Friday, January 30, 2015

     I try to be a positive ag-vocate for the dairy industry.  I admit, it is sometimes hard to be proud of what you do, how you make your living, when some people think what you do is cruel and serves no purpose.  This week, there was a dairy industry take-over of the social media sites.  Meaning, dairy farmers and those involved with dairy, signed up to participate and spread the good word on Milk.  We remained positive in our approach, not tearing down other products or people but simply stating the positive facts about milk.  Hopefully lots of conversations were started and questions asked and answered.
     However, the day after this, an article showed up on my facebook feed from someone else, stating how milk does not do a body good.  It only takes one headline to bring all the positive down.  When you are passionate about something, when another bashes it, it really deflates you.  Responses to this article were along the lines of how we "force feed" our cows corn because it is cheap, they are not allowed to roam, and we feed them rotten feed.  I just want to scream, "if you only knew!" 
     Lets put the milk on the side for now.  On our animals.  Yes they are animals, just like your favorite cat or dog, an animal.  On the topic of force feeding.  I don't know how anyone would force feed a 1200lb animal.  If she is not willing, she won't eat.  On the rotten feed:  yes some hay or silage or corn may get in that is not 100% awesome.  But, if feeding rotten feed was a common practice, we would have sick cows that gave no milk.  They would lose babies if they would even cycle and got bred. We do not want sick cows, we want healthy cows.  We have a vet that is here at least once a month to check cows and calves.  We have a nutritionist that figures the very best ration for feed for the very best healthy cows.  I have never seen a "drunk" cow from fermented feed.  She may have a gut ache, or diarrhea, but not wobbly.  If she seems off-balance, there is something else wrong for which she will be given a supplement to help her stabilize.  Corn is not a cheap food to feed, look at the markets.  Much of our income each  month is devoted to corn alone.  That's not counting the hay, haylage, corn silage, mineral, soybean meal, and feed pellets.
cows eating of their own free will.

     And last but not least, is the terrible conditions we supposedly lock them up in.  The cows honestly don't seem to care.  For the better part of the year, there is grass, alfalfa, and corn 20 ft. away from our cows.  They are kept in by a single strand of  wire.  Our cows are allowed to go out on dirt if it is dry.  I hear numerous times, bring your pets in when it is cold. Several commercials are dedicated to that statement.  Now when we as dairy farmers provide a dry, warm shelter, we are cruel.  How can it work for one set of animals and not the other?  And to add to that, cows are made for cold weather.  They increase hair and fat for better insulation.  Not many, if any, cows and calves would survive a cold, harsh, northern winter without shelter.  So if they were allowed to roam free, they would likely be dead. 
     Every farmer will tell you they have a favorite animal.  One that may be friendlier, or has overcome illness, or even one with a face only a mother would love.  We have those.  It doesn't mean the others don't count.  They all matter.  We provide the same care for all of them.  There are the groups who stand by and let an animal get abused just for the sake of a video.  What does that say about them?  I, for one could not stand by.  It makes me sick.  Every profession has people working in it that give it a bad name.  Police, lawyers, doctors, preachers, and even parents.  The majority of all these people are good, honest, hardworking people, but some will still judge on the actions of a very few.
Alex and his heifer, Josey.

     To close, I stand by the dairy industry, no matter how difficult it maybe at times. It is our life and our way of life.  It is how we teach our kids to work hard.  They are taught life and death and how to love and respect our cows.  They are taught to take pride in their animals and treat them well, then they will treat you well.  It's not always about winning, but how you run the race. 

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