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!

Advice from the best agriculture advocates

As part of the Alliance’s College Aggies Online Scholarship Competition that kicks off on September 16th, I asked the program mentors to share their #1 piece of advice they’d like to share with aspiring agriculture advocates. Here are a few of my favorites…

Listen

Lukas Fricke, Hog Farmer, ChorChek, Inc.: “We’re all people. I know it sounds far out and kinda “yuppie-ish” but we all share the same similar anatomy inside of us and all want to be heard. Listening to the human in a person and not the “conflict creating issues” is how we can make an impact. Now, I’ve made my fair share of quick judgments and fast comments but it takes time to break the feeling of being hurt right off the bat and making the commitment to truly listening and connecting with people. Everyone is scared to make the “right” decision, know that you play an important part in helping talk through those fears.” Follow Luckas!

Lukas Fricke

Don Schindler, Senior Vice President of Digital Innovations, Dairy Management Inc.: “I believe the smartest thing to do is to understand who you are talking to and how you would persuade them to trust agriculture. If you like them, want to entertain them and teach them with the upmost respect, you will succeed. Ignoring their desires, misunderstanding where they come from and forcing education on them is not the way to go.” Follow Don!

Don Schindler

Beth Breeding, Vice President of Communications and Marketing, National Turkey Federation: “Keep it simple and tell a good story – most Americans don’t understand agriculture, so we have to make sure our message gets across in the clearest way possible.” Follow Beth!

Keep an open mind

Cara Harbstreet, RD, Street Smart Nutrition: “Keep an open mind. Although you may be an expert in one area or have a particular set of skills, that doesn’t discount that someone else carries their own expertise in another area. They may seem like opposing sides of a topic but this is a great opportunity to learn and see things through another perspective. It opens the floor for a dialogue and conversation, versus an argument or shutting down. It’s important to avoid the echo chamber effect, especially with tough topics or controversial issues, so I believe in keeping an open mind before drawing assumptions about someone’s message or the reason behind their actions.” Follow Cara!

Cara Harbstreet

Tim Hammerich, AgGrad: “It’s impossible to be both curious and angry at the same time. Stay genuinely curious and you will avoid getting angry.” Follow Tim!

Focus on relationships

Jessica Peters, Dairy Farmer, Spruce Row Farm: “You can’t approach advocating like you’re educating consumers, nobody wants to be preached to. We need to focus on sharing our lives with consumers. We all want our advice and information from people we trust, if we work on creating relationships, trust will come with it.” Follow Jessica!

Jessica Peters

Lauren Arbogast, Chicken Farmer, Paint The Town Ag: “Don’t pursue people for the sake of “education.’ Pursue them for relationships, and the conversations about agriculture will happen.” Follow Lauren!

Rebecca Hilby, Dairy Farmer, Weigel Dairy/Hilby Family Farm: “BE YOURSELF. Once you start having fun on social media and show that you’re human just like your consumers, you’ll be able to relate to them and engage so much more!” Follow Rebecca!

Rebecca Hilby

Jennifer Osterholt, Strategic Marketing Consultant and Farmer, Osterholt Marketing & Communications LLC: “To connect with people we have to reach out. There is great opportunity for those of us in agriculture to learn what people care about and focus on communicating in those terms. I began sharing stories about farming and people in my personal circles read and followed me. When I transitioned to sharing recipes my traffic began growing in very noticeable ways. About 100,000 people click on my website each month looking for a great recipe. I gently weave stories about modern food production into my recipe posts. I would love to see others communicate with large volumes of people and help generate income for themselves in the process.” Follow Jennifer!

Jennifer Osterholt

Be honest

Allison Devitre, Regulatory Scientific Affairs, Bayer Crop Science: “Open, read and verify the information prior to sharing online. People that look to you as a credible source of information will find you a valuable resource if they can count on you for accuracy!” Follow Allison!

Allison Devitre

Karoline Rose, KRose Marketing and KRose Cattle Company: “Honesty and consistency. People want to hear the truth and hear it often.” Follow Karoline!

Marissa Hake, DVM, Veterinarian, Midwest Veal, LLC/ Strauss Feeds: “Be authentic and always fact check. Remember that it takes “all kinds of kinds” and we should be supporting all types of agriculture.” Follow Marissa!

Marissa Hake

Michelle Jones, Grain Farmer, BigSkyFarmher: “Find your passion. What are you the most passionate about? Crops? Agronomy? Animal Science? Ranching? Policy? Once you find your passion, simply start. Start talking. Start posting. Start telling your story and how your life is impacted by agriculture. It is as simple as taking the first step in what often seems to be an overwhelming and monumental undertaking.” Follow Michelle!

Students signed up for this year’s College Aggies Online Scholarship Competition will have the opportunity to network and learn these amazing people. If you are interested in participating, visit https://collegeaggies.animalagalliance.org. To follow along with this year’s competition, search #CAO19 on social media!

Could you be hiring an “undercover” activist?

Are the employees working on your farm there to help care for your animals? Do their goals align with your business? Unfortunately, it’s a common strategy for some animal rights organizations to have individuals go “undercover” on farms. They record videos that can be taken out of context, stage scenes of animal mistreatment or encourage abuse to record it without doing anything to stop it.

Hiring good employees
A farm worker taking care of cows.

While the first step is always ensuring your animal care practices are beyond reproach, the Animal Agriculture Alliance also advises farmers and ranchers to be vigilant when hiring. Ensure everyone hired is there for the right reason – to provide care to livestock – and does not have any ulterior motives that would distract from that.

7 tips for hiring farm employees

The Alliance is a non-profit working to bridging the communication gap between farm and fork for more than thirty years. We monitor animal rights activists and offers these tips when hiring:

  1. It is vital to thoroughly screen applicants, verify information and check all references.
  2. Be cautious of individuals who use a college ID, have out of state license plates or are looking for short-term work.
  3. During the interview, look for answers that seem overly rehearsed or include incorrect use of farm terminology.
  4. Search for all applicants online to see if they have public social media profiles or websites/blogs. Look for any questionable content or connections to activist organizations.
  5. Require all employees to sign your animal care policy. Provide training and updates on proper animal handling training.
  6. Require employees to report any mishandling to management immediately.
  7. Watch out for red flags, such as coming to work unusually early or staying late and going into areas of the farm not required for their job.

Trust your gut

Always trust your gut – if something doesn’t seem right, explore it further. Be vigilant and never cut corners, even if you need to hire someone quickly. Doing your homework on every job applicant may be time-consuming, but it can ultimately save your business’ reputation. As always, it is important to work with your legal counsel to ensure compliance with federal and state laws.

hiring employees
Are you hiring?

For farm security resources and background information on animal rights activist organizations, go to www.AnimalAgAlliance.org or email us. Members of the Animal Ag Alliance have access to more detailed resources on hiring and farm security.

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!

My favorite season: farmers’ market season

Everyone has a favorite season. Some love summer with sandy floorboards while others opt for fall with a pumpkin spice latte in hand. My favorite season is April – November…farmers’ market season.

My weekly farmers’ market trip

Every Friday and Saturday I go to the farmers’ market with my husband. One is just down the street from where we live in a shopping center parking lot and the other is only a few miles away in the local mall parking lot. I love getting a week’s worth of crisp apples, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, yellow squash, purple potatoes and juicy nectarines. I even came home with a slab of bacon after our last trip!

Apples, nectarines, potatoes, onion and grape tomatoes from the farmers’ market.

Although the delicious fruits, vegetables and meats are more than enough reason to keep going back, my favorite part is getting to meet and talk to farmers. Many of them are with their children, teaching them to run the register, help customers pick out the best tomato and answer questions about how their food is grown. It’s great to see my urban neighbors taking the opportunity to talk about where their food comes from.

Farmers’ markets connect the public to agriculture

Farmers load up their vehicles, hauling crates and coolers of food to nearby cities and towns. The white-topped tents go up and the fun begins! I walk around to every booth with my neon teal, reusable shopping bags (when I remember them!) deciding what to cook for the week based on what I see. One of the farmers I visit every Saturday is from Fredrick, Maryland and he always has the best honeynut squash. He also sells sweet potatoes, so I’ve been baking homemade sweet potato muffins every week. They make the perfect breakfast on the go! Another farmer is from West Virginia and I always make sure to go by his booth to get the sweetest peaches.

muffins
Homemade sweet potato muffins.

With not many people being raised on a farm anymore, farmers’ markets are a great opportunity to connect with farmers and agriculture. This is especially true if you can’t fit a farm tour into your busy schedule.

There are a lot of food myths out there, so it’s nice to get information straight from the source. While some farmers prefer to grow their vegetables or raise their pigs a certain way, they all care about agriculture and want to provide the best food they can to the public. Farmers are constantly thinking about environmental stewardship and animal welfare. It’s how they ensure their farm stays successful for years to come.

From the farmers’ market to the grocery store

market 2
My farmers’ market picks and bananas from the store!

Afterwards my husband and I head to the grocery store to get things like bananas, milk, bread, yogurt and other foods we consider weekly staples to go along with our farmers’ market picks.

Grocery and meal kit delivery are becoming increasingly popular, but I prefer venturing out myself. I love going up and down each and every aisle, even if I only have three items on my list. My husband hates this, but there’s just something about looking at all the different types of food that captivates me. I will definitely miss going to the farmers’ market every weekend once November is here, but I know my food is safe, nutritious and supporting farmers wherever I buy it.

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How are farm animals not freezing in this winter weather?!

Bundled up in scarfs, hats and gloves, families across the country are bracing for ice and snow with wind chills in the single digits. As children build snowmen and parents curse the wind while clearing snow off their vehicles, farmers and ranchers are making sure their animals stay comfortable. Farmers are the 24/7 caretakers of livestock and poultry – whether it’s 64 degrees or -2 degrees!

Poultry

Jennell Eck, a poultry farmer from Maryland, showing how warm the chicks are in the house.

Broiler chickens (raised for meat) are usually raised indoors, so they don’t have to worry about the cold weather. All modern chicken houses have a computer system that controls the lights, temperature and ventilation. When chicks arrive to the farm from the hatchery, the houses are pre-warmed to feel like summertime. As the chickens grow, they’ll be able to more easily regulate their body temperatures so farmers turn the thermostat dial down 10-20 degrees.

Turkey barns also come equipped with fancy computer systems to ensure the temperature is just right for the birds, especially with a lot of turkey farms in Minnesota where it often gets into the negative digits!

Pigs and cattle

Peggy Greenway, a pig farmer from South Dakota, sharing a beautiful sky while her pigs stay warm inside!

Pigs are also typically raised inside where farmers can set the temperature. Piglets need extra help staying warm, so they sleep under heating lamps with the barn temperature set at about 85. Similar to broiler chickens, once they are older the farmers adjust the thermostat to a comfortable 65.

Taking care of cattle in the winter is a bit different compared to pigs and poultry as most cows are outside and/or in barns with open doors/curtains, but that doesn’t mean the level of care is any less. If it gets frigid, dairy farmers can close the curtains, but did you know adult cows actually prefer cooler temperatures?

Calves on the other hand need a little extra help keeping warm. Dairy farmers give calves jackets, extra hay and make sure they stay dry. Extra feed is given to beef cattle and water buckets are always checked to ensure they don’t freeze. Cattle also have much thicker skin than humans, so they are able to handle the chilly winters without shivering.

Animal care comes first

Jacob White, a college student studying agriculture who helps his family on their Oregon beef ranch, remembers how last year’s snowfall was a bit too cold for a newborn calf, but his mom and dad jumped into action and made sure the calf received the best animal care:

Joan Ruskcamp, a rancher from Nebraska, making sure her cattle have enough feed and water during the snow.

“Rural eastern Oregon was hit with an unexpected two feet of snow last February. Usually, the majority of snowfall comes around December with never more than a few inches. At the crack of dawn, my dad was up, hooking the snowplow up behind the tractor. He was on his way to plow trails in the snow for the cattle herd to reach water. Mom followed closely behind with a trailer of fresh straw for the cattle to lay on.

With the unexpected cold front, this also meant increasing the amount of hay the cattle consumed to sustain their health in the cold weather. Windbreaks (tall and wide wooden structures to give the cows shelter from the wind) had been put up in the months prior and the “the girls” (female cows, as my dad likes to call them), were enjoying a fresh hay bale of alfalfa. All was well, or so my dad thought.

Changing weather conditions can also cause stress for the cow and sometimes induce birthing earlier than expected. On this cold and snowy day, exactly that had happened. After giving birth, the mother cow had done what she was biologically conditioned to do—lick her new offspring clean and stand the calf up for the first taste of colostrum (nutrient-rich milk of the cow present after the cow gives birth). But the newborn calf was cold, perhaps too cold on the brisk day.

Seeing this, my dad did what any rancher would do – anything and everything to ensure this newborn calf’s survival. Cautiously approaching the cow, he scooped up the calf and placed it on the floorboard of his truck with the heater going full force.  Hightailing back to the barn, the calf was placed under a heat lamp and given a nutritional milk supplement. A few short days later, the calf was in full health and frolicking in the fresh snow.

The calf warming up!

While this seems like an anomaly, it goes to illustrate the genuine passion and care agriculturalists have for the animals they raise. When temperatures drop, the health and well-being of the herd are on the forefront of a rancher’s mind.”

Now you know how farm animals aren’t freezing in this winter weather. Because farmers and ranchers care!

 

Why undercover videos aren’t the answer

They wear two faces, two hats, one hidden video camera and have one goal: to put all farming operations that produce meat, milk and eggs out of business. Undercover animal rights activists gain employment on farms across the United States and Canada under false pretenses to help animal rights groups produce undercover video campaigns.

Undercover video map
Undercover video map

Undercover videos

In the past two weeks I’ve watched more than 90 undercover videos from start to finish and researched past news coverage about each video, how the company responded and what actions were taken after the video surfaced. Sure I’ve seen undercover videos before, but this was the first time I actually sat down and not only watched, but analyzed about six hours worth of footage and media content.

Watching the edited videos filled with haunting background music was frustrating more often than not, but I’m glad I had the patience to analyze each video because I was able to find exactly what I was hoping for: reasons why these videos are not the answer to addressing concerns of alleged animal abuse in animal agriculture.

Before I dive into some common trends, let me first say that when actual animal mishandling or abuse occurs, the animal agriculture industry does not condone it or try to hide it. Farmers, ranchers and industry leaders are dedicated to providing the best animal care possible, but activist groups are not concerned about animal welfare and are hindering the ability of the animal agriculture industry to strive for continuous improvement.

Common trends 

As I was going through footage and reading what the activist groups claimed to have happened, I couldn’t help but notice common trends start to emerge within each video – all of which supported why activist groups aren’t concerned with stopping alleged abuse.

Here are just a few (I could write a book on this, but I’ll spare you the time):

1. Out of context

Dehorning cattle

The average length of an undercover video is about 3-4 minutes by design. Activist groups rely on the viewers’ lack of familiarity about animal agriculture to convince and mislead them into thinking that what they are viewing is without a doubt animal abuse when they could very well be watching a procedure that is for the long-term welfare benefit of the animal, approved and supported by science and for the safety of employees that work with the animal.

One example of something being taken out of context would be dehorning. This procedure may not be easy to watch for someone unfamiliar with raising cattle, but imagine how much pain another cow or an employee would be in if they had their side cut into by a sharp set of horns. People have even died from these types of injuries. Naturally polled cattle (cattle that are born without horns) are growing in popularity, but a transition to an entirely polled population wouldn’t be possible overnight. As long as there are cattle being born with horns, dehorning will be a necessary practice for everyone’s safety.

So remember… don’t believe everything you see and know that these videos only show what the animal rights groups want you to see.

2. Staged scenes

Undercover activists are paid up to $800 per week to capture footage of what they deem as inhumane. So what if they don’t find anything worth capturing? What if nothing they see is worth splicing together for an undercover video? We’ve heard that activists only get paid if they capture footage the animal rights groups can use, and this could very well explain why some activists are known to stage scenes and either encourage other employees or partake in abuse themselves.

Mercy for Animals ad
Mercy for Animals ad

One video taken at a poultry processing facility showed chickens in a room of the facility where they should have never been and was later determined that that the activist had access to the facility at night and staged the chickens and put them in danger just to shoot a video.

In another video at a dairy farm, the activist made sure cows were led through deep manure when the cows had no reason to be walking in that area. It was later found that this scene was staged and that if the cows were living in the conditions that the activist group had claimed, then they would be covered from head to tail in manure, not just their legs.

So if I am aware that undercover activists are staging scenes and even encouraging employees to break animal welfare protocols, then the animal rights groups must be aware since they supposedly expect an update from the activist each day. This begs the question that if they are aware then are they actually encouraging it too? Even if we give them the benefit of the doubt and say they are aware, but aren’t encouraging the activist to go to any measures possible to obtain footage of alleged abuse, then what are they doing to stop activists from encouraging or even being a part of what they claim they are trying to put an end to? From what I can see, nothing, because it continues to happen and a handful of activists have been charged as a result of their actions.

3. Refuse to cooperate with farm owners and law enforcement

Farm owners and law enforcement have requested to view the full, unedited video footage that the undercover activist obtained while working on the farm for the purpose of getting the entire story and finding out what exactly (if anything) went wrong and how to fix the situation so it doesn’t happen in the future. If activist groups were concerned about helping animals they would be willing to help management and law enforcement to take corrective action.

In all cases, the undercover activists leave employment before the video footage is released and therefore not available to answer questions regarding their concerns and what they allegedly witnessed because they are already undercover on another farm working on producing another video. If they are concerned about animal welfare, wouldn’t you think they would stick around and help in any way they possibly can?

4. Playing the innocent bystander

On many farming operations employers require their staff to sign an agreement stating that they will report any concerns about animal welfare immediately. Do the undercover activists sign this agreement? Yes. Do they adhere to the agreement and report concerns of abuse immediately? No, they just stand there and videotape. If I was witnessing something that I truly felt needed to be stopped, I wouldn’t be able to just stand there and watch from an arms-length distance. Would you?

Animal rights supporters often fire back with the argument that “we need to get as much evidence as possible” when asked why they wait to report concerns of abuse. Not only are undercover activists breaking protocols if they did sign an agreement, but all this so-called “evidence” that they are getting is not doing anyone any good. It is only prolonging this alleged abuse that they deem as their top priority. If you actually are witnessing true animal abuse it doesn’t matter if you have one instance or three weeks worth of footage.

5. Taking forever to release the video

I think I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again – this day in age it does not take more than a day to put video footage online. One activist group claims undercover “investigations” are the “livelihood” of their organization, so they should be pros by now and be able to edit together their catchy three-minute videos in a few hours, right? But they wait for days, weeks, months and sometimes even up to a full year to release video footage! A year!

Honestly, this is the most glaring flaw of the animal rights groups in my opinion because it screams hypocrisy. The fact that they wait so long to release and report concerns of abuse just proves that they are more concerned about fundraising and perfectly timing video releases within the media cycle and their own PR campaigns than stopping the alleged abuse.

What it means for farm owners

For farm owners, the concern has shifted from if they will run into an undercover activist to when will they encounter an undercover activist which creates distrust between employees and supervisors. Now owners have to worry about hiring people that are there for the wrong reasons instead of focusing their attention on how to improve their operation and take care of their livestock. Concerns of abuse need to be reported immediately so management can know about the situation and resolve it as soon as possible. Supervisors can’t be everywhere at all times and they can’t fix what they don’t know about, so they rely on their employees do their job and to report their concerns immediately, not five months down the road after their footage is made into a video or commercial.

What can you do?

Ask yourself: if you were concerned about the welfare of animals, would you help and report your concerns immediately or just stand there and do nothing for the sake of a campaign?

If you answered the former, then don’t let the activist groups mislead you into thinking they are here to improve animal welfare. I encourage you to speak up and share why you don’t support undercover video campaigns by posting your thoughts with the hashtag #ReportNotRecord, started by Dairy Farmers of America in response to an undercover video targeting one of its member farms.