Mut and the Milk (part II)

Hey gang!! What a frigid end to the year! This stinks! Let’s all just hope that winter is getting this craziness out of its system now and then moving along!! 

I wanted to talk to you today about us cows, our farmers and our product. We had talked in a previous blog about why the dairy products you buy at the store our safe and healthy. There’s a lot of people in the world who are anti dairy farming and to be honest, I have no idea why. They have a few “reasons” why and I will go through some of them with you and explain, in my opinion, why their case just doesn’t add up. Tea thinks it’s a little strange too:

One reason we hear a lot is that humans are the only mammals who drink another mammals milk. Well this one is easy because anyone out there who owns cats knows that’s not true(except if your our barn cat Brown. She doesn’t like milk. She also lets mice eat out of her food dish so…) Most cats enjoy a nice dish of milk(um hello there’s a reason people drop their cats off at dairy farms), the farmers dogs I think would walk on their two hind legs all day if it meant they get cheese or ice cream and our pig Fern would drink milk all day long. Just to name a few. And yes, the farmers do feed it to them but to be fair, they feed them all their meals. They wouldn’t eat at all if it wasn’t for them. So if they didn’t like another mammals milk, they wouldn’t eat it. But they do. So humans are not alone. Plus, if we were meant to drink “milk” from plants, then shouldn’t plants lactate? And have you seen how many ingredients are in those nut juices? Milk just has milk and vitamin a and d. That’s like 15 less ingrediants!

Another reason is that farmers are evil. They are all huge factory farms and are in it for the money and are cruel to the cows. Excuse me while I compose myself, I was laughing so hard about the making money bit I almost couldn’t write! More than 90% of farms in the US are family owned and operated. While some may be large scale, some only a handful of cows, some may be incorporated and some may just want to hand it down so they can retire, no matter the size, almost all farms have the whole family involved. Because farming isn’t just a 9-5 and done. It’s all day, every day, 365 days a year. It’s a lifestyle, not a job. While other professions may have to work holidays (think of all those farm kids across the country who had to either wait for their parents to get done with chores or go help before they could open their presents Christmas morning), farming is unique in that there are no holidays. There are no sick days. If your vomiting, you still have to milk cows. If your family wants to take a  vacation you try like crazy to find help but in the end, youre still responsible and may have to drive 4 hours home after just arriving a few hours before because heifers got out(yes it happened). So farmers do this because they love it. They love their animals, they love what they do and they believe in it. They’re not evil. And the money part? Farmers get paid per 100lbs of milk, it’s easier to measure that way than gallons, and milk price is loooow. It has been low for a few years now and there doesn’t look like there’s any relief in sight. It is a constant struggle on most farms to get bills paid. And if the choice is to either pay the cows feed bill or finally put new tires on the car, guess which one gets done? Yep, the cows. They’re always first. I’ll put it to you like this. Imagine working in a profession you hate. Like can’t stand. Now you have to do it everyday. There are no weekends. And you don’t get paid for it. How long would you last in that job? I dare say not long at all. But if you loved it? If you took pride in what you do? You would put your head down and trudge forward and keep going. Because it’s what you do. It’s what you love. It’s who you are. Farmers are the kind of people who will take in all those cats people drop off. They will have them fixed, and give them flea medicine and feed them and take care of your animal because they care. Farmers are the type of people who stay up all night in the freezing cold to help a cow calve and then bring that calf home and put it in their bathtub to keep it warm. Because they care for their animals. 

What else? Oh, cows are abused and milked all day long and their babies are ripped from them. Well, as we just talked about farmers aren’t the type to abuse their animals. If you didnt like animals, you wouldn’t be doing this. If cows don’t have good conditions to live and work in(their stalls aren’t clean or bedded enough, not properly fed, or abused) they wouldn’t make milk. The better you treat your cows, the better they will treat you. In fact, it’s been proven that cows that have names give more milk. Although this isn’t the reason, each one of our girls has a name. (And they know them too! If my farm mom is in the barn and calls out to my sister, she will come running!!!) Cows aren’t milked all day long. Milking takes a cow about 10 minutes per time, and most cows are milked 2-3 times a day, so they spend like half an hour of their whole day getting milked. That’s it. And as far as the calves getting ripped from their mother? If by that they mean a C-Section, that does happen but not commonly. If they mean removed from the calving pen and into a safer place, then yes, that does happen. We talked about it in a previous blog so I encourage you to go read it if you have any questions, but as someone once said, do you give your crawling baby free reign to go wherever they want? What about that new puppy? Isn’t he kept in a crate at night? And why is that? It’s for their own safety. Calves are babies too. It’s for their own good. 

I think the last “reason” I can think people give is about the milk itself. We talked before about how it’s safe, about how there’s no antibiotics and how healthy it is. Guys, there’s no pus in milk. I mean really? When I hear the term pus I picture some scabby thing oozing green smelly stuff. Trust me, that does not come out of a cows udder. What comes out is milk. What some people refer to as pus are blood cells. They’re in everything, that piece of steak you had? In there too. Does it affect you in any way? No. If a cow gets mastitis she will have an elevated cell count. But as we talked about, that milk is withheld from the tank and dumped. This is something that is highy regulated and checked with almost every single tank load. If you’re tank is over a certain limit, you get in trouble. Do it 3 times in our co-op you aren’t allowed to ship milk anymore. It’s something that farmers and their agencies take very seriously. Also, there is limited information but it appears as though human breastmilk contains a lot more of these cells. And most breastfeeding mothers are encouraged to nurse through mastitis. So if it’s okay to give a baby that high cell milk, I’m pretty sure low cell cows milk is great too. Oh, and one more thing. There’s people who are proponents of drinking raw milk. I think maybe half of dairy farmers do. Those proponents actually argue that those same cells are good for people bodies! So for crying out loud, stop using the term pus. That’s wrong on so many levels. Your milk is checked on a regular basis for its safety. 

Lastly, I would like to say one thing. Do you remember that picture floating around on Facebook a few weeks ago with the starving polar bear due to global warming? Scientists have come forward to say that the polar bear populations food source is fine. The picture was taken by someone trying to show the affects of global warming.The bear was probably more sick, or hurt its jaw and couldn’t eat or something like that. It doesn’t make that bears story less sad,   I wish at the very least they put him down so he wouldn’t have to suffer,  but the point is be careful what you read on the Internet and who it’s coming from. There’s a lot of activists of various causes who will use photos like that to tug on your heart strings.   Try to find out the whole story first. You’re most likely only seeing a part. People can take a photo and use it with any description they want. The first photo of the calf Tea? People could say she looks like that because she was separated from her mom and is scared.  The truth? She’s just a crazy calf, like her mom and gramma. Although nice, the whole family has a screw or two loose. If you hear something, do your homework. Don’t just believe it because someone on the Internet said so. Everything I tell you I would encourage you to check on your own. Farmers have nothing to hide, and I promise to tell you the whole truth. 

Okay gang, time for me to go drink my warm milk. Warms me up perfect on a night like this. Please remember your farmers do all they can to make sure their cows are healthy and happy and that you get the best product possible. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask, and follow us on Facebook @alittlebrowncow. Happy New Year!

Is there a Doctor in the house?

Hey everyone! I hope your holiday season is finding you warm so far! The time sure is flying by! Since we last spoke we’ve started to really encounter winter here at the barn. The snow and freezing cold are in full swing. Us calves are all doing well, tucked in our hutches with our coats on and lots and lots of fresh, clean straw. The barns have all been winterized to make sure the older animals stay warmer, and keep the wind off them. We talked before about the reasons why my farmers remove calves from their moms, and if you follow me on Facebook you’ve heard this story, but here’s an example:

This is Jolly. She was soooo tiny when she was born into the frigid air and her mom wasn’t too interested in drying her off. Luckily my farmer was right there and was able to put her into the heated office with some fresh-from-the-dryer towels so she could be nice and snug. She’s still living there, probably until Monday when it warms up and then she will have her own hutch. 

So what else is new besides winter? Well today I wanted to talk to you about our health care. My farmers work very closely with a team of people who ensure each of us is doing well and has what we need. These people would include our veterinarian, nutrionalist, hoof trimmer, milk tester and a few others. So what if we need something? LIke, what if one of us was to get sick??

My farmer is responsible for our general care. He knows all of us by name and even knows the milk cows just by looking at their udders. Once you get to know someone very well and you work with them all day, every day, it’s pretty easy to spot when something is wrong. Just like you can with the people you’re close to. If a cow is sick she may show it, like her ears may be a little droopy or her eyes a little sunken in, or have a runny nose. Because my farmer knows us so well he can also say things like “This cow didn’t have the same amount of milk as usual” or “she’s normally first in the parlor and today she’s still lying down and came in last”. Those are all clues something may be up, and my farmer watches for those every day. 

Like babies or your house pets, cows can’t tell you what’s wrong with them. It’s up to the farmers to try and figure out. We generally give some clues though. For example, a runny nose and labored breathing are a pretty good indicator of pneumonia. Sometimes cows may get sore feet, or if we’re playing rough in the barn with a herdmate we may hurt a leg. So if someone is limping, my farmer will check their feet for any sores and see what part we are favoring. Cows can also get stomach aches. Maybe they ate something they shouldn’t have. Another common illness when cows are sick is mastitis. This is an infection in the udder, and my farmer can normally detect it by our milk.

Most farmers try and figure out what is wrong with a cow and take care of it themselves before making the call to a vet. If one of our cows is sick, she gets to moved to a pen right by the parlor, filled with fluffy straw so someone can check on her frequently, instead of having to find her in the barn. It’s quieter and her herdmates won’t bother her so she can just rest. The farmers can also offer different feed, for example, if a cows tummy is off dry hay tastes the best, so my farmer can give her some to herself.This is also a good place for the farmer to administer any medicine. Sometimes cows do need antibiotics, but like we talked about before, you don’t need to worry about them getting in your milk.

And then there are the times when my farmer needs help. So he calls in the pros. Our vet is on call 24/7. Why may a farmer need to call the vet? If a cow has difficulty calving, the vet has special tools to help the calf come out safely. Sometimes they may even have to do a C-Section. Most calvings are uncomplicated, but occasionally you get that one that just needs help. (Did you know calves come out front feet first? Then head and then shoulders-that’s the hard part since it’s the widest. Once the shoulders are out, the rest normally slides out pretty easy. But we’ll talk more about that later.) Sometimes cows can also get what’s called displaced abomasum (or a D.A.) This happen when the abomasum part of the cows stomach gets into a spot it shouldn’t be. The cow will stop eating, or eat very little. This generally happens within a month after calving. Just like people, when a cows pregnant, all her insides get squished around to make room for that baby. Once the calf comes out, things start going back into place but there’s a chance that her abomasum doesn’t. It could rise because of gas now that there’s all that room, or maybe she’s not staying full of food. Either way, a vet has to come in and surgically fix this for the cow. Most of the time the cow feels better within a day or two! Those are a couple examples why we may need our vet in an emergency. But when else do we see him?

The answer? Every other week.This time is set aside for our vet to come to our farm, address any concerns the farmer may have, like maybe look at a cow that isn’t sick but not quite right either, talk about how everyone as a herd is doing, and the farmer will give our vet updates on anything new or different on the farm.  Our vet takes manure and milk samples out of certain cows if they need to be checked for various bugs. And the big reason why he comes? Pregnancy checking!

Cows can get pregnancy checked about a month after breeding. Here’s our vet on the job:

There are a few ways to check for pregnancy in a cow. One way is through milk, another is a blood test and lastly is through ultrasound. We use the ultrasound because it can also identify any other issues a cow may have, like we once had one with a tumor, which we would not have known about had we not ultrasounded her. So you see that little thing clipped to our vets hat? It’s a screen so he can see what’s going on on the inside. Like I said, he can tell about a month after breeding if a cow is pregnant or not. Between 55-75 days after breeding he can tell the sex of the calf. Here’s what an ultrasound looks like when the calf is around 60 days:

That is the main body of the calf, you can sort of see where it’s ribs would be. So we generally check the cows around 30 days, 60 days and again about 2-3 months before  they calve (cows are pregnant for 9 months too!) just to make sure everything is going okay. Our vet is also able to tell us if a cow is pregnant with twins, which is important because cows with twins generally calve earlier than nine months, so we would be prepared starting around 8 months. 

My farm mom says she’s jealous of the cows because when she was pregnant she had to drive 45 minutes to get to her doctor and the last few weeks she was going twice a week. She said the cows are lucky they don’t even have to leave their bed and the doctor comes to them! 

My farmers strive really hard to make sure we all have the best care possible and do all they can to keep us healthy. They love the team they have helping them, especially our vets who do all they can to get us healthy as quickly as possible. 

Thanks for the chat everyone! If you have any questions please feel free to let me know, and make sure you follow along with us on Facebook @alittlebrowncow for more updates and our employee of the week on Wednesdays!