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.