Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Our Response to ABC story tonight.

Like other proactive dairy farmers, I will also post my opinion about the news story that aired on ABC tonight titled "Got Milk? Animal Rights vs. US Dairy Industry".

First, let me set the story straight, we at Orange Patch Dairy and everyone of our dairy farming neighbors put the welfare and well being of our cows first everyday. We constantly strive to care for our animals, because the better job that we do caring for our cows, the healthier and happier they are. Happy cows make higher quality milk in greater quantities. If you read my blog you know first hand how hard we work to put our cows needs, some days, before our own.

At Orange Patch Dairy, we do not use tail docking as a management practice. Industry research has shown that tail docking, which was originally done to help keep cows clean, neither benefits nor harms cows. Being a null practice, we decided long ago that we would not dock tails to maintain cow cleanliness on our farm, but instead clip the long hair on the end of the tail. The short hair prevents the cow from getting full of manure and covering herself with it. We feel a hair cut is better than losing the aesthetic of a cow tail. The tail, while it looks pretty does have a purpose-swatting flies in the summertime, providing cooling, and something to hit that itch the cow can't reach.

We do however dehorn calves on our farm. I watched this video, and frankly saw only a couple things I would change. Cows with horns actually have a recessive trait, whereas cows naturally without horns (polled) have a dominant trait. The problem in the dairy industry is that the AI (artificial insemination) industry has not been able to produce enough popular polled bulls to help us breed the horn trait out of our traditional dairy cows (we expect this to change shortly). As a result, we have cows with horns. Horns need to be removed for the safety and protection of the animal, the facilities and the people that raise them. Cows with horns have the ability to do serious harm to each other, destroy buildings and fences, and harm the people that work with them. The injuries can be pretty gruesome. Horns can also break resulting in terrible infections or even bleeding to death. For these reasons, we remove our animals' horns.

At 14 days of age we dehorn. At this age the horns are very small and easily removed. The older the animal is, the harder the horn is to remove. We have our vet remove horns, mainly because he owns a gas powered dehorner, and we don't. We could do this but having a vet remove horns assures us that the horns are removed. We halter the calf, pull her out of her hut and make sure that we have her tied securely-so not to hurt ourselves and herself. We do not use a anesthetic at this time. We have discussed this practice with our vet and he believes that the injection would inflict more pain than the actual removal of the horn. We use a gas powered dehorner to cauterize the horn tissue surrounding the horn bud, and after a few seconds of brief pain we can pop the bud out. The calf is untied and returned to her hut. I know that this process causes little to no long term pain or damage, because by the time we walk back to the calf hut my calves are looking to have their ears scratched, neck rubbed and yes, even their head scratched. The benefits of doing this process at a young age is that they will never notice that it even happen. Years ago horns were removed when cattle we much older and they had to be cut out, leaving large wounds that could get infected or even bleed out. Sometimes this method was unsuccessful-and horns would grow back. Cauterizing horns, when done correctly is 100% effective. Days after dehorning calves, all that remains is a small scab, that will shortly fall off...and mainly itches, which means those darn calves come back from extra head scratching.

Dehorning is not a "large dairy" or "factory farm" practice, it is a universal practice amongst ALL dairymen. Dehorning is not cruel, but it is a practice which allows the animal to live a long healthy life-safe from being hurt by other herd mates. I believe that ABC should have done more homework before airing this story. The vast majority of American dairy cattle live the good life-comfortable environments, clean environments, excellent medical care, balanced nutrition, and care beyond their needs. A few isolated incidents do NOT paint an accurate picture of the dairy industry, don't believe me, see my YouTube Channel, my blog, see the blogs of those that I follow-all show dairymen caring for their animals EVERYDAY, 365 days a year.

If you have questions, don't be afraid to ask....I will answer them the best that I can.


  1. I didn't see the show, but they usually go for something to get ratings. Of course, most good dairy farmers take care of their cows, but that wouldn't get ratings. They need to provide equal time to you.

  2. Be sure to write to ABC reporter about this... such a shameful news item. I hope this doesn't hurt the dairy industry.

  3. Thank you Cathy and Beth for you support, and yes, I definitely wrote ABC!

  4. Awesome blog, Orange Patch! I wrote a response too and you can check it out at my blog, http://theblondecircus.blogspot.com Dairy on!

  5. good job educating. I was furious when I saw the news - I usually don't have it on, but I caught it none the less. We happen to be a "factory farm" - which is what I consider a bad label - we are a factory farm because of our size, but we are a generational farm with 10 families. I wonder how far they had to go to find such awful conditions? My husband said he read (so sorry I don't remember which one) in a farm magazine that ABC was invited to a dairy and shot footage that was never shown - it was a good dairy that probably portrayed the real truth and not their ajenda. The hours we invest, the things we go without to take care of our animals would amaze the general public. Like you, the farm comes first. Animals are taken care of the best we can. We are privileged to be part of a wonderful group of people who are feeding and clothing the nation. Too bad they aren't more grateful for the good job we do. Let them live in another country and let's see how they would feel. I too have a blog that includes life on the farm - not specifically, but in general. You do a great job - keep up the good work. www.randomramblingsof.blogspot.com

  6. Thanks Blonde Circus and Random Ramblings, it's nice to know that we are all working together on this! Great posts and keep fighting the good fight!

  7. I have eaten meat and dairy products for most of my life, but I'm now a vegan. Many issues troubled me with the production of dairy products. These include; cows being constantly made pregnant, calves being taken from their mothers after birth, downers, abuse, cows slaughtered when production decreases and the most heinous of them all, veal production. Male calves are killed upon birth or destined to live a short, hellish life (tethered and anemic). Also, I wonder how many of your dairy cows were still conscious when they were being slaughtered, after your "caring for our cows" ended?



    Go Vegan! Better for people, the planet and animals.


  8. I apologize for using the word heinous. That is very inflammatory. A better word would be "troubling."

  9. apple64: I am sorry for your misconceptions of the dairy industry that I know and participate in. I will try to address those issues that you have brought up, and feel free to ask more questions if you would like.

    1. Pregnancy: Our cows have calves once every 13.5 months. In nature, if not managed by farmers cows would have calves every year, much like deer. It's in their nature to reproduce every year, that's why they are already able to conceive 21 days after giving birth (but you may notice that on our farm we choose to wait to breed them later for their health and the health of their future calves).

    2. Calves are taken from their mothers for a bunch of reasons, but it is in the best interest of the calf and cow. By removing the calf we assure that they receive the correct amount of colostrum (milk from their mother) in a timely manner (with in a couple hours of birth) and return the calves to a nursuery pen where they can grow in a clean environment. Last time I checked, most new born babies are also put into a nursery after birth to keep them pathogen-free-this practice is much the same.

    3. Downers: It's the best interest for everyone in our industry to PREVENT downers. We do this by designing barns to PREVENT injuries, however cows are animals, and therefore they do get into accidents, no matter how hard we try to keep them safe. They even have accidents on pastures. At our farm we have a pack pen available to help to recover downers, back to completely healthy cows-we have a strong success rate in this pen. No dairy farmer wants a downer cow-just ask us, it's heart wrenching for us.

    4. Abuse: Absolutely NO dairy farmer that I know personally abuses their cows. And EVERY farmer that I know would personally attack a known dairy farmer that abuses their animals. At our farm, we work tirelessly to make sure that our animals are always calmly move to and from the parlor. No one hits our cows, it's not allowed. I give my cows names for a reason...because I care.

  10. 5. Cow slaughter: We send cows to slaughter for a number of reasons. Decreased milk production is one of those reasons, but it is never the ONLY reason. Our cows are sent to slaughter if they have a high mastitis rate (poor milk quality-some cow families are genetically more sensative to infections). We send cows to slaughter if they can't get pregnant: but only after trying to get them bred multiple times (most get tried at least 8-10 times before we give up and the cows have been milking for over a year, sometime almost 2 years). When a cow has been milking for over a year their production will naturally decrease. Our cows are sold when they can no longer cover their feed costs, which is about 40 pounds/day (or 5 gallons of milk). Unfortunately we don't get paid to keep cows for the sake of keeping cows (I would if I could), therefore we work hard to keep our cows healthy, so our cows can stay at our farm. I do guarentee that the cows that our farm sends to slaughter are in good health, and make excellent beef products. NO sick animals are sent to slaughter. And yes, I do eat my own beef from my own cows.

    6. Veal: I cannot speak for veal production, because our bull calves are sent to a raiser who grows them and pastures them until they are about 2 years old and 1600 pounds, then slaughtered for steaks and hamburgers. I have never had veal, nor do I desire to try veal.

    7. Slaughter Process: I know that where we send our cows for slaughter, they are not alive once they reach the cutting floor. There are major misunderstandings about the beef industry.

    I respect your views, but again, these are all based on misconceptions and assumptions about dairy farmers based on a number of "bad cases". We do not assume that all men are rapists because a handful of men rape, nor do we assume that all mothers beat their children because a handful of mothers beat their children. Please do NOT assume that all dairy farmers abuse their animals, because of a select few.

    Dairy farmers work hard every day to give the BEST care possible to their cows, somedays caring more for their cows than their own families.

    Dairy products are also a great source of calcium for strong bones-3 cups of broccoli vs. 1 8-oz. glass of milk-I think I will have my milk =)

  11. Hello Orange Patch Dairy,

    Thanks for your time responding to my concerns. I appreciate that. I wasn't insinuating that you abuse or mistreat your animals, as I know, from your response, that you are very humane. I know there are ethical people who raise livestock. I do know, though, that the negatives I talked about do occur in the dairy industry and in the world of factory farming, including pigs & chickens. The one practice I haven't been able to get around, ethically, is veal. If I were to consume dairy products, I know I would support that practice.

    Thanks again.


  12. Thank you Paul for taking the time to read my response! That means a lot to me. I don't how to explain veal, I wish I could, but since we don't produce a lot of it in MN, I am not familiar with it.

    Hopefully you will continue to follow my blog, and know that we care deeply for our animals everyday! Thanks Again!

  13. FACT: 1 pound of beef= 16 POUNDS of grain + 250,000 gallons of water. For ONE POUND OF BEEF!
    Think about the environment. Thank you “livestock” industry - for making the largest contribution of Greenhouse Gas Emissions to our environment and for contributing to the horrific veal industry. It’s sad and disappointing that “profit” makes it worth your while. What happened to ethics and morality? Does anyone care about the environment? Mmmmm milk does a body good? Puss and Glue? Education is needed.

  14. Anonymous: Apparently you are misinformed about Green House gases and the livestock industry, please see the follow: http://advocatesforag.blogspot.com/2010/03/un-report-debunked-again.html

    Livestock can actually REDUCE green house gases. Also the "gases" you talk about are from burbing, a regular part of ruminant digestion~the result of eating forages like grass.

    Profit is not why we dairy farm, but we expect that if we make a product that is safe, nutritious and delicious: we should get paid for that. For my husband and myself, well we dairy farm because we have a genuine LOVE for the cows that we raise and the land that we live on. I would go so far to say that we are more concerned about our environment than most US citizens, because we depend on it daily for our livelihood.

    You are correct, education is needed, to promote the goodness of dairy and the concern of dairy farmers for their cows and land.


I write this blog to share my passion for my cows and farming, please be respectful of that. I reserve the right to delete those comments which portray hate, call names, and are out right disrespectful. If you have an honest question, I will respond, to explain what we do on our farm, why we do it and how we do it. Please read with an open mind. My time to blog is short, as most of our days are spent caring for our beloved cows. Thank you!