You may have already seen this video – it does a fantastic job of summing up what’s wrong with the dairy industry (even organic dairy) in less than 5 minutes:
I was so disturbed by this video that I started talking to dairy farmers. Call me naive, but I actually had NO IDEA calves were taken from their mothers right after birth! Somehow, I still had the old saying “One teat for the farmer, one for the calf” running in my head. What happened to that?? What happened to sharing the milk?
The Masai of Kenya live off of cow’s blood and milk and the calves live with their mothers and they all live long, healthy lives. Other tribes and people that live with their animals don’t separate the calves and cows. Why doesn’t it work that way here?
The first farmer I talked to was a commercial dairy farmer (not organic) for about 20 years and now he grows hay. I asked him why the calves cannot be left with their mother and he replied, “Oh you can’t do that, the calves will get scours (diarrhea) because the mother produces too much milk and the calf won’t stop drinking.”
As our discussion progressed, he enlightened me further, “In the old days, a cow that produced 60 pounds of milk a day was considered a good producer. Now, the cows produce 160 pounds a day and if you had one that only produced 60 pounds, you’d get rid of her. So the calf just keeps drinking, doesn’t know when to stop, and it gets sick.”
Well, can’t you separate the calves during the day, and just let them be with mum at night?
“Oh no, that mother will just stand at the fence and call all day for that calf if the calf is anywhere on the property. She won’t eat or nothing, so we can’t do that. But I used to leave the calves with the mother for a week. That way they could get the colostrum and get a good start in life. And I just couldn’t take them away from the mother any earlier. All the other farmers would tell me I was crazy for doing that and giving up that much milk. But I just couldn’t take them any earlier.”
When calves are taken from their mother – usually right after giving birth, they are fed powdered milk formula. The ones that are kept for veal go to places like this until they are slaughtered: