Ever wonder where you milk comes from? I got a chance to find out last week when I visited a dairy farm in Western Wisconsin and met 100 hard working dairy farming women.
Having only the media view of “factory” farming, I was firmly on the organic/free range/family farm side of the argument. I have to say my view has changed - still need more info, but it isn’t as black and white as I thought. I visited a dairy farm with more than 800 cows — which is huge. It is run by a family (2 brothers and their wives) and some hired help (total of 12 people I think). They’d like to have more help, but can’t afford them with the low milk prices.
I had assumed “confined” cows would be unhappy cows, dirty cows, sad — but I was wrong. Over the hour-long tour, our host constantly talked about “cow comfort” from the different types of bedding to how the feed was presented. They invest in various types of fans and misters to keep them cool - they even had motion sensitive back scratching machines for the cows. It was a bit uncomfortable to watch one cow use it — she seemed to be REALLY enjoying it.
As anyone who has breast fed knows, if the mom is stressed or uncomfortable, the milk doesn’t flow. I hadn’t considered this concept in regard to dairy cows, but it makes sense. From that perspective, it seems ridiculous that a business person would set up a situation where conditions would limit production. No, indeed this farm was all about making the cows happy.
Our host talked about his routine and it was obvious how hard they work - long hours - and they are struggling to make a profit.
With their cute little kids running around it is hard to believe this was what Time Magazine calls a “soulless” operation.
Anyway, here’s what I’ve learned:
* The farmers I met are VERY busy, care deeply, and deserve our respect.
* There’s more to this issue than I ever imagined.
* I don’t know enough yet — it is time to get more information and start really understanding where our food comes from.
I suspect there is more than one right answer and the people who are most qualified to help me understand are the people working hard to produce our food.