Be aware of what you share

This following picture recently appeared on my news feed:

Screen Shot

The caption to this photo says: “I became a vegan the day I watched a video of a calf being born on a dairy farm. The baby was dragged away from his mother before he hit the ground. The helpless calf strained his head backwards to find his mother. The mother bolted after her son and exploded into a rage when the rancher slammed the gate on her. She wailed the saddest noise Iā€™d ever heard an animal make, and then thrashed and dug into the ground, burying her face in the muddy placenta.”

The friend who “shared” this photo is someone I love dearly, so while my first reaction was to get blood boiling mad, I didn’t want to speak out of anger or pure emotion.

Pure Emotion.

That’s exactly what this is. It’s a misleading photo, with a very convincing and emotionally gripping caption, used to lead people to believe this is how ranchers treat their cattle.

Let’s talk about what really happens. This is a dairy calf, in order for us to have milk, the cow will have to have been bred and calved. Cows start producing milk during late gestation and continue to lactate several months post calving. Second, calves aren’t “dragged” away as soon as they hit the ground. The calf has to ingest the mother’s colostrum. (Colostrum is “first milk,” it’s full of antibodies which protect the calf until it can start producing it’s own antibodies.) If colostrum is not ingested from the cow within the first 12 hours the calf will die. Then in the case of a dairy calf, it will be removed from it’s mother after about two days so she can be milked.

After the calves are removed from the mothers they are given a replacement milk to meet their nutritional needs. Think of this like feeding a baby a bottle made from formula. While my parents never had dairy calves, we sometimes had bottle calves when a cow wouldn’t take to her calf or didn’t produce enough milk to feed her baby. Bottle calves, like all babies, have to be fed more often and require lots of attention.

On the other hand, they are very cute and will absolutely melt your heart. Prepare to be head-butted a lot though. For me, as someone of small stature, being surprised with a playful head-butt by something that at birth is half my size, has knocked me to the ground a few times.

Which brings me to this next part of the above photo. If this rancher in fact “slammed the gate on her,” (the cow) there was a reason. First, for the calf to be immediately taken, there was something wrong with it. Two, keep in mind, the rancher has to protect themselves. They are working with an animal that is a lot larger than them and can seriously injure or kill them if safety precautions are not taken.

Final point, “burying her face in the muddy placenta.” People… cows eat that. All of them do. When I was younger, my sister and I would try to get it out of the stall to “help out the cow,” we didn’t know any better and we thought it was gross. Well truth of the matter is, removing it doesn’t make the cow happy, it’s their natural instinct to eat it. Along with the essential nutrients that come from eating the placenta, cows also do this to keep the birthing site clean and as a defense to keep predators from looking for an easy target.

So, now that we’ve broken all this down, I hope this picture makes more sense to anyone who may have not known. Bottom line here: the Internet is full of misleading pictures and nonfactual, emotion filled posts. As consumers you all need to be willing to be open the the real truth, and as producers you all need to be willing to explain why you do what you do. There are “bad seeds” in every industry, but as a majority, farmers and ranchers genuinely care about their animals.

To learn more about the dairy industry or to talk to a dairy farmer, check out Tim and Emily Zweber at zweberfarms.com or “Dairy Carrie,” at dairycarrie.com

17 thoughts on “Be aware of what you share

  1. jhayden30 says:

    Good blog. Like on a farm is hard work, our livestock is our livelihood, so it only makes sense that we do whatever we have to to keep our livestock safe and well taken care of.

  2. dairycarrie says:

    Great post! Thanks for sharing my blog! I did a few posts that tie into this that I would like to share…
    This first one explains exactly how we care for newborn dairy calves and why. We actually don’t leave the calves with their mothers for very long and for good reason.
    http://dairycarrie.com/2012/04/16/newbaby/

    The second link is a post I did dissecting an animal rights video step by step. It’s a hard one to watch but I think I bring some clarity to the video.
    http://dairycarrie.com/2012/04/26/animalrightsvide/

    • High Heels & Shotgun Shells says:

      Thank you so much for your input Carrie, and for the videos for others to see. My background is mainly beef cattle which is so different than the dairy industry, because of that my dairy knowledge is small scale. I appreciate you and everyone who commented and gave more detail on how dairy cattle are really handled.

  3. Alicia says:

    I worked as a calf feeder at a dairy while I was in college. I attended the pregnant cows and fed all the babies. Holsteins are bred for milk production, not mothering ability. Most cows walked away from their calves. We did have one old babysitter cow in there that would lick the calves clean. Of curse I let her do it and then bottle fed the babies. The calves rarely get their own mother’s colostrum in a big dairy. We milked the cows after they gave birth and froze their colostrum so we had a reserve. I gently thawed out the colostrum to feed to the newborns. Then, i rubbed the babies down and they happily folloed me to a fresh pen. Holstein calves are surprisingly fragile so they are kept in separate hutches and fed by bottle until they can drink from a pail. I also walked down the aisles and scratched each baby. They would come to the fence to play. I rub their backs and they’d scamper to the other end and then back for more. At six weeks, they are strong enough to play with other calves so they go in big pens with five other calves. Playtime was so much fun to watch. No one really makes much money raising livestock. You do it because you love the animals. You need to be careful who you hire because they might not care as mch as you do. The place I worked had good peoplewgo handled the cows well. Did you know unhappy cows let down less milk? They have to trust the people that work in the milking parlor.

    • High Heels & Shotgun Shells says:

      Alicia, thank you so much for your comment, and sharing your experience working at a dairy. Stories like yours are the kind everyone needs to hearing. I appreciate you clearing up some parts I left very vague, as I told Carrie above, my dairy knowledge is very small scale, so I’m very excited you all with large scale dairy industry experience weighed in! It just goes to show even though operations are diverse the compassion behind each is the same. šŸ™‚

  4. Jenn says:

    this all boils down to doing your research and learning FACTS before emotion!! I truly do not understand why people take a picture and misunderstand it and use emotion instead of facts!!! posts on fb like this make us in agriculture look bad and what sucks is that people would rather believe emotional BS than learn facts!!

    • High Heels & Shotgun Shells says:

      Yes, yes it does. I totally agree with you. Unfortunately for the general public the bad news is what they are swamped with. Those of us in agriculture know better because we see the truth everyday. As an industry we have to work harder on making ourselves more transparent and approachable, which I feel like we are heading in the right direction. I’ve learned the best way to get my point across is to stay calm, kill them with kindness, drop the “ag lingo” and explain why we do what we do. Thank you for your thoughts Jenn!

  5. Jane says:

    Maybe trusting people who take care of their farms, animals and families will be the next “animal” craze of our time. I sure hope so!
    Thank you………. *shared*

  6. Josh says:

    A few months ago I went to the hospital with my wife. They made her take all her clothes off, she was freezing cold. They then proceeded to stick needles in her arm and pump her full of drugs. After the drugs had set in, my wife was totally out of it, didnt even know what was going on, how natural is that? They wheeled the bed she was on down a cold hallway into a room with like 5 or 6 strangers and all of these crazy machines. Different people with gloves and funny hats all were doing things to her while my wife was extremely sedated. One of them then decided to SLICE HER MIDSECTION OPEN and PULL OUT OUR SCREAMING NEWBORN SON. If this is what is best then why is he screaming so loud? If this is so great then why does my wife need all these newfangled DRUGS!!!!???

    They immediately took him off to the side and ran all sorts of “tests” on him. It was awful. Then they took him out of the room completely, while my wife had no idea what was going on. The people sewed her back up, but you could tell they just thought of her as a patient on which their protocols were practiced.

    Next thing I know they have my son NAKED under some bright flourescent lights, meanwhile he is screaming MOMMY COME HELP ME the whole time, I’m sure.

    I could go on and on, but I hate re-living it.

    The whole ordeal was awful. We will never go back to a hospital again. In fact I am joining a FB that thinks its best that no one should use hospitals.

    -@JoshinYall

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