Babies at a dairy farm + cheesemaker // Oregon, USA
What happens to the mothers and babies of the dairy industry?
This is the most important question to ask if you consume dairy products. Growing up vegetarian I honestly had always thought holsteins [aka the black and white cows] produced milk all of the time and Jersey and Angus cows were sadly used for their flesh. I was so wrong.
Like all mammals, cows must give birth to produce milk. The milk they make is for their babies, just like human mothers produce milk for their offspring; it enables to babies to grow into strong, healthy adults. Cows milk is for calves - just like dogs milk is for puppies and human milk is for babies. So why are humans consuming dairy products using the milk of another species? I’m honestly not sure - but I am hopeful soon this will cease. Dairy is not only cruel in the way that it separates mother and child, disposes of the “by-product” known as male or bull calves, destroys our environment in several different ways, and ultimately leads to our untimely deaths by many diseases like heart disease and cancer.
I remember all of the “Got Milk” Ads in my teen magazines; the celebrities paid millions of dollars to don a milk mustache. The incredible athletes who competed in the Olympics whom were also paid millions to claim “milk does a body good.” To be honest, I disliked milk as a child but my Mom always told me that I had to drink it because it would give me strong bones and I need the calcium. When I didn’t grow to be as tall as my brothers I was told it was because I didn’t drink enough milk as a child. These claims are complete lies to put it frankly.
First let’s talk about the mother and child. Like all species, a mother forms a strong bond with her children. If you have children imagine what it would be like to carry your child for 9 long months and as soon as he or she was born she was taken from you within minutes. Now imagine that happening over and over again - each pregnancy you know what will happen at the end of it. Just because cows and other animals are unable to speak english it is proven they are intelligent beings who understand emotions. We must be compassionate and put ourselves in the place of these animals - we can not continue to be ignorant to their suffering. Each female dairy cow is to produce a healthy baby once a year starting when they are 6-12 months of age - younger at some farms. Here is a quote from a dairy farmer whom was asked where the baby’s mother is on their Instagram photo [proof if requested]: “all the calves r by themselves as soon as they can do it. Then, they’re bottle fed and by four months they’re injected with sperm so that they can produce milk and produce more female calves.” These calves are just babies and yet they are forcibly impregnated to have more babies. Dairy is a money business - do not be fooled by farmers who claim to “love and care for their animals” - they only love what the animals provide for them.
At most farms the females are forcible impregnated. The way they do this is barbaric and as a woman I find it appalling that it is legal. Again, just because cows can not speak english does not mean they don’t understand what is going on. Bull semen is usually frozen in straws and can be shipped to farms around the world - this way farmers can select from the best of the breed and attempt to only have female offspring. To impregnate the cow farmers use what the agriculture industry calls a “rape rack.” Right there tells you all you need to know about what happens to cows. This rack is a narrow device that restrains the cows while they undergo the artificial insemination. The farmer inserts one of his arms into the rectum of the cow and with his/her other arm inserts an AI gun, which contains bull semen, into her vagina. The AI gun is pushed until it reaches the cervix and the semen is injected into the uterus. I really have no words for this other than heartbreaking. How have we allowed this to occur? And for so many years?
So fast forward 9 months - the baby is born. To a dairy farmer: yay if it’s a girl since girls produce more milk! nay if it’s a boy. What happens to the boys depends on the farm. 1. Male calves are killed within hours of their birth using a gun, hammer and other horrible methods - I have witnessed this and although some farmers will claim its a fallacy made up by animal rights activists, it’s not. It sadly happens all over the world and there’s plenty of proof available. Many farmers say the cheaper the better when culling calves. A farmer from the United Kingdom was quoted in The Guardian stating, “I shoot black and white bull calves [the Holstein Friesian breed that predominates the dairy sector in the UK], but am still not hardened to like doing it. We have too many calves here. The space available on the farm [an 800-cow dairy herd] is only suitable for a maximum of 80. The less calves I have the better for the overall farm. This is a business and it has to be financially viable to make it worthwhile.” thisisdairyfarming.com says this about newborn calves: “The female calves are reared to join the milking herd and the male calves can either be reared for beef, if suitable, or sold for veal. Where no other options exist, farmers have no choice but to cull their bull calves.” [cull means to kill as a means of population control] 2. Male calves are brought to the next auction and sold for veal or cheap beef. Once a farmer sends off the calves they have no say or idea what actually happens to those calves. You will see farmers claiming “our calves are sent to market but are never sold for veal” - and how does one prove that? It’s a lie to make you feel better about purchasing their brand of milk that claims to not support animal cruelty while being knee-deep in it. They know veal is a controversial topic because people do not want to eat baby animals, unknowing that by eating dairy products they are already supporting the death of innocent babies. “Dairy producers will sell the bull calves to veal producers, either privately or through a sales barn. Therefore, bull calves can be used by the veal industry to create a food product” - ontarioveal.on.ca.
So what about the females who cant reproduce? Online a female dairy farmer wrote about how her farm handled a cow who would not produce babies: “A cow should have one calf per year. [This cow] aborted a set of twins in February 2017, we tried to breed her back for a little over a year because my Dad knew I loved her. To no avail. We let her milk until she dropped below our break even point for where it costs more to feed her than what she’s returning in milk. That point was this month. She headed to the sale barn this morning with a few other herd members - including 268 - the cow who broke my foot - to be sold as cull cows. Culling is removing animals from breeding stock to enhance the desirable characteristics (aka breed for good milk or remove bed feet from the gene pool). A cow is also sold as cull if she's unfit to be milked by another farmer or will not rebreed. Cull cows don’t bring in much money but its more than paying the dead truck and personally much easier for me. It’s also more than feeding them for free. Before all else you must remember it’s a business.” Remember consumers - dairy is a business - one built upon lies, cruelty and death. I beg you to please stop supporting this industry and the torture of some of the gentlest creatures known to man.
The end of the line; There is no retirement for dairy cows that can no longer have babies, produce milk or have suffered illnesses like mastitis that makes it impossible for them to be milked. These cows are culled, better known as sent to auction and slaughter, just like their babies who were raised for their flesh in the form of veal or beef. Spent dairy cows are usually around the age of four or five and will be used for cheap beef. These souls spent their entire life having babies that were taken away so they would produce milk in large quantities for the farmer they sadly belong to and the gratitude they are shown is death. Where is the love in that? How can one claim to love the animals on their farm if all that matters is the money in their pockets? Did you know that cows can live to be 25 years old naturally, yet they are dying incredibly young due to the insane abuse they withstand.
Does this upset you? I hope so. Please take a stand against dairy products and go vegan. Become an activist or even just share what you’ve learned with those around you. The dairy industry has profited for far too long off of the suffering of sentient beings and it needs to be stopped. After reading this you are no longer ignorant to what is really happening and if you doubt what I have written I invite you to look into it yourself. Go to farms and auctions - the second is a must because if you are going to support this industry with your money then you need to see the full reality of what is going on. Those happy photos on milk cartons, brands claiming to be “fair” and “compassionate”, the Got Milk advertisements telling you that you need to buy milk right now - they are all propaganda and should be illegal. The animals and planet need you to care and be their voice.