Monday, August 1, 2011

Healthy and Content Cows

dairy cow eating

Every mom and dad's parenting style is a little different but they they all have one goal: healthy, happy, smart kids.  Dairy farmers also have different production techniques, whether they be big or small or organic or not.  At the end of the day they all aim for healthy and content cows.

It saddens me when I read about or hear people talk about misinformation or misconceptions on dairy farming.  I wrote down a few of the common things I hear about so I could give a view from my side of fence.

Cows get daily doses of antibiotics.

People, like cows, get sick.  A few weeks ago I had a sinus infection with a fever so bad my doctor had no choice but to give me antibiotics so I could recover.  Dairy farmers don't want to give antibiotics to cows unless they must be administered.  If we give a cow antibiotics for any reason we cannot sell her milk.  This treated cow is losing us money because her milk is bad.  We have an on farm test kit that we use to check milk for antibiotics.  When it is out of her system and out of her milk we can then begin selling her milk.  If we do so before hand we will face large penalties.  So just as a human doctor has to decide when antibiotics are worthwhile for the patient, dairy farmers also have to be cautious in their use.

Dairy cattle are force fed highly concentrated feed.

Outside of Olympic athletes and people with medical problems, how many people do you know that have a nutritionist plan out their diet?  Most dairy farms use a nutritionist to balance a ration for their cows.  Our local farm cooperative takes samples of our farm grown feeds and helps us choose other feedstuffs for the cows to keep them healthy.  If you have an unhealthy diet you feel sick, and so would our cows if we didn't feed them properly.

Cows don't eat what they don't like.  For instance I fed some hay today that had some large stems in the center of the bale.  The cows left those stems in the manger.  You can't force a cow to eat what they don't want and expect good results.

Cows are kept in intensely close quarters developing and spreading disease.

If this were true then the cows' milk production would slowly decrease until it finally dried up and the farm would go out of business. When cows are kept up the farmers have the aim of keeping them more healthy.  With good management these animals can have a clean place to lay down in and they are also exposed to less extremes of the weather.  If the cows are not in a healthy environment they will not make milk and the farmer will not be able to survive.

On our farm the cows spend most of their time on pasture between milkings and this works well for our animals.  Sometimes I would like to be able to put our animals up for different reasons and other times I'm glad they are where they are.  There are different management strategies on each farm in order to achieve the same goal: healthy cows. What works for one may not work for another.

Dairy farmers depend on the health and welfare of their cows in order to make a living.  If the cows are discontented or unhealthy they will not produce milk.  We are constantly looking for new and better methods of management to improve our herds.  We are all aiming for the same goal: healthy and content cows.


  1. Greetings from Amish Stories. Richard from the Amish settlement of Lebanon,Pa.

  2. Thank you for reading. I look forward to reading your blog!