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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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Hi Jonathan

It was very sad to read about "the three old girls". It's even sader to me, because I have been a strict vegetarian for about 25 years, and I have been vegan for the past 8 years - I became Vegan when I realized that in order to have milk, joghurt,cheese, etc. - one needs to have calws otherwise there is no milk.

Now this may sound like a strange idea to you, but have you ever considered letting cows, like these three old girls who have given you so much over these ten years, to may be give them a sort of "old age retirement home" - you could have a fund going for them - I am sure people would love to donate for the keep of a dear old cow who worked all her life and she deserves a retirement place where she does not have to produce every day.

The other thing I find really, really horrible is the fact that these cows - not just those three, but all the cows who have been living in a great "home"-living conditions which other cows, who are not on organic farms, only dream off. And then their last journey is on a meat truck - smelling death and being butchered in the most god aweful way. Please don't misunderstand - I am NOT trying to make you feel guilty or blame you in any way. You are a dairy farmer and I respect that. All I am saying is, there must be a different way to slaughter these animals, other than putting them through this horrific last experience. Couldn't they be butchered at home or in some other fashion ?

Anyway, I just had to write this because it really bothers me how we treat animals in our care and when they have given what they can and cannot give anymore profit - they go be slaughtered. How about just having them put to sleep and bury them ?

Just want to thank you for being a caring farmer who at least acknowleged these three old girls and appreciated their life.

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