Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Why do you take the calves from their mothers?

I had a comment on one of my earlier posts where a concerned vegan had an issue with dairy farmers removing calves from their mothers. I thought about this practice and how misunderstood it actually is. So, since we had a brand new baby heifer calf born Sunday morning (which made us late for church-it was a good excuse) I thought it was a perfect example of this practice.

#663, otherwise known as Ruth Anne gave birth early Sunday morning (at about 5 am, when we weren't at the farm) to a little heifer calf, who is #814 in our records, but Ruthie to me. When we arrived at the farm for morning chores, I headed immediately to the dry cow pen, where I found Ruthie running around the pen and Ruth Anne keeping a watchful eye on her. Ruthie was making friends with the other dry cows, and needed to be moved. Healthy calves are able to stand and run at an hour old! Ruthie was loaded up in the wheel barrow and brought inside the calf barn, or nursery. Here Ruthie received an oral vaccination for scours, her navel was clipped and dipped with iodine. All 3 of these steps are done to assure that each calf born has a good start. Ruthie was placed in a freshly bedding stall, where she could be clean and free of pathogens. Just like babies born at a hospital and placed in a nursery. After making sure Ruthie was nested in, we headed outside to walk Ruth Anne to the milking barn. We walk our cows, it's the simplest way and the calmest method to move cows. Ruth Anne is a 2nd lactation cow, so she knew where she was headed. We ran Ruth Anne into the parlor and milked her. Ruth Anne then headed out to our fresh cow pen where she had free choice fresh warm water and all the nutritionally formulated feed she could eat.

Here Ruth Anne gets time to focus on taking care of herself, instead of worrying about her calf. Fresh cows require a lot of special attention. In the barn we check a variety of things every morning for ALL fresh cows, for their first 20 days. We check their temperatures (checking for infections), their rumen fill (how full their stomachs are), their ketosis level (liver health), and their bright eyes (overall health). If any of these items are off, we immediately work further to treat our cows, most of the time without antibiotics, but with probiotics. But enough about cows....back to Ruthie....

After milking Ruth Anne, we haul a pail of fresh colostrum (mother's first milk) back to the calf barn. We only feed colostrum from animals that we know are healthy and free of disease, if the mother is not free of disease we have frozen colostrum from healthy cows available to feed. Ruthie got fed over a gallon of colostrum, within hours of birth. In nature this is not always the case. Calves struggle to find their mother's milk and may not get the right amount, right quality or a timely feeding. Colostrum fed early in life increases passive immunity. Mothers pass immunity onto their calves through colostrum, but the calf is best able to receive this immunity during the early hours of life versus the later hours of life. Within 24 hours, on our farm, a calf will drink about 1.5-2 gallons of colostrum.

Another issue with letting calves suckle their mothers is an increased chance of infection in the calf and the cow. The calf can receive pathogens from the teats on the cow, since the teats are not properly cleaned. The cow can receive pathogens from the calf's mouth since it is also not clean. By using clean and sanitized equipment to collect colostrum and a clean and sanitized bottle to feed the calf we prevent pathogens from transferring, but still get the advantages of passive transfer immunity.

Other possible issues with leaving the calf with the cow are abandonment and injury. Sometimes there are mothers that are not good mothers. It doesn't come naturally. First calf heifers are some of the best examples of this. Once they deliver a calf, they may walk away, never lick off the calf and move to the feed bunk. The calf would be left to die, cold and wet. Sometimes cows, especially other cows, can hit or push around the newborn calf. They can even step on the calf. I have seen this happen, just after birth a fresh cow got up and swung around and stepped on her calf's leg. Luckily the calf wasn't injured badly.

Farmers care for their calves and fresh cows. Calves are the future of our herds-we want them to have an excellent start in life and cows are our present, and we want them to also have an excellent start. Removing calves from cows is not cruel, its actually in the best interest of both animals, both receive the best care possible. Because our cows always come first!


  1. Thanks so much for posting this! What I googled was "benefits of leaving calves with their mothers" and came across your very informative and insightful blog post. My husband is a dairy farmer (400 head) and calves have been getting sick, very sick, and dying left and right. They have decided to change the protocol and remove the calf immediately and since they've started, all 5 heifer calves born have been healthy.
    Anyway...my point is, I have felt very much against this but you explained the reasoning far more articulately than my husband..haha!
    Anyway, thanks - I'll be saving your blog in my favs.

  2. Amy: I am so excited that this post came up when you searched online! Hope to hear more from you and your farm in the future!

  3. For 50 years we raised grade Holsteins and never lost a calf to "infection" in the pasture, nor did we ever have a calf stepped on and injured by another cow. Cows are very protective of their young and instinct takes over with first calf heifers. Many times the best intervention, is no intervention at all. If you have a heifer who seems confused all you have to do is move her back toward her calf and she'll do just fine. Sorry, but the sugar coating isn't necessary. You're in production dairy to make money and you make the most money by taking the calf off of the cow. We left our calves on the cow and ran them in twice a day to nurse two other feeder calves. When our calves were weaned they were fat as pigs and healthy as horses. The only calves we would lose would be those that we bought off of commercial dairies as feeder calves.

  4. Anonymous: I am glad to hear that you were so lucky with your calves. I can only speak from experience, and that even if we chase our first calf heifers back to their calves, because we obviously want the heifer to clean the calf off, but so often the heifer won't do it. We allow the cow and calf some time to bond and sometimes the cow does a good job, but sometime they do not.
    Our dairy farm has always focused on the care of our cows and calves first. By making sure that the calf and cow are well cared for we ensure a successful future for our dairy. I am hesitant to support nursing of calves on cows, due to research I have read and personal experience. My father many years ago would allow the calves to nurse, but as a result it helped to facilitate the spread of a disease among our calves, which in later years resulted in the death of a number of cows. It is for this reason that I do not support the nursing of calves on cows. By removing the calves we ensure that they are fed colostrum from cows that are healthy, boosting immunity.

  5. The cattle that your cows descended form survived for many thousands of years without having their calves taken from them and raised separately.

    This whole post seems to me to be an attempt to sugar coat your efforts to maximize profits. In the end I suppose you don't really care how emotionally damaging it is to the calf or the mother to be separated, since you're just going to send them off to slaughter at 5 years old (which is a lot younger than they can live).

    I mean, imagine if someone came and took your children away because there's a risk they might get sick? Or if someone were to artificially inseminate you, take your baby away, and then milk you? Does that seem right? Why do that to another being - especially one that has evolved to be so suited to mothering? Cows are a universal symbol of mothering - yet you have hijacked their reproductive system and use it to make money.

    That's really all it's about - money.

    Care doesn't include destroying families or killing the useless, unwanted, and unproductive.

  6. First of all, please stop lying. You only "care" about these cows to the extent that you can make money from their milk. As soon as they can't produce enough to be profitable, you sell them off to be slaughtered.

    If you really cared about these cows, you would provide them a home their whole lives. You wouldn't get rid of male calves (and excess female calves) by killing them as babies or - at best - at 1 1/2 years old for their flesh.

    So please stop the ruse. You use these animals as disposable tools.

    Depriving a a baby of his mother is a mean, rotten thing. From my experience on a farm sanctuary - where we take care of animals for life, rather than exploit and kill them - cows are doting mothers. The emotional benefit to the calves are enormous beyond words - and no one should be the least bit surprised about this. Babies need their mothers.

    In fact, the other cows in the herd help out the mother, washing, nurturing, and mentoring the calf.

    Mother nature designed mammals to feed their babies milk. It is not a grand design flaw. The reason dairy cows are prone to infection is because they have been bred to produce ridiculously large amounts of milk, and because they are kept lactating practically their entire abbreviated adult lives. They're turned into milk machines.

    Of course, there's nothing wrong with providing supplemental care - vaccines, medication, and so forth. But none of that requires stealing babies from their mothers. You deprive the babies of their mothers so you can sell more milk. shame on you for lying to defend cruelty.

    If you want to protect the cows from predators, there are all sorts of ways to do that - none have anything to do with separating mothers from babies. Of course, in a natural setting, the herd would have at least one bull in charge as well. We have had *no* problems with cow predators. (We put the chickens in the barn every day at dusk to protect them from foxes.)

    We have also had *no* problems with cows stepping on their cows and so forth. Of course, we give the cows plenty of room to roam. We also let them keep their horns. We don't de-horn them. Again, no problems - they have plenty of room - and they love it. That's another thing I'm sure your cows don't have.

    If you seriously want to learn how to take care of cows so that they have good, long lives, with their mothers and their herds - i.e., their families - you should consult with farm animal sanctuaries. But you're not interested in that. As the last commenter said, you're only interested in making money from these cows, and getting rid of them otherwise.

  7. In a hospital nursery, the babies soon enough spend time with their mothers - and then stay with their mothers. A dairy is not like a nursery; it is an internment camp where babies are produced to be used as disposable commodities. Slave owners used to say they took good care of their property also - anything to justify the exploitation.

    1. The people who run these agricultural businesses do a lot for the population. Only 10% of Americans are farmers and hold the power over our food supply. Everyone being vegan is a great novelty, if you live in lala land where the number one killer of human beings isn't hunger. They aren't out to maliciously destroy the lives of innocent animals, they are trying to make sure everyone is fed. High production is a must. The population will increase by 70% by the year 2050. It is literally impossible with the amount of space left on earth to support a vegan planet. Yes, the animals are food product. These workers are doing their best to give these animals the most comfortable lives possible while still supporting your life. You should be grateful. At the least, do yourself the courtesy of educating yourself on the matter, or maybe you could even try to show some respect to those whose life practices you obviously know very little about. Its one thing to debate its another thing to outright attack someone. Your arguments are very loosely tied. Natural is an extremely subjective term. These are domesticated animals who have been raised this way for thousands of years and are genetically able to live as such. They would probably die if you gave them what you call a "natural" environment. So you wouldn't be such a great care taker either. But say what you will Peta follower, anything to justify the exploitation of of the food industry, right?

  8. Cows are extremely gentle and affectionate animals. They form strong bonds with one another, particularly between mother and child. As Michael Klaper M.D. recalls: "The very saddest sound in all my memory was burned into my awareness at age five on my uncle's dairy farm in Wisconsin. A cow had given birth to a beautiful male calf...On the second day after birth, my uncle took the calf from the mother and placed him in the veal pen in the barn—only ten yards away, in plain view of his mother. The mother cow could see her infant, smell him, hear him, but could not touch him, comfort him, or nurse him. The heartrending bellows that she poured forth—minute after minute, hour after hour, for five long days—were excruciating to listen to. They are the most poignant and painful auditory memories I carry in my brain."

  9. To address all of our above comments, I will summarize, since I think you are hitting all on the same misinformed points. We are neither sugar coating nor are we expoiting the truth. In fact I am only giving the honest answers for what we do, and the only way to actually understand this reason is to remind you that these cows are still ANIMALS, not PEOPLE. They were placed upon this earth for a purpose. It's really how you want to look at it. If allowed to live in nature as you would propose, these animals would be food for prey, survival of the fittest would be the law, only a few would survive. Here at our farm, these animals live lives so much longer than what they would in nature. Obviously we cannot afford to feed them forever, and we would send them to a farm sanctuary if we could, but that is neither practical nor sensible, as they can also be food for people in other ways-meat.

    Cows are excellent mothers, but they also need to be cared for. Accidents do happen, not all of our cows have accidents, most don't but I will never forget when I watched an angry cow attack a newborn calf in the pen, had we not been there to save her, that little heifer would have died. Human intervention insure that both the calf and the cow will survive, without it we would be risking both lives.

    Obviously I will not sway your beliefs, as you will not sway mine, we are caretakers of these wonderful animals, providing them shelter (with ample space to roam and socialize) unlimited sources of food, clean water, excellent medical care, and happly lives-much longer than they would have in nature due to the excellent care that they receive.

    As for profit, I would challenge that issue as well....for the past 18-24 months almost ALL dairy farmers in the US have been farming with a negative profit margin, we have all been losing money thanks to the poor economy, but yet instead of selling our cows to slaughter and moving onto the next profit making occupation, we have dilligently been working and caring for our animals, becoming better. Countless dairy farm families have made numerous scarafices to make sure that the cows are fed and cared for FIRST, before their own families. If we care so little for our cows then I ask you....why didn't we sell them all the moment that the prices lowered and we were no longer making a profit????? We are not stupid, but in fact...it is the passion we have for the life we live...we love our cows and to accuse us of anything else is ridiculous!

    1. I like a good steak and milk. Thank you for providing a good meal for me and mine.

  10. How do you feel about 'past it' pregnant cows going to slaughter and having their unborn calves cut out of their bellies on the slaughter line? Often these calves take their first breath before being brutally slaughtered by the same hands who killed their mother. This aspect of slaughter is very well documented- including the term used for an unborn calf who has been ripped out of his or her dead mother's body -a 'kip'. Do you send pregnant cows to slaughter and if so are your comfortable with this. If you do not, what is your opinion on this practise? Are you comfortable with it?

  11. Emma:

    We try to make it a practice that we do NOT send pregnant cows to slaughter. We believe that we can use the dry cow period (2 months before calving which we give the cows a vacation from milking to rest and grow a calf) to heal any issues from the previous lactation. These issues could be anything from a sore foot to an infection. These issues are not very common on our farm, but do happen. We believe that using the dry cow period to care for our cows perhaps allows the cow to stay in the herd longer, healed and better than ever.

    I know that some cows are sent to slaughter with a calf. Most that I know of are early gestation (that being embryos and not calves). Also most calves are under 25 pounds until about 30-45 days before birth, and unviable. We had a premature calf born once that was 25 pounds (33 days early) with a LOT of care we were able to save her and she is thriving, but I don't know that her case is common, most would have died.

    Also, as an industry, a cow that is in later gestation would be worth more as a dry cow, to be sold to another dairy farm, than as a cull cow sent to slaughter...so I don't know if this practice that you have described is common place, seems like bad business.

    As a farm, we do not send cows to slaughter that are pregnant or late gestation. Regarding my opinion towards the rest of the industry, well, I don't know yet.

  12. Thank you very much for answering that so honestly. I really appreciate it- it's very important for the public to understand this side of things so that they are fully informed of all processes. I look forward to hearing your feelings on the slaughter of late gestation cows soon.
    Thanks again, Emma.

  13. Dear Ms. Patch,

    May I jump in here with a few thoughts? Emma seemed to engage you and cause you to consider the industry as a whole and maybe, just maybe, you will eventually acknowledge the ultimate cruelty of using animals until they are no longer useful and then killing them. Maybe, especially if you are a mother yourself, you will see the innate cruelty of separating mothers from their young. I will grant you do seem to care about the animals' good health, at least until they are sent to slaughter, and letting them rest toward the end of their pregnancies is decent of you. Yet, you say you name each of the cows (your husband uses numbers) so it appears you do have feelings about each one, or you would like to have feelings. I would be willing to bet the whole nature of the dairy "business" has caused you to closet or stuff your emotions when your "girls" are sent to slaughter. In the dairy business, feelings and emotions are not allowed. You just don't talk about such things. Harold Brown, former cow farmer, says as much when he is finally able to be honest and acknowledge his true feelings. And, Snickers, his adopted cow, nudged him "right in the heart" and opened him up to emotions he had so long suppressed. May I share Harold's story with you? I share this with love and respect for you as a human being:


    After viewing this short clip, I would encourage you to talk about how it feels when "Bessy" or "Bonnie" are in their stalls one day and gone the next.

  14. Emma & Janet,

    Thank you taking the time to read my response. Regarding the whole industry, I know that sometimes pregnant cows go to slaughter, recent herd buy outs would be a case of that. I ponder then how this is any different that if a pregnant cow would be taken down in nature by a hunter or a natural preditor? I do not second guess the industry and the nature in which we care for our animals, but I do acknowledge that there are a few amoung us that do not care as much as others, that does need to change.

    Regarding cows being slaughtered from our own herd, we do have emotions about that. I would like to know that what dairy farmer isn't touched somehow when a cow leave their farm. All good dairy farmers have spent countless hours caring for these animals from birth until death~anyone would become attached to these animals. My husband cannot be the person who "puts down" one of our cows, even if they are sick and suffering, we ask another family member or a vet to do the job. BUT...I know we operate a farm and that these cows are in fact animals, and they will become food for others. Whether that would be food for humans or food for other animals. I believe that we are omnivores, and that we have a need for animal foods in our diets, whether eggs, dairy, fish, or meats.

    We raise these animals, provide them the best possible care from birth til death, perhaps develop a relationship with them, but ultimately they will become food for something else (whether slaughtered for meat, sent to a plant after death to be dog/cat food, or perhaps composted for soil). It's the way nature works, it is cruel at its base, but everything here is food for something else...even we would be too, if we didn't put bodies in graves.

    This is the ideology that we embrace. I believe that God placed these animals on Earth for us to care for, but also to derive nourishment from, whether meat or milk. I respect your opinion, thank you for sharing your perspective, but you will not sway my conviction.

  15. I have been reading these posts & as a beef cow farmer, I agree & disagree with a lot of them. My Husband & I have a herd of 85 cows, 4 bulls & around 65 calves as of yet. Our cows range on 300 acres of pasture and hills & hollors. I have a tough job of keeping track of all my cows & calves everyday because of the rough terrian. I use my 4 wheeler to check on them & the fences. My Husband works out of town so the cows are my job. Every year I can expect to bottle feed at least 4 or 5 calves for the first 3 or 4 days of life due to being stupid. I have to make sure each new calf sucks from the cow within a few hours of birth or I take them to the barn lot along with the cow. I then put the cow in the shute to get her milk started and then struggle with the new calf to try and get it to suck. Most of the (stupid calves) fight very hard trying to stay far away from the teats. If I can`t get them to suck the cow I feed them with a bottle & after a few day of going through this process, most will start sucking the cow. I usually end up with at least one & maybe two calves a year that I end up bottle feeding. If I did not bring these calves in from the pasture, they would have died. We keep our cows as long as we possibly can and some of our cows have been on the farm for over 20 years. We have a pet cow that we raised and she is 26 yrs old. This is the first year she has not had a claf, but she will be buried on the farm when her days have ended. I refuse to let my Husband sell any old crippled or blind cow to slaughter. I would rather bury them on the farm. I have two very old crippled cows & one really old blind cow that I keep in the small pasture by the barn so I can give them feed everyday. I won`t sell them because it would be so tramantic for them to be loaded on a truck with a bunch of cows pushing and shoving them. I am afraid they would get down & have a horrible last few hours of their life. They have been good loyal cows and I think they deserve better then that. We sell our feeder calves when they are 8 to 10 months old and I cry every time. I would love to get out of the cattle business, except that would mean selling the herd. Can`t do that! Anyway, just thought I would add a little about beef cattle farming.

  16. Anonymous: Thanks for your insight. I wish we could claim we have cattle as old as 20, but we haven't been farming long enough (5 years only) to have any of those. Right now we have a 13 yr old cow, and she' pregnant again, doing very well...I have high hopes that she will make it to 20. We never sell cripple cows, as they are prone to falling down on the truck and never making it to market. Thanks to new rules, we are not able to sell downer cows. We support this regulation, therefore only cows that are in healthy condition, are sold for slaughter. Lame cattle are housed on farm until they heal or they die naturally. We also feel sad when cows have to leave, but we know that they are going to be nurishment for others.

  17. I've been reading through this blog (is this called a thread?) with interest, and glad to see that after some intitial emotional arguments, an intelligent exchanging of views was achieved - we dont all have to agree with each other, but we do need to stop branding every person the same way - not all dairy farmers are cruel, not all animal activists are raving vegan extremists. Good to have respect for someone elses point of view.
    One thing I can't stomach from the animal activists point of view, is that all cows should die naturally on farm at the end of their lives - ideally if all animals (including the dreaded humans!) on earth could end their days painfree and in their sleep, that would be wonderful, but we all know that is not the case.
    Even if, as dairyfarmers, we chose to retain all previously culled animals, we cannot guarantee a lovely existence for them, and in fact, would probably end up in jail for animal cruelty when someone drives past and sees a cow with eye cancer, or with a calf hanging out etc etc. I guess you can see that from my words, I am actually pro euthenasia for any animal (yes us too) that is suffering and has minimal quality of life . It breaks my heart seeing my dear old friends walk up the ramp, and I would love to try and change that, however, I could not guarantee that these all cows would live until their heart stopped beating on it's own. In regards to bobby calves going to slaughter at a young age, I dislike this practice, and am working to try an rear most of ours for bull beef, however, we are only prolonging the inevitable, and at some point, these guys will end up on a truck too, however, they will have lived a good life with ample food, water and space to run around, and will be strong and fit for the short journey to the works (approx 30 mins from stockyard to abs). I could go on and on, but in the end, I am not a vegetarian, well not full time anyway, I have my moments, but I do stand strongly for the ethical treatment of animals, and I do believe that animal activists are an important part of our future, as they help to keep improving our systems and educating the public, and work with us as producers to make the world a happier place for animals. All I would ask of animal activists is that they do actually do their homework before launching personal attacks on people - I think the wider population would actually take them more seriously if this was the case.

  18. Anonymous:

    Thank you so much for your point of view! I do agree that we have much to learn as an industry regarding the care of our animals. If we can work together with others who are opposed to our methods, then perhaps we could not only work to better our care for our animals but also educate those who may not understand. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Thanks so much for explaining why and how you remove a calf from it's Mother.

    I'm not a PETA fan or an HSUS fan. Actually I think they're dangerous! Both organizations want to rid humans of owning and eating animals. They also want to end pet ownership as well. That is their goal.

    Did you know PETA kills animals, for no other reason than they don't want them to be pets. They think they're better off dead.

    I have no problem with dairy farms as long as the animals are well cared for and when the time comes for slaughter, do it as humanely as possible.

    Thank you for supplying the public with food to eat and milk to drink.

    Keep doing what you're doing on your blog. If it helps one person change their minds about farms, it's a good thing!


  20. Toni:

    Thanks for your commments! That makes my day! We will definitely continue to work to educate consumers about how much we care and explain why we do what we do. I hope you can share with others what you have learned and if you have ANY other questions feel free to ask!


  21. I'm not quite sure whether this post is still going on or whether my comment will be answered due to the last post being almost a year old. But I have a question. Now, though I can't agree with a point or two you've made, being as that is what makes us individuals, I can respect it, nonetheless. I'm a vegetarian, and have considered becoming vegan, simply because there's so much jumbled information on the web, I can't trust any of it. I'd rather not risk the chance than choose ignorant bliss. Anyway, my question is this, do you watch which slaughterhouses your cows go to? Now, don't take this as another radical making a fuss about the consumption of meat. Yes, I understand some people actually do need to consume meat to stay healthy and well, we're all built with different needs, I don't have an issue with others eating meat, but I feel the furthering of any suffering is unnecessary, yet some slaughterhouses seem to actually find it necessary. The slaughtering of the animal is one thing, animals are killed in the wild all the time, and some places actually have humane methods and make an effort to have the animal suffer as little as possible, but do you ever look into the background history of the slaughterhouses you send the cows to? Whether their conditions are up to par, whether the employees are acting in a professional manner and not using these creatures as objects to direct their barbaric aggression toward? I don't really have a problem with YOUR treatment of your cows since I'm going by everything you've said on here in which you seem to be sincere about, however, does it concern you at all as to what slaughterhouses your cows go to?

  22. Thank you for respecting our differences in opinion, as I will respect yours. Thank you also for searching for information with an open mind! That's awesome. I appreciate your question. So to answer....we actually sell our cows via auction to various packers (meat processors). We call a local, trusted truck driver who comes to our farm and picks up our cows. Our cows are loaded carefully onto the trailer (as beating a cow first does no good-she just gets more defiant and secondly hitting a cow damages the meat). Once on the trailer, they journey 2 hours to a salesbarn. I know you have probably seen videos where cows are chased off trailers and beat into a ring where they circle, and are beat out of the ring. That's not what happens at our salesbarn. I've been there. While it moves fast, cows are carefully moved in and out of the ring. Once the bidding is done, truckers from the various packers load the cows and take them to the meat processors. I have not seen a packer/meat processor in person...but my husband has. We are confident that the way our animals are handled is humane, all the way up until death. I am also confident that with increased regulations regarding humane care, that the employees handling our animals are also profesionals in their fields and not releasing barbaric aggression. After seeing some of the same videos you have seen, it definitely concerns me where my cows go at the end of their lives. As farmers, we demand better care at processors. I hope that answers your questions.

    1. Hi!
      I was surpriced to read how you do things at your place. I just wanted to tell how we do it. We always let the calf be with its mother. If she is ruff we keep cow up bound (my English is not so good!) and the cow and calf in a box together. This way the calf can drink but avoid getting pushed around. This has only happened like twice in the last 15 year though. Generally for as long as we have had cows (30 years) we never had any of those problems you describe (only as I explained we have had to keep cow not loose sometimes).
      We keep the calf together all the time during the first 2-3 weeks, then we gradually separate them. At first they are besides each other and then later we separate more and more. But we let the claf drink from mother until 6-9 months of age. We will then just let her drink the rest after milking her and we do this as long as the cow likes it. We don't loose milk this way as some believe becuase the calf suckling stimulates milkproduction.

      We never have cows screaming for their calves in this way and it feels peaceful.

      Nice that you have the view to let cows live as long as possible. One of our cows who died recently became 23 years old. I know of 27 -year olds and I have read that the oldest cow became 47!!! (Big Bertha, google her, amazing cow!).

      Okey, muuuhhh! :-)

      Greetings from Sweden, Mia

    2. Thanks Mia for your insights. I'll agree that occations where a cow will attack her calf are rare, but they do happen. Just a couple weeks ago a pen-mate in our dry cow pen stepped on a newborn, not once but 3 times before I could get the heifer calf removed from the pen. Sometimes Boss Cows rule the pen. I do believe that in the US we feel that the biggest risk is disease transfer between cow and calf. We know both are at risk for a variety of illnesses, so removing the calf helps to reduce that risk. We've only been farming for 7 years, and this month we lost our oldest cow to "natural causes". Terry was 13 yr & 9 months old. She passed away in her sleep with no signs of illness the day before she passed....that's how I would like to see all our cows go...peaceful.
      I'm very glad that you are able to keep your calves with the cows, but for us, it's just not practical. Thanks again for sharing!

    3. Do mother cows cry for the return of their calves, and if so for how long? (I heard it was three days)

      Can you also charcterize it? Does it seem to convey real pain, annoyance, or something else entirely?

    4. Hello! This is all very helpful to me too. I am researching these things so that I can know where is best to buy meat and dairy products. I used to just look for the best prices, but am realizing this is not necessarily fair to the farmers or the animals. Learning more helps me see it is worth the extra money (so long as we have it!) to buy from farmers that do their best to be good to their animals. My mother and siblings are vegetarians, but I and my family are not. They help me to be more conscientious about these things though. What they don't see because they don't believe the Bible, is that we hurt the animals (as well as ourselves) most, by our sin against our Maker. Adam's sin (continued since, by all of us) brought death and suffering into the world. The best we can do in this world is to honor God and believe in His Son, seeking first His kingdom. He will help us to be kind and fair to everyone, and give us wisdom how to do what we can with what we have; time, money and abilities. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and cares for them too. The earth groans under sin, but Jesus will return and set all to rights. (Romans 8:18-25) Be safe in Christ, everyone, because as much as it might look like a silly side issue to you here, it is the most direct way to be living for what matters most, and to be best able to love your neighbor and be kind to all. And the only way to be free and forgiven! Thanks for letting me say this! I wish you well!

    5. Interesting blog. I think that market pressures will win over in the end. Personally, I am only buying dairy from those suppliers that are certified humane. I am not a vegan or a vegatarian, but I don't support the suffering of animals - and no matter how you sugar coat it - cows do not like to have their babies taken away. I'm currently looking for dairy produced by farms that do not separate the calves from their moms. As the public becomes more aware - it will be them that choose not the practical / profit concerns of the farmers. Times are changing, and people are becoming more and more interested in where their food comes from. I think the farms that will grow, will be those that listen to the concerns of the consumers. Organic companies are booming for a reason.

    6. Hey there!

      I just wanted to say thanks for this. I saw a story about a calf being taken from its mother on a dairy farm online, but I didn't know how much it had been colored by personal opinion. I'm still a little worried that it's not as humane on other, perhaps larger, farms, but at least I'm more informed now

    7. It's definitely harder to train employees to care for cows as much as dairy farmers themselves care for cows. On our dairy abuse towards our animals is not tollerated. If I were to find an employee abusing my cows, they would be fired on the spot. We intend to hold true to these values, as we know putting our cows first is the best thing we can do for them, no matter how many cows we milk.

    8. Crying for their babies....well, honeslty, very few actually make much noise at all. Most of the time it's other cows in the pen who are trying to let us know there is a new calf that has been born. It would be hard to say what emotion they have when they bellar. But for 99% of new mothers, I'd have to say they make no noise at all. Since we calmly move the cow and calf, it's fairly non-dramatic. The cow usually heads straight to the feed bunk or the water tank (as they have usually gone without feed or water for 24 hrs due to the labor process) and as for the baby calves...they absolutely love us, as we have a warm bottle of milk waiting for them. Most of the calves are fed 1 gallon of milk before they can even stand....something their mother could not do for them.

  23. Dear Orange Patch Dairy,
    Thank you for taking the time and energy to write about your experiences. I respect that you are willing to open up a discussion with people on such a "heated" issue. It is important that discussions like this exist so people can see more than one side to a story and make their own decisions about eating meat/dairy.
    I'm glad to see that you truly care about your cows. So many mass-production dairies these days do not show any compassion towards animals.
    Ames in Germany

  24. After seeing a post on Facebook about the abuse of dairy cows, I am happy to read that there are dairy cows that are treated kindly. Would you say most dairy farms operate in the way you do? Also, I was saddened that the mother cow essentially loses their baby after a day. Here it sounds like the baby is well taken care of, but does the mother ever see the baby again? As a mother myself, I can imagine the heartache of the mother cow who only sees her baby one day and then loses it forever. Also after briefly reading through the comments I didn't see you address the issue of how the mother cow reacts. When you take the baby away, doesn't the mother get very upset at losing her baby?

    1. Just last night we moved the cow before the calf. She actually didn't even notice her calf. She was busy eating. As for the "noise" some believe cows make, well, honestly it's usually not the new mother that bellars but instead her herdmates. Either it's other cows letting us know there's a new calf or it's other cows who want to play with the new calf. Very seldom have I ever seen a new mother really get angry or depressed. I'd like to think that they remember the care that they were given as a calf and know we will be doing the same for their new calf.

  25. Orangepatch,

    We are so thankful for farms like yours that are telling their individual story about their family farms! You are doing a fantastic job at replying to the criticism and negativity we often receive in the dairy industry!

    We also separate the calves after birth, but we usually let the mother miss one milking to feed her calf. We are a small family farm with 47 milking cows, so we don't like to risk losing a life just because a calf didn't get colostrum. We have a passion for dairy farming (we are a recognized MN century farm now) and besides, my family's lives depend on the farm because it is the main source of income my parents have (other than Mom's substitute teaching at the school). We don't have workers hired to work at our farm-it is completely run by my family.

    I would have to say we don't notice bellowing from the mothers when they are separated either. They rarely do look disturbed by it. For us, the mother will get to see her calves every day after those calves become mothers themselves! Bellowing usually is from the other cows feeling giddy because there is a new calf in the pen! The mother usually focuses on herself by eating and tries to recover.

    Keep up the good work-because I know I learned more about how to tell our story for our industry and I'm sure other farms will too!

  26. You are one great dairy farmer - thanks for taking the time! Don Langford, Valencia, CA

  27. Thank you for your post. Been looking for information on this.

  28. I am writing a persuasive research essay about dairy farming and I was wondering if I could use some of your thoughts/quotes. I think it would really help build my argument that dairy farmers actually care about their animals and are doing what is best for them.


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!