Dairy cows in barn.

Animal Welfare on Our Family Dairy Farm

Gone are the days where you could just go about your day doing what is best for your family. Now every time you jump online you have everyone telling you what you are doing is wrong. It’s so easy to write an article and magically become an expert on a subject you really know nothing about for the simple fact that it sounds compelling. So let me do you a favor, let me tell you why you shouldn’t stop drinking cow’s milk if you are concerned about the welfare of dairy cows with science, facts and first hand experience as a dairy farmer. At the end, you can then decide if milk is still a good option or not for your family.

Dairy cows do have a good life. Vegan extremists are lying to you because they want you to become a vegan. Plain and simple. It’s important to hear both sides before you make an informed decision. Here are some of their claims which I refer to as myths and explain from a dairy farmer’s point of view:

Myth: Cows live in filthy conditions.

”Cows deserve to live in clean living conditions. Even more importantly, it is better for their health. Cows need to have a dry and clean environment to protect them from illnesses like mastitis, a painful inflammation of the mammary gland and udder tissue. We try to help them avoid this at all costs by working hard to make sure our cows have the cleanest environment possible. Our lives revolve around these girls because they do so much for our family. We owe them the best life possible while they are on our farm.”

Read more here on all the steps we take to make sure our cows live in a clean environment. Also important to note that over 90% of the U.S. milk supply comes from farms that are part of the National Dairy FARM Program which is an animal welfare program that our farm is proudly part of.

Dairy Cow
Dairy cow hanging out in the barn.

Myth: They are constantly pregnant which isn’t natural and they are milked their entire pregnancy.

“On our farm, we like each cow to have at minimum of 60 days off at the end of her nine-month pregnancy. This is what we call a “dry period,” and she is referred to as a “dry cow”. Usually, a cow will go down in milk production, or even stop producing, as she nears the end of her nine month pregnancy. There are also cows that will produce consistently all the way through and we will not have to “dry her off”. Each cow is different, like my favorite cow, 6199. She would not get pregnant, then after multiple attempts, she was finally expecting. She had an eight month dry period. Of course, that is the exception to the rule, because she is a favorite and gets special treatment. She spent the summer out on pasture with the heifers.”

Read more here about our “dry cows” and their vacations from milking.

Cow Sleeping
A “dry cow” trying to sleeping but I woke her up trying to take her photo.

 

Myth: Farmers “rape” their cows.

“Our farm is primarily bull bred; meaning almost all our cows are bred by a bull. We split our herd into two groups of cows. One group has a herd bull, while the other does not. Every cow that recently gave birth goes into the group without a bull. We want her to have plenty of time to recover from delivery, and make sure she has no post-calving issues. At 45-60 days, we will move her to the group with the bull; sometimes longer depending on the cow. This doesn’t mean she will get pregnant right away.”

Read more here to learn more about our animal welfare guidelines for our pregnant cows.

Heifers on Pasture
One of our dairy bulls in the center.

Myth: Calves are “ripped away” from their mothers often too weak to survive, crying for their mothers.

The bottom line is yes, we separate the calves from their mothers. Each calf gets individual care by our family which is us devoting every morning and night to feeding and caring for each calf. All our cows naturally produces more milk than is needed for their calf. By separating the calf, we are able to raise the calf on its mothers milk and use the additional milk to help feed this growing population. Each of these calves is the future of our farm. Healthy calves become healthy cows, it doesn’t make sense that we wouldn’t take the best possible care of them. As for the cows, majority of the cows do not even bat an eye when the calf is removed. We have built such strong bonds with them that the cows that do show interest in the calf, don’t have a reaction when we pick up their calf. It’s really hard to explain and all I have is my word and my experience.

Yes, we only raise our heifer (female) calves. No, our bull (male) calves do not get sent directly to slaughter. No, our bull calves are not raised as veal.

To read more about the care of our calves on our family dairy farm, click here. To learn more about bull calves born on our farm, click here. To hear from a veal farmer about the care of veal calves, click here.

My farmer and his girls. They are incredibly docile because of the love and attention we give them.

Myth: Dairy cows are sent to the slaughter but not after they are all “used up” and collapse in exhaustion.

“Every farm has their own guidelines for what determines if a cow stays or if she goes. On our farm, a cow  has to at least produce enough milk to pay for the feed she eats each day. It’s really not an issue for most and they don’t have to be high producing cows. Our main goal is longevity for our cows, not maximum milk production. Sometimes, a cow just doesn’t do so well in that area. Sometimes she will have one lactation where she doesn’t do well but the next lactation she does great. Most years we can give them a “second chance” which means we just wait it out and see what she does on her next lactation.  In the meantime another cow is producing enough milk to make up where she is lacking.” Read more here about “sale barn” days on the farm.

It’s true that 20% of the beef in the U.S. comes from dairy cows. It is true that once they are done milking on a dairy farm that they enter the beef supply. What is not true is that all the cows are old, worn out and “collapse”. First off, I want to make it very clear that you cannot slaughter a cow that cannot stand on her own. It is illegal. I have a blog post completely devoted to the average age of dairy cows, why they leave the farm and I hope you take a moment to read it to get a better understanding of the decisions we have to make on the farm.

Dairy Cows in Barn
Dairy cows hanging out in the barn.

Myth: When you drink milk you are drinking pus.

When I think of pus, I think of an infection where liquid comes out of an infected area on your body. That is pus and pus of course has white blood cells in it. Activists have somehow taken the fact that milk has white blood cells in it and twisted the facts to make people believe that cow’s milk has pus. This is simply not true. Our goal is to have healthy cows because healthy cows produce high quality milk.

“Neither organic nor conventional milk contains pus, but they both contain white blood cells, and they both need to pass the same regulations to be marked safe for consumption and reach the store. Your blood, my blood, a cow’s blood contains white blood cells – you know that, right? White blood cells are the ones who come to our rescue when an infection appears. So just like they hang out in our blood they hang out in milk too. Human breast milk contains white blood cells. Same for cow’s milk as well.” via Fitness Reloaded

Read more here, here and here if you want to hear from other farmers on this subject. The first two links are from U.S. dairy farmers and the third is from a Canadian dairy farmer.

At the end of the day, you have to decide if you consume dairy products. I just hope that if you are concerned about the welfare of the animals that you would take time to talk to farmers like myself and get the facts about how the cows are cared for and why. Animal welfare is something we take incredibly seriously on our farm. Make sure to follow along with our farm on Instagram and Facebook to get a glimpse into the life our cows live.

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Krista Stauffer

Owner at Stauffer Dairy
Krista is a wife, mother of three & first generation dairy farmer. Together with her husband, they milk 200 cows. Krista loves to write, take photos, travel and meet new people. She loves raising her kids on their family dairy farm and is incredibly passionate about their way of life.

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Krista Stauffer

Krista is a wife, mother of three & first generation dairy farmer. Together with her husband, they milk 200 cows. Krista loves to write, take photos, travel and meet new people. She loves raising her kids on their family dairy farm and is incredibly passionate about their way of life.

6 thoughts on “Animal Welfare on Our Family Dairy Farm”

    1. Good job. It’s sad the hard working good people have to explain things and basically draw a picture so people can get it. You guys keep being real

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