Dairy CowThe following is an outside perspective on the realities of dairy farming in response to the recent PETA ‘undercover’ video on one of the Land ‘o Lakes supplying dairies.  Cathy Mills of Catren’s Shar-pei  is the original author and retains all rights on this commentary.  Re-printed with permission

She outlines the challenges much better than I could. 

From the looks of this farm, they probably milk a few hundred (maybe even a thousand+) cows. For every cow that is producing milk there are at least 3 to 4 animals behind her in different stages of growth and development to take her spot after she stops producing around 5 -6 years of age. So if they are milking say 300 dairy cows, they have another 1200 animals in different stages of growth. This operation looks to milk more than that. When you have that many animals – things happen.

This is a 24/7 job. No breaks, rain, freeze, snow…you are out there taking care of those animals. You learn to work in all types of slop and such and to deal with the animals in such.

As for the conditions of these animals are under – it rains; when it rains, you get mud, because that is what these animals create very quickly and very efficiently in a very short time going in and out of the barn. Whether they go to field or not during the day does not matter, because they will walk through mud to get into the barn. And if given a choice – Holsteins won’t go out if they have enough food in front of them. The way to stop the slop:  build concrete alleys but there is still slop to get to the alleys.

The alley where the cow was down and the other cows were walking around her?   Look closely, this gets hosed down on a regular basis and is cleaned (USDA regulations). It just so happens that dairy cattle have a very liquid manure and when mixed with all of the urine you get this slop and cows slip and fall. Do farmers want to see this happen? NO. A cow can break a hip, another animal step on the udder and tear it open, etc. The concrete is variegated but believe me, when these animals come into the barn in a hurry to get to feed, they do stupid things. And once down, it takes a lot for them to get back up as they lose their equilibrium, their stomachs can twist and they have to get to their chests to get quieted down and gather themselves to get back up. The person who took the video, who was supposed to be working there, was the abuser. Instead of shooting the video he should have shut the cows off from coming through and been rolling that cow onto her chest to help her up.

As for the cows down – Holsteins are the worst (sorry to those of you that like this breed but I can’t stand them). They are bred for one purpose and one purpose only = milk production. Their main goal in life is to eat, produce milk, and poop. If they get sick – they die. No will to live. If they go down and decide to stay down, you won’t get them up. I have tried, I have watched other people try. We have pushed, we have kicked, we have used shockers, we have put bullrings in the nose and pulled. I have even seen people hoist them up and they will hang there until either they decide to get up, or if sick get better, or die.

Farmers do not want downers (a cow that won’t get up) or a sick cow. They can’t take them to market as a cow has to get out of the trailer on her own feet. If she collapses in the alleys at the market, she can’t be sold and the owner can be charged for the removal of the body. If signs of sickness are seen, the vet at the markets have the right to refuse the animal to sell. These are all laws that thanks to groups like PeTA are enforced.

There is some sense to them and it is a totally different subject. If the cow dies on the farm, the farmer has to pay for the rendering plant to come and pick up the body. This service used to be free as the rendering plant got the body to do with what it may and make money off of it, but no more.

Last time I checked it cost around here $40/head for them to come out and the bodies have to be removed as again per USDA regulations.

Finally the dirty legs of cows while being milked. I just sit here and shake my head. Mud is a reality when it rains. You cannot hose down and clean the legs of each cow before putting on the milking machine.

Requirements are for the teat and udder base to be clean (which you want as all the milk goes into one tank and one dirty cow can cause the loss of the entire tank – 500+ gallons and then increases fromDairy products there), sterilized with udder cleaner, slap on the milkers. If you are lucky, the cow does not stomp and cause dirt to get into the teat cups which then have to be cleaned. After being milked, the milkers removed, a quick rub with a rag and each teat is dipped in medicine to close down the orifice and not let germs, etc get in and cause mastitis. People who do this are efficient and know their job. In fact in a big enough barn, they start at one end putting on the milkers, by the time they reach the other end they walk back and start removing and the cows are released to leave. If you have to stop this rhythm to clean equipment, you are wasting time and energy. They know their job and how to keep the milk clean and healthy for you and me. Besides samples are taken each milking (or on a timely basis for the 24 hour operations) and tested for bacteria growth etc.

Milking barns if kept in constant use on a 24 hour basis, must be shut down every so often (can’t remember if it is 12 or 24 hours), hosed down, cleaned and equipment cleaned and sterilized. Of course on smaller operations when you finish milking than you get to clean the barn. In some cases, you milk, clean the barn and start milking again, clean the barn, sleep and start all over the next day.

And somewhere in between the farmer has milk testing and marketing, milking equipment and tank maintenance, crops and hay to raise, silage to make, feed and additives to mix, hay to put out, fence to fix, bottle babies to feed and raise, calves to be birthed, cows to rotate in pasture, cows to check in pasture, sick cows to be taken care of, cows to be taken to market, building maintenance, inspections to schedule by the USDA, computers to learn, reset and use in operations, bills to pay, loans to bargain for, family to raise, sleep and eat. And I am sure I forgot something – oh yes, machinery to fix to be able to do the majority of all of this.

Around here, dairies are going under. A very good friend of mine is losing money every month, but he has been in milking for generations and his son is trying to take it over. But right now they are not making it. It is costing him to produce milk. But he does not want to get rid of his herd (Brown Swiss and Holstein – the Brown Swiss are some of the best in our state). Right now dairies are petitioning the state assemblies for help.

PeTA knows all of this – here again, let’s get something out to the public and dramatize it.

Dairy Cow2BTW – The calf that was sick…I saw a healthy calf that was laying in the mud. Bright eyes, clear nostrils, no labored breathing. Cattle like to lay in mud because once their body warmth gets into it below them, it becomes a natural sauna for them. Same reason they love to lay on manure piles. Sick calves look sick and don’t respond to anything. Really sick calves are on their sides as are dead calves.

Sorry this is so long, but we have to educate and it begins here. Visit a dairy operation and volunteer to help on it for a couple of days – you will see what I have written is true.

Cathy Mills, Catren’s Shar Pei


13 Responses to “Got Dairy Farm? Reality Check Response to PETA video”

  1. Animal Lover says:

    Cathy –
    You are 100% spot on!!!! Farmers work constantly – farmers valuer their animals – farmers would NOT abuse their animals. Sometimes – as in this case, they make a mistake and hire an IDIOT! This idiot SHOULD have been helping. It's like a car accident – there's a fire – you can take pics – or you can save a life! Unfortunately – the general public is STUPID about where they get their food, they're ignorant and don't even want to be educated! The ads for the LA County Fair have been accurate – want meat, go to the supermarket, what noise does a pig make, what food gorup is cotton candy, DUH!!! The dumbing down of America!! Worship your rock stars – become sheeple!!!! Drink their kool-aid!
    : (

  2. peta hater says:

    Thank you Cathy for a very well written article.

    peta is milking this video for all it is worth. They are pleading for donations on Facebook to "save" calves. They are using the pretense that they will "help" calves by putting them in sanctuaries, they claim they can save billions if only people will donate, and people are so gullible, they have already collected over $50,000.

    I don't know where they would get billions of calves (even if what they say is true, and I know it's not) as there are only around 100 million cattle in the US in total.

    This campaign shows the complete absurdity of peta, the organisation that claimed it was too expensive to rehome cats and dogs.

  3. peta hater says:

    Someone needs to make a response video.

  4. Mel says:

    PETA hater – there are 6.6 billion people on the earth… but only about 200 MILLION cattle.

    And, I'm one of those that has high suspicions about the ad too – because even I know a cow (or horse) on its side means it's got severe health issues or is dead. Unfortunately, people like PETA are so moronic that they don't really know the truth – they've probably NEVER been to these places or if they have, they realize that there ISN'T what they claim and they manipulate it to fit their view.

    It's like Ringling – that circus has been around for decades, and if they're abusing elephants, I would expect that the perps are fired. They have also hired (I don't know if she's still there or not) a tiger tamer before who DIDN'T use a whip or fire – and totally respected the animals (never mauled BTW – but did get a few scratches).

    When I've challenged PETA to give the USDA UNEDITED footage, they said "We don't have to – the footage speaks for itself." They maintained that status when I even said that every common joe knows damn well that they heavily edit footage and it could read manipulating.

    PETA obviously knows what it's doing – it's manipulating information to get what they want – money. IMHO, they're not a NFP, they're an entertainment industry now and should have that status – and ensuing tax breaks – revoked.

  5. Sharky says:

    Very nice article, Cathy. PETA's wanting to help animals is admirable, but their methods are far from helpful. Posing naked in front of stores that sell fur and leather do nothing to help animals, except make the people who do it look like idiots. Neither do harassing and threatening people. Most farmers would never treat their animals like PETA claims. Abuse would stress the animals out, producing poor quality meat, fur, and leather. Believe me, poor-quality would taste terrible, and people don't want that. They want good-tasting meat, and treating animals very well is the way to go. PETA always makes claims that animals are defenseless. Any farmer would tell you that animals are far from defenseless. In fact, they can be very dangerous. I don't know how many farmers have been trampled, kicked, and bitten by the cows they feed or pecked by the chickens and turkeys they handle. Wild animals aren't defenseless either. Most animals have some kind of weapon they use to defend themselves and fight. Examples include lions using their teeth and claws to get at each other or to horde food and zebras kicking at predators to defend their foals or to establish dominance. All that PETA wants is attention, and they'll do anything to get it. They use celebrity spokespersons like Pamela Anderson to get their message out, and most of them are questionable in their support for the organization. In fact, many of them are B-listers whose careers are fading fast or going nowhere. If PETA would focus on the small number of people who do abuse animals, then I would respect them. Unfortunately, they choose to accuse anyone who use animals in even the slightest way of animal cruelty. They did some good for animals when they first started, but now, all they care about is getting money for their own selfish gain.

  6. javajoe says:

    PETA is primarily a propaganda machine, and does very little to actually improve conditions for animals. It seems almost a crime that PETA can claim tax-free status as a "charitable organization," all the while using charitable donation to unfairly attack legitimate businesses such as dairy farms.

    The world is not a perfect place. Animals get sick, so do humans. Every instance of illness does not translate to widespread cruelty in farming practices.

    PETA should have its tax-free status revoked. It is an anti-social, uncharitable organization with not much different, in my view, than terrorist groups like ALF and ELF.

  7. sarah says:

    Very good article cathy,

    these people use the ploy pulling on peoples heart strings to milk them out of money my great grandfather owned a dairy and my mother said he was extremely meticulous about his cattles health and well being.

    I myself grew up on a ranch and cattle are to me dirty animals and you are right the love to lay on manure you pile manure in the middle of a 2 acre pen and put 10 cows in 9 of those 10 will be on the manure pile thats just cows.

    I hope more people read this and realise that Hurting the cow isnt smart business practice

  8. Pam Ernest says:

    Bull**** to you animal exploiters…in response to this article I will donate another $100 to Peta

  9. Great Article, Cathy! I appreciate the time it took you to write this. Thank you for sharing the word about people in ag.

  10. Kim says:

    Cathy, your post was right on. I have volunteered on a dairy farm. I was all fumble fingers learning to milk the barn. After three or four milkings I was right in the groove. I loved the work! I've since worked in an environmental lab, a 17,000 acre farming and ranching operation, and in the trucking business. The trucking business is our own and has allowed our family to return to the farm life. We raise beef cattle in a seed stock enterprise. Your correct we care about the health of our cattle. Health means the difference between profit and loss. We are CEO's, accountants, marketing experts, in a manner of speaking vets, soil scientists, mechanics on our tractors and equipment, laborers, find time to care for the trucking business, manage a household, and provide a college education for our children without aid from the government.

    As for Pam, like the rest of PETA and HSUS animal rights folks, you can't give facts. You have been blinded by shock value images!

    And the thing which constantly irritates me the most about the general population is that farmers and ranchers aren't dumb. The things Cathy listed and I listed are a never ending process of learning. Most of our nations population has no idea how to produce food. If for any reason there is a failure in the supply chain of food the greatest majority of our country would immediately go hungry. I won't.

    Thanks for a great blog.

  11. kat says:

    Great Job Cathy..I'm so sick of the ignorance to farming by these PETA people

  12. jess9ks says:

    You talk about cows being "stupid", how you dislike a certain breed, and kicking/shocking/using bull rings to try to get an already ill cow to stand up. I think this all speaks for itself…. just another dairy farmer who does not intrinsically value the wellbeing of each individual cattle. Quite sickening if you ask me. "As for the cows down – Holsteins are the worst (sorry to those of you that like this breed but I can’t stand them). They are bred for one purpose and one purpose only = milk production." What should be expected from a farmer who says she "can't stand" some of her cows. WOW! Thanks for reinforcing PETA's work. As for everyone who has something to say about PETA, at least the people of PETA are selflessly for SOMETHING, while most people live their lives day to day with only their interests in mind. I personally feel compassion should be valued over personal monetary gain, but sadly I know I am of the minority.


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