The Udder Truth
Joel Voth | Editor-In-Chief
There are many misconceptions when it comes to agriculture, specifically with food production in the dairy industry. Over time, individuals have started making videos and posts that are discussing the negative effects of the livestock industry and the cruel widespread animal abuse on farms. But before uneducated statements about this topic can be made, one must do their research and talk to individuals who know what is going on within these industrial outlets. Let’s break down a few of the common misconceptions and give educated and experience-based knowledge on these ideas.
One of the most common accusations is that “farmers ‘dump’ antibiotics into livestock’s feed.” For those of you who do not know, antibiotics cost money; there would be no financial benefit of giving an animal more of something they don’t need. All livestock that are exposed to antibiotics are given a drug withdrawal period — an amount of time after the last dosage before the animal can go to market. This regulation is in all the different industries. If a cow is given antibiotics her milk is dumped, due to the fact that all the milk is tested for antibiotics on the farm before it can be unloaded at a plant. If antibiotics get into a farm milk tank, the entire tank has to be dumped and the farmer would be subjected to severe fines.
Yet another discussion commonly arises that livestock are raised in dark and filthy barns, in stalls that are barely bigger than their bodies. However, large fans keep the barns cool in the summer and doors or curtains can be rolled up or down to monitor the barns temperature. Depending on the layout of the barn, they have individual beds and areas to move around in, having the free choice of fresh running water to drink and nutritious food to consume. Animals thrive and enjoy calm environments, and as you can see, farmers try and create that as accurately as possible.
“A lot of research has been done to see how cows could produce more milk and better quality of milk,” says Lars Zeldenrijk, whose family own and milk 160-head of dairy in Mount Elgin. “The answer being management every time.” In an industry where the quality of the product is based on the comfort and the well being of the animal, there is a rising standard of the health of livestock on farms.
Another common discussion is that farmers are cruel to calves for taking them away from their mothers at such an early age. However, if we left the calves with the cows, there are risks that the calf will not nurse soon enough to get important antibodies at the right time. “The calf is where it all begins; for the cow to produce milk, they need to give birth to a calf,” says Mandy de Boer, whose family own and milk 50–head of dairy in Arthur. “The better we treat our calves, the better the cow it grows up to be. The lives of the calves are the first and foremost.”
In today’s world, individuals are so unaware of how industries operate that they are easily fooled into fearing that the foods they consume are not safe and the industry is corrupt. But most of the time, the information that they are receiving is speculation, or has motives to make money in another industry. If we stop drinking milk and start drinking things like almond or soy milk-products, how can we say that we are making the correct decision? We don’t know where these almonds were grown or who employed the harvest of the almonds, if the labor was legal, or if a fair wage was paid to employees.
In respect to livestock welfare, we invest our lives into creating a healthier and better environment for our animals. Yes, we do see some situations where animals are abused and those individuals should face consequences for their immoral behavior. Though uncommon, this behavior is not acceptable in the industry and is not glorified whatsoever.
If you have questions about how farming is done in Canada, talk to a farmer. Don’t go online to listen to someone who has never set foot on a farm offer his or her opinion on the evils of the different agricultural industries. Explore this industry for yourself, and hopefully you’ll see that the farmer only wants what is best for their livestock so that they, in turn, can do their best for their farmer.