Tag Archives: animal welfare

Progressive Dairyman

Of all the valuable reading I get on the modern day smoke signal (Internet), I get more from the dairy magazines than any other now. The dairy farmers have learned the best ways to get the most production out of a cow.

Nutrition, cow comfort, and milking style seem to be really important things that make the operation successful.

I have read that nutrition has changed from an art to a science with technology. It is amazing how effective our feeding of animals has become, when we control the feed they eat and the time they eat.

It used to be standard practice to milk morning and night. I have read in some cases they may milk up to six times a day, on the modern dairy. The way cows are milked, the kind of parlor design, and the skill of the milker is very important for production.

Cow comfort is very well thought out. All kinds of creature comforts are provided – water at the proper temperature (some dairies run milk and water pipes together to cool the milk and warm the water), feeding and feed bunk design for optimum cow intake, and the very best rest areas for cow comfort and reduction of lameness.

I recently learned from a dairy specialist for Zoetis that they design dairies for cows to turn to the right. The gut of the dairy cow is so large that they have a difficult time turning left, because of the way the gut is designed so the cow likes to turn right.

These are just some of the things I have learned about the dairy world. I am certain if you learn more about the business there would be much more to learn about the science of making cows more productive.

This is a problem that I see happening. The dairy industry has gotten so good that the cows are are actually working themselves to death.

When a cow’s genetics have caused her to have a gut so large that you must design facilities you may be going to far. Watch one try to get up.

The length of time a cow is productive is less than it used to be. The production part of the cow is getting to be more than the transportation part of the cow can handle.

A lot of the negative animal welfare on national media coverage has involved dairy cattle. Animals with limited mobility, handlers not using proper animal handling techniques, and usually handlers trying to force the animal to go faster than it is capable of all led to these animal welfare problems.

To be blunt, the cows are not taken out of production soon enough and are not in good enough shape physically to go from milking to slaughter.

The other problem happens when the handlers don’t have the time or compassion to slow down or use the proper equipment to get the job done correctly.

I am a big fan of the Mexican charro skills with a rope. These skills are amazing. The Mexican culture with animals is much different than ours. We must make the Hispanics understand that our culture will not tolerate what we in our culture view as abuse to animals. In my opinion it is more important to learn this than it is to learn English.

The Mexican culture with animals is not the same as ours. We must keep reinforcing and encouraging proper handling practices frequently. To just think we can tell them once and then all the tradition and habits will go away is ridiculous.

It is also important for the dairy employee to get skilled at Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) practices. We see that they are way behind the beef industry in this. Again it is important that the employee understands the impact of doing things wrong.

One thing I feel we could all benefit from is our emotions toward animals. Animal handling expert Bud Williams spoke of this all the time. He felt animals really responded well to a person that enjoyed working with animals, and the mood of the people dealing with the animals was really important to health and production. I read of a study that showed when you named a dairy cow her production went up. The researcher surmised that if something has a name people care about it more.

It is so incredible to have not only nutrition go from an art to a science, but many other aspects of animal care as well. In college it changed from animal husbandry to animal science. We better be careful not to go to far toward science. We may even benefit to getting back to the way we felt about animals when we hand milked twice a day.

The dairy industry has come so far in animal science, but I think they need to get back to the art of animal husbandry. I think we all need to learn more on the art of animal husbandry.

It’s the right thing to do, and that’s Stockmanship and Stewardship.

~ Curt Pate

Avarice

This is a word I did not know of until recently. It kind of is the same as greed but it’s more about an uncontrollable desire for money and riches no matter what, and the desire to hoard the wealth.

The way I learned about this was someone talking about big companies being avaricious. This may be true with some companies, and I have even saw the results of this in one company.

When I first started in the world of horse expos I got involved with Purina Mills. They had been a company with a great reputation in all ways. They were purchased by another company and I was in on some of the process. A bunch of young greedy fellows that knew everything came in and managed with a total different philosophy. They bankrupted the company in a few years. This was a great lesson in how greed and arrogance will get you. Purina Mills was then purchased by another company that was managed with integrity and sound business practices and now they are making a profit providing a valuable product for consumers.

The thing I saw was the sales people, mill managers, research farm and even some of the tops in management knew that things at the top were not right, but kept on trying to do the right thing for the customer. That seems to be the only thing that saved the integrity of the checkerboard.

I have been fascinated with Walmart for several years. I have read several books about the company. They have a reputation for being a tough company to do business with and have probably been the reason for some companies demise. My conclusion is they are all about the customer and they will do everything they can to provide their customer with value and moral satisfaction.

Ryan Rupert of the NCBA invited me to attend the Walmart Global Sustainability Milestone meeting. Ryan presented on behalf of the beef industry. It was a great experience and I really was proud of what Ryan did and was amazed at how people in the audience responded to him and the message he shared about beef.

If Walmart is interested in sustainability, the majority of the consumers in the United States and the world are interested in sustainability. Walmart is also very interested in animal welfare. This tells me the customer is very interested in animal welfare.

From what I have read and from my experience at Walmart world headquarters, I do not feel Walmart has avarice. Instead it is almost like a culture to create great value for the customer. The Walmart mantra is “Save money, live better.” That is what Sam Walton was about and that is what the company is still about.

We in agriculture would do well to watch and learn from them. It seems we have to overcome the reputation of exploiting resources because of grazing. We need to refine our resource management and animal welfare practices. We need to work with the Walmarts of the world to learn to be better and help the customer understand “If it isn’t right, we will fix it.”

After thinking about it avarice is kind of the opposite of Stockmanship and Stewardship. We are about working with Mother Nature to create a quality lifestyle that is sustainable and profitable. For most, it is an honor and a huge responsibility to do it the best we can.

It would be time well spent to watch the Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting. Here’s the link: http://corporate.walmart.com/global-responsibility/environment-sustainability

~ Curt Pate

RE: Horse slaughter

This is a response to yesterday’s post on horse slaughter.

I have gotten lots of response on this which I expected.  It is great to see people so passionate about what they believe.

I would like to clear up a few things.

I am not judging what anyone else is doing, only giving my thoughts on how I feel.

My main points I wanted to make were these:

  • The people in animal agriculture must treat the animals we raise properly and in the way the public wants or we will be regulated.
  • To really treat horses the best way possible we must understand what really satisfies the horse, not what the human thinks the horse needs.
  • It is necessary for both sides of the issue to understand the change of thinking that has occurred in reference to horse-human relationships in the last thirty years.

I never said I was for or against horse slaughter, but improper handling of any animal in life and death.

I don’t think we are really helping the horse by name calling or getting angry.  The law says no horse slaughter in the U.S.  That is a fact.  It is still a country that if you follow the law, you can do what you want with your own property.  If people want to take their horse to an auction, I believe it is still legal in this country.  I am not taking mine and that’s my right.  If my neighbor wants to take his, that’s his right, and as long as he is not abusive in doing so, there is nothing I or anyone else can do about it.

The main thing in doing what you believe,  please treat the animal right and really think about what you are doing. Do the right thing.

That’s all I have got to say about this.

~ Curt Pate