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Follow organic dairy farmer Jonathan Gates as he reports weekly from his Vermont family farm. Howmars Farm is a certified organic dairy farm, one of many Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative farmer members who supply the milk that goes into making Stonyfield's yogurts and smoothies. The entire family pitches in on this third-generation farm. Check out some of the happenings on his farm and post your comments. Jonathan loves to get feedback from readers.

We say goodbye to three good ol' girls

Today we sent three cows down the road on the beef truck. It's always a little sad to have to cull cows out of the herd even when the decision is obvious. But today was even a little harder because all of the cows had been here on the farm for at least ten years and the oldest one turned 13 just yesterday. Rudy was born 13 years and one day ago, Brianne was 10 and 3/4's years old, and Lassie was just over 10 and 1/2 years old. That makes their average age about 11 and 1/2.

Brianne and Lassie were culled because of milk quality problems. They both had chronic mastitis that had persisted for the last 2 lactations that had not responded to any treatments I had used. Since we are paid extra for having high quality milk, and are penalized when our milk quality is poor, it makes sense to cull animals that are causing you problems and replace them with new animals. Rudy had a severly bruised rear quarter that had the potential to abcess, which could cause even more problems, so it made sense to sell her at this time, too.

You may ask, why am I making such a big deal about the age of the animals. It's because on the average farm, cows remain on the farm for an average of 5 years, not 11 1/2 like the three we sold today. Cows on large, conventional, freestall farming operations just can't last as long because they are pushed hard to produce as much milk as possible. Because of the way these cows are housed, fed, and treated for health problems, they just can't last under the stress. The goal on most organic farms is to reduce the amount of stress on the animal, keeping her healthier and happier for a long time. Letting them grazing, feeding them certified organic grain and forage, and using less stressful health treatments contribute to keeping the cows healthy and producing a high quality milk for a good long time.

Goodbye girls, and thanks for all you have given to Howmars Farm for the last decade.

JonExtreme3.jpg--Jonathan, Howmars Farm
Franklin, Vermont

Learn about other organic dairy farmers and the Organic Valley family of farms.


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congrat's on having your cows stay healthy, happy and productive for such a long time!

condolances for your loss as well.

I'm so sorry to hear about your cows. You seem to have such a loving connection with all your animals. I understand you must do what you have to at times, but I feel bad for you just the same. It must be hard to try not to get too connected when it is a 'business venture'.

Good luck to you all.

ahhh, the words we humans use to desensitize and make cruel actions easier ... I haven't heard of dairy cows being culled ... slaughtered yes, but culled?

This organic farm, while admirable in terms of comparing it with conventional intensive dairy farms, is still a business that causes unnecessary cruelty. Dairy products, while admittedly tastey, are for calves. Humans are the only species of animal on this planet that continues to drink milk after weaning and the only one to drink the milk of another species.

While these cows lived for an average of 11.5 years, there male calves certainly didn't. I hope this farm doesn't send it's male calves to the veal farm, not that being raised for beef is appreciably better.

Please keep an open mind, if possible, in regards to my comments.

I don't know what URL is. I enjoy The Bovine Bugle and today I'm also sad the girls had to go. I'm a very old lady who was reared on a farm and milked cows by hand - so if the milking machine ever quits just call me!!!!!!!

The best way to show respect for your ailing bovine friends is to give them proper medical care or to put them to sleep, as we would a loved one. The horrors to which they'll be subjected in the slaughterhouse are practically unspeakable--the fear, the brutal torture without anesthesia but with complete awareness and feeling. What a terrible way to end one's life! I hope in the future you'll honor your friends with gratitude for the service they've provided you and give them a proper burial. Thank you.

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