on her ear..."

Ok Mr. Voiceover man, this is kinda silly. I’m guessing that you didn’t ask the farmer about this cow. Maybe you tried asking the cow herself how she would like to be addressed?
This is like taking a photo of a guy waiting at the DMV and saying “This man only identified as 463, by the number in his hand.”… If you asked me I could tell you everything about my cows, from their name to who their mother and grandmother is but if you walked onto my farm you would see numbers in their ears.

What's going on here?

Here Mr. Voiceover man says that this cow is clearly emaciated because you can see her bones. I’ve covered this topic already HERE. The cliff notes version is that unless a cow is morbidly obese, you will always see it’s hip bones. This is how cows are built, they are not hippos nor should anyone expect them to look like hippos!

The voice over in the video calls this farm a “Dairy Factory” however from what I can see in the video, their milking parlor is smaller than ours, meaning that they aren’t set up to milk a lot of cows.

About that manure pit?

This manure pit looks pretty dang full to me. Mr Voiceover man tells us that it’s been sitting so long that the top hardened. Well, first of all, the point of having a manure pit is for it to contain manure until the farmer is able to haul the manure out without having to worry about runoff from heavy rains or snow melt. I wrote about how farmers handle manure HERE. Secondly, this manure pit is under a roof. This allows the farmer to divert rainwater from the manure pit, that’s a good thing! That would also explain why the top of the pit is dry.

About that manure pit...

PETA almost tricked me with this one. I watched the video and was ready to go and kick this farmer’s butt myself. If this video really showed what it says it shows the line of dairy farmers wanting to make sure this farm went out of business would stretch for miles. Nobody wants to see cows kept in conditions like this, especially dairy farmers.  I can totally understand how many people will watch this and walk away with a bad impression of not just this farm but all farms.

Of course that’s what PETA wants. As they say in the video, they want you to to go vegan. PETA claims that the milk from this farm went to Harris Teeter stores, however the milk company that buys milk from this farm has said that is incorrect. Considering PETA’s track record on getting their facts right, that’s not very surprising.

I don’t know what the full story is here and I’ll certainly do more checking but I feel confident that what the video is trying to show isn’t how things really are. If I find more information out, I’ll update this post.

I’m glad I took the time to watch this video again and see the real story. Unfortunately the Associated Press picked this story up this afternoon and sent it out to thousands of newspapers and television statements. Because of that, dairy farmers like myself get an undeserved black eye and now have a huge hill to climb to get the correct information out.  I hope you’ll share this post with your friends and not let PETA pull the wool over more people’s eyes.

To learn more about how dairy farmers care for cows please visit these sites-
The Dairyland Initiative

Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin

To read more from Dairy Carrie visit her blog at http://dairycarrie.com/