One question that I have is what happens to the males born on these factory farms. Are we only eating the poor mothers that have reproduced so many offspring that she is dried up and no longer ‘useful’? That appears to be the way it works. For the chickens I found the exact answer, males are thrown away at birth. I never found an answer for pigs, but for dairy cows, the males are sold and slaughtered for veal. There might be an exception in the beef industry, but probably those male calves are used as veal.

Shockingly enough, the first website that came up on my search was a place called Dairy Farming Today. I was prepared for a horrendous sight that would blind my eyes with pain and suffering because of the awful pictures I see most of them seem to be of a dairy cow. I guess because the oversized, swollen utters are a clear picture of a suffering animal. I was shocked again with something quite different. The site has a blue and green, grassy and fresh theme. They had videos, pictures, a dictionary, a Q&A which I’ll be using after I finish researching this and get a list of questions, a FAQ, explanations of what goes on at a dairy farm. As far as the writing content goes, it didn’t go into great detail and I wasn’t too impressed, but then I watched the videos and that changed. Had I just happened to hear a rumor that the dairy industry was a smelling a little iffy then I would be set. I’m no expert and I’m not sure what I should be looking for, but the place that was featured in these videos was just about spotless. They had pictures of cows eating grass, the greenest grass I’ve ever seen.  If I didn’t know anything about this subject, I could sleep peacefully for the rest of my life. I don’t know a lot, nor have I see a lot, but I know enough to understand that not all dairy farms are like this.

This site states that 99% of all dairy farms are family-owned and that most don’t have more than 200 cows. This may or may not be true. I haven’t been to them all to know.

My issue is that everything they do from what they feed them (some grass, but a combination of feed and they call themselves ‘recyclers of nutrients’. I’ve heard of everything from cement mix to same species meat to manure being put into the feed. So yes, they are in fact recycling) to the antibiotics that they give are so nicely described it’s hard to second guess. It truly sounds like cow heaven. While some places are probably this nice (I doubt any place is that clean which that is part of working with animals) and I know that sometimes animals just get sick, I’d like to believe that all farms are this peaceful, but I just don’t think that is the case.

So what is really going on in some of these dairy farms?

Resting Dairy Cows


Machines are used to milk the cows. If the machines are not properly maintained, they can send a painful electric shock though the udder several times a day.

In order for a cow to produce milk, they must be either pregnant or just have had a calf.  The mothers are kept pregnant their whole life. Each time she would be artificially inseminated on what the industry calls a ‘rape rack’ or with a farmer’s arm. Interestingly enough, I didn’t see very many calves in any of their pictures. That’s because the calves are taken away immediately after birth to avoid bonding between the mother and her child. A male calf is usually turned into veal.  Mother cows have been known to break down the stall door to find their calf.

While I was looking at videos, I saw one about dehorning cows to ‘protect the workers’. One guy commented that he had worked with cows for 30 years and that cows could be extremely aggressive. He had seen them barge through a barn door and not be the least bit phased and just kept running on their merry way. Could it be that they had a reason to do this? Could it be that they were running away from something or after something? I might be completely alone in this, but I happen to believe that most animals have a reason to do what they do. It’s called self-defense. Not always, but most of time animals have a reason for their violence. Especially in the wild. Wild animals are… well, wild. If a person gets killed by a wild animal it’s their own fault.

A cow’s natural life span is about 20 years, but most cows are lucky if they live three years. Despite the heavy use of hormones and antibiotics, usually by this time, they are ‘dried up’ and they’ll turn into what we call ‘ground up’ meat.

A male calf born to a dairy cow is the wrong breed to profitably be raised for beef. His fate, unfortunately, is much worse. Veal is the soft, pale, anemic flesh of a calf. Veal calves are kept inside in a crate barely bigger than themselves. Chained at the neck, they can’t even turn around. They are fed a liquid diet deficient in iron, so their muscles don’t develop properly. Many people recognize the cruelty in raising veal and will not eat it, yet are unaware of the intimate connection between the dairy and veal industries. Supporting one supports the other.

Veal Crates

Veal crates.


Tail docking is when up to 2/3 of a cows tail is remove either by getting it cut off or banded so the circulation is cut off and the tail falls off. This is suggested to promote cleanliness of the cow, utter health, milk quality and worker health. Study after study has concluded that these are not realistic results of tail docking.

Dehorning is something that was not mentioned. There are many methods used to dehorn cows. I don’t believe that this isn’t completely unnecessary because I’m sure that a person or another cow could be seriously injured by these accidently. But I do think that dairy isn’t essential to the human diet and if we didn’t drink it and didn’t cause other people to force themselves on a cow then we wouldn’t have to consider doing this at all. I also think that it’s horrible that cows are subjected to this horror while they’re awake and that the people removing them are so careless.


Like all the other animal sections of factory farming, these cows are treated cruelly. They are also injected with Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) to increase by up to 25% the already exorbitant amount of milk they produce. Of the 9 million dairy cattle in the U.S., 7-25% are injected with BGH. The use of BGH to increase milk production results in increased udder size and increased frequency of infections such as mastitis. This causes abnormally large udders and produce problems walking, so a cow’s legs are usually spread apart, distorting the normal configurations of her pelvis and spine. Mastitis and other untreated infections injuries aren’t rare sights on these farms. Once the damages have taken their course and render the cows immobile, the cows are termed ‘downers’ are sent to be slaughtered. If you’ve seen Food, Inc. then you know that they aren’t treated very kindly at this stage either.



Downed Cow



And those are just a few horrors that you’ll find in some dairy farms. Stay tune because the next post will give solutions to some of these problems.


12 responses to “Dairy

  1. Ugh. This freaks me out. This IS really important, but I think it’s one of those things that people would rather not think about… I am cutting down my meat intake drastically, aiming to become vegetarian. Blog posts like these just hasten the process! I will tweet and by the way, thanks for liking my post… 🙂

    • Thanks! I agree. I have drastically cut down as well. I live with my aunt and her family during the week, so she cooks dinner for them and I eat with them, so I eat whatever she cooks and she usually cooks meat. That’s about the only time I eat meat. My mom sometimes cooks it on the weekend and I’ll eat it then too, but she has cut down the use of it a lot. I don’t drink milk and haven’t in a while and I don’t eat most dairy unless it’s cooked into the meal like cheese on pizza or eggs in bread or something. I could live without it, but can’t really cut it out altogether because other people are cooking for me and it would be rude to not accept it. I’m kind of learning how to cook, so someday I’ll offer to cook once a week or something and make my meals vegetarian. Change just takes one step at a time and that is all that matters. What’s your twitter?

  2. Holy smokes. You don’t have a clue about dairy cows. The cow that you claim has mastitis actually doesn’t. She has enlarged udder called udder edema. She probably just freshened. Will the edema subside? To some degree. Her genetics has allowed for a really big udder. When an udder becomes that large it’s not good for the cow or the milk. She will have to be slaughtered. No one wants a cow to be in pain. And no one ever lets mastitis run rampant on a farm! Get a clue! As a dairy farm your milk is constantly being tested for antibiotics and infection in the milk. So too high of a white blood cell count (infection killers) will lead the dairy inspector to pull your milk shipping permit which in turns causes you to lose your license to produce milk hence your money flow stops. Seriously get on a farm and do some research! Antibiotics are only used when cows are sick not as preventative! And the milk is tested every single day to make sure the farmer is honest! Again it would lead to a loss of your income if you shipped “hot” milk. Duh!
    Veal crates are no longer used, it’s illegal. Dairy bull calves are generally brought to a sale barn and people buy them for raising their own beef.

    Dehorning… ever been confronted by cow with horns? It’s not pretty! Some cows are just more naturally aggressive and they will go after you. Even without the horns you still have to be careful around all livestock! Cows have a pecking order within the herd and they will injure each other and you if they are not dehorned.

    Yes, those places with beautiful, clean cows do exist and are incredibly common. Go visit a farm all ready!

    Last point… electric shocks from the milker? Really? In all my 30 some years milking cows we’ve had this once. We figured it out in about 3 milkings. Production was down and the cows were kicking, hard. So we got the whole system tested and it was coming directly from the main power pole. Since then stray voltage is checked whenever the milkers are recalibrated, which is every 6 months. It’s now standard practice on dairy farms.

    You are insanely misinformed. Get to know a dairy farmer, even a large CAFO farm and really understand before you take pictures off the internet and get ALL of your info from the web. What poor research you have done.

    By the way. Most cows live to be at least 7-9 years. If not longer. They have to be 3 before they can be bred! Most of our cows were in the 7-11 year range. We’ve had them as long as 15 years and still producing milk.

    • Udder edema applies to the udder and the subcutaneous tissue immediately in front of the udder. That area is enlarged and as you say happened after a cow gives birth. Edema is a natural part of the process. Sometimes it’s more prominent in a new mother, but sometimes it’s because the cow has been over produced.

      Mastitis is the inflammation of the mammary gland and udder tissue, and is a major endemic disease of dairy cattle. Mastitis is an infection and the udder is inflamed. It’s caused by bacteria. Am I right, so far? In any case, an udder that large is abnormal and causes problems for the cow.

      I stated several times that I’m not an expert, but I know the cow in that picture has a problem and shouldn’t have been left in misery for that long. The problem, whatever it is, should not have gotten that far.

      As far as farming practices, I’m not the one to argue about that. All I know is that the people who are cruel enough to force these cows to produce milk the way they do, live the way they do, do the things they do to make an extra dollar here or there, doesn’t give a crap about the cow’s health or people’s health. Not every farm is like this, but some are and those are the ones people need to be aware of. They need to know what to look for and that’s all I want to help people do. I don’t believe for a second that antibiotics aren’t used as a preventative. There wouldn’t be a growing concern over resistance to antibiotics if they were used responsibly.

      I’m not sure about how often milk is tested. It’s not listed in very many places. One site I found said milk is tested in bulk four times every six months. Bulk tests don’t seem reliable anyway. If you’re using ‘hot’ as infected then yeah, it should lead to a loss of income, but people aren’t always aware of what they’re really buying and the government isn’t good at telling the truth anyway.

      Veal crates are illegal in some states and in the UK, but not in the United States. The market for veal may not be huge, but it’s worth knowing about.

      Animals are animals. I will never say that harming an animal just so humans can exploit them is okay. If animals can’t be taken care of without harming people then perhaps they weren’t meant to be taken care of. We should let them be instead of forcing them to be something they’re not meant to be.

      I will be visiting a farm on Monday. An all natural farm, hormone free, grass fed, free range, everything that a farm should be. I’m sure it will be clean. There are some out there, but that doesn’t mean they all are and those that aren’t are the one people need to know about no matter how hard it is to deal with.

      I’m sure your a nice person and take good care of your cows and you mean well. Your farm isn’t the kind that I’m writing about. Your experience simply isn’t the only kind out there. Thank you for your thoughts.

      • Udder edema will enlarge the whole area. That particular cow is older and her udder is enlarged because of several factors. Genetics, being older, edema, but NOT mastitis. That udder is large and may be come a problem and it’s not from being overproduced. It’s largely genetics. We have had cows that have a nice udder for their whole lives and give plenty of milk- upwards of 80 pounds of milk a day during peak production. We have other cows that after their third calf the udder just explodes and we don’t really know why. We continue to milk them until it’s problematic or mastitis enters the picture and is too hard to treat. Then the cow is shipped to auction for slaughter.

        You cannot tell from a picture that a cow has mastitis. You have to actually milk the cow and feel the udder to see if she has mastitis. Mastitis is an infection of the udder. The milk comes out like snot or cottage cheese and the affected quarter can be hard as a brick because of infection and inflammation. Antibiotics are inserted into the udder via the teat and the cow is treated until the mastitis is gone. The milk is withheld from the bulk tank and dumped or fed to older calves.

        Again, milk is tested daily from each farm. That is the law for the nation. Read the federal milk standards through USDA or dept. of ag. We can get readouts of our milk and it’s components within a day. The one we are most concerned about is the Somatic Cell Count. That has to be under 400,000 (and that’s horribly high and there’s something wrong if you have that count that high!). We try to be under 200,000 daily and if it’s over that you have cows with some sort of infection some where. The dairy also tests for antibiotics in the milk DAILY. A sample is pulled from every farm by the milk hauler and taken to the dairy processing facility and run for antibiotics. This is Federal law. The dairy will pull your license and fine the farm if you pollute the milk with antibiotics. Milk is very safe to drink!

        Antibiotic resistance- that’s right blame all farmers. Especially dairy right? It might have something to do with people going to the doctor for every little thing and getting antibiotics. Dairy farming uses very little antibiotics and again it’s too fricken expensive to keep using antibiotic/medicated feed as preventatives. Price that stuff out once and see how you can make a dollar by using it every day.

        I’m not going to argue about your view of why people farm and that we’re all pretty much cruel and hate animals and abuse them to no end. You’re just plain wrong and uniformed. Farmers really don’t get rich by raising animals. Most years its a break even or losing proposition. They love what they are doing and want to provide safe food.

        I visit lots of farms, that’s part of my full time job. I help farms protect groundwater through good farming practices. Not one have I witnessed animal abuse. I think your terms are different than mine. And all the farms I have been on are pretty clean even after 2 inches of rain the night before. My experiences are not in short supply. I don’t think I’ll change your mind in any of this, but you need to stop publishing things that are just untrue. People like me will continue to defend and refute our way of life. Just do your research on farms through experience and quit relying on the internet as your basis for all your information.

        Hope your visit on the farm was a good one.

      • If you can’t tell from a picture if a cow has mastitis then how can you tell from a picture that a cow DOESN’T have mastitis.

        And are you saying that a 400,000 scc, which as you say is horribly high and something is wrong, that the milk can still be sold?

        Every industry that is involved with antibiotics abuses antibiotics. I know that.

        I never said that I thought that everyone who farms is cruel. I come from a family of farmers who had goats and cows, pigs, chickens and everything else. I can tell you they weren’t rich either.

        I’m glad that you defend your way of life, if you’re not the kind of person that I’m writing about. I’m sorry that a few major corporations give the industry a bad name. But those stories have to be told and people can think for themselves and decide who to support and who not to.

        I don’t do my research all online. I’ve read books and talked to people. The crap I write about is real. And people need to know about it even if it sucks.

      • By the way I watched that video on your blog. The dehorning should be done in a different manner and the tail docking is nothing I”ve seen like that before. The cows with the infections… man that dairy probably got shut down. The prolapsed uterus … that’s pretty bad. 99% of dairies are not like this. I was disgusted after that video. So I can see how you are misinformed. Please go to: http://www.michigandairynewsbureau.org/

        They have produced some nice videos of dairy farms of all sizes. Some are as large as 1800 milking cows and some are smaller 70 cow dairy farms. Hope this is informative.

      • Thank you. I will look into it. I am not misinformed. I know that not all farms are like this. I know that. But some are and people need to know about them. That’s it. To think that it’s all one way or another is to be misinformed. All this was meant to do was to get people thinking. To get people to understand where there food could be coming from if they don’t pay attention. That’s it.

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