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Well this is awkward. I have spent the last two years talking about our farm and how much I love my cows. That being said sometimes I am mean to my cows. The truth is sometimes as a dairy farmer I am mean to my cows. This cow had milk fever after she calved. Thankfully she got up pretty easily after I gave her some calcium IV.
A down cow is the kind of thing that will make your day go from great to very bad in short order. A down cow can be down for about a million reasons.
It can be because she just had a calf and during delivery she pinched a nerve. A cow can be down because after calving she has a calcium imbalance that needs to be corrected. There are lots of reasons for a cow to go down. A cow is a big animal, I think we can all agree on that right? When a cow lays down for long periods of time all of her weight rests on her legs.
Her legs start to lose circulation, as they lose circulation they become weak. A cow needs strong legs to lift her hefty frame up. The longer a cow is down the lower her chances of ever getting back up become. This is where I will admit, I have been mean to my cows. What do you do when a cow is really in trouble? In my video Hubs was slapping and getting a little loud. I will fully admit that I have done every one of those things.
Lifting a down cow takes patience and knowledge to keep her safe from hurting herself or us. You have to get a cow on her feet if she is going to live. Time is of the essence. She absolutely has to get up. When we have a down cow the first thing we do is ask her to get up like Hubs did in the video.
As evident by their lack of talons, fangs and upper teeth, a cow is a prey animal. Prey animals operate on the fight or flight mentality, preferring flight whenever possible. In order to get away from the scary thing a cow has to get up! I yell and holler. The next step is for me to use the cattle prod. A cattle prod delivers a painful electric shock. I hope the batteries are fresh! We will use a hip lift to lift the cow and allow her legs to regain circulation. When a cow weighs from 1,,lbs it takes heavy equipment to lift her.
Speaking of skid loaders, when a cow goes down in a place where she is blocking other cows or is at risk of being stepped on by other cows you have to move her. We have had cows that I have been nursing through an illness walk into the milking parlor, lay down and refuse to get up.
There is no way to get a sled or equipment to lift the cow into the parlor. I know that on any day that includes a down cow, if Mercy for Animals was undercover on our dairy farm, they could make a video and post it on YouTube and it would convince millions of people that I am an animal abuser in just a few short moments. On a good day, after giving it our all the cow gets up.
She is sullen, scared and probably hates us but she is alive. The video would never show that. Mercy for Animals, PETA, Compassion Over Killing and other animal rights groups like to include video footage of these kinds of situations to try and turn people against me and my industry.
I am NOT making excuses for abusers. They deserve to rot. But I hope the next time another one of these abuse videos comes out that shows a down cow situation people take a little longer to think about what they saw and how they would handle that kind of situation. I understand how you feel. I am a retired dairy farmer, I just have a few goats now.
Metabolic disorders and accidents were less common under the older less intensive systems of management but without intensive dairying milk would be much more expensive for the consumer.
Being so disconnected from your food source and what it takes to sustain yourself seems, to me, to encourage the excess and waste that is problematic of society today. This is what society has become, and large dairies are what have been produced because of it. Tracie I loved your post. And its a good question. Dairy items are not a need for humans. The milk comes from a small organic family farm. Organic has nothing to do with family farms.
Organic is also just one of those buzz words that liberals like to throw around because it makes them more money. I have you know…food and gas to buy also. Where is the tipping point? I too think that less intensive farming methods are the way to go. Do I have all the answers? But if it were less challenging for more smallholders to exist, I think more people would be connected with their food, and some of the other issues would sort themselves out.
IE excessive antibiotics use, some feedlot issues, etc. Not a magic solution, and with its own problems, but our culture of excess is doing very few of us very many favors. A fair point that our society is very wasteful and disconnected from our food source.
Those are very true statements. Should we stop producing as much corn, because many people have stopped consuming processed grains, and those are not essential for life? Once the demand drops, the production will drop. And the bottom line is, any ethical person that makes their livelihood off the products of animals is going to care for them the best they possibly can, or face loss. In my book, the welfare of the animals is the Number One goal. Pigs seem to have it the worst. Under these systems, the cost of food is subsidized by animal cruelty and worker injury.
Farmers should also be paid a living wage and benefits, and be able to afford their land and all the costs of farming. We need more farmers! All of these costs should be covered in the cost of food to consumers. I want to see this changed. This made me smile. We have a small hobby farm with a couple dozen animals.
Our kids make money off their 4H market animals, my kids learn life lessons from the animals, I laugh at the cows chasing the goat around the pasture, the ducks and chickens keep the mosquitoes under control… financially the only benefit is that its a income loss on taxes every year.
Handling down cows is never about the money, as soon as the cow goes down, and cows in small herds always outside, go down too, the money is already lost. One of the worst jobs a cattle farmer has is dealing with down animals. Farmers will spend hours trying to get a cow to stand up again, lifting her as shown, carrying feed to her, giving her pain medication, anything to get her up and going. I wish that animal barns were always built with the lift accessibility always in the planning.
My friends old retired racehorse went down in her stall , and after hours of four adults struggling to get her and keep her up , it failed , the gave up and called the vet to put her down , she was very old , but if it happened outside or in the arena , the lift could have supported her for however long she needed to support her own weight. They were heartbroken , she was the last of her line. I agree the race to the bottom began with the cheap food policies implemented by the USA Check out the committee for economic development established in about I belong to the National Farmers Organization and remember when the farmers piled up Sears, and M Ward catalogs up in Grant County Wi in protest of those on the committee.
It made quite a fire and the national headlines. As you can see they accomplished the goal of removing human resources from agriculture. Great info- thank you for taking the time to clarify what is really often going on with farm life. As is so often in life, there is more to the story as you have shown.
Good article Carrie on clarifying a lot of misconceptions! The BQA has really discouraged their use. Its also worth noting, that while the cattle prod does hurt for a second the voltage is often less than an electric fence, which on occasion cattle break through… on their own. Out of pure interest how would humans like it if a electric prod was used on them?
Yet we allow electric prods to be used on animals. So DairyCarrie the electric shock is more akin to when paramedics shock someone whose heart is stopped etc?
In that case it makes sense. Kind of but not exactly. The difference is that the PT is able to reason with a human and have a dialog discussing why we have to get up and work that knee.
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