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Is a family dairy farm better?


When I was in my 20's, I lived on a family owned dairy farm with my boyfriend. His family had run this farm for generations, so the house was an old farmhouse, attached to the old barn. The barn was characteristic of the time and had a hole in the floor that the hay could be pushed down to the cattle below.

This barn hadn't been used in years, since they had built the more 'modern' barn, years prior to my existence. (This shot is of the 'new' hay barn)

While living there I was exposed to another way of life, more sustainable. The mother had a huge garden, corn that was planted alongside cowcorn in the field, an asparagus bed, tons of tomatoes that we would freeze, as well as cucumbers that were canned, squash and potatoes that could be stored all winter. We also had an additional freezer that housed of cheese and butter allotments from Cabot, and meat from non-producing dairy cows, or whatever animal the hunters brought home:(

So the good in this that I see (and all things have a silver lining somewhere; even the current administration is making people do stuff, crochet, knit, run for office, volunteer as a form of protest and to feel less helpless....) is that it gave me education that I would need later, and showed me a sustainable life.

While I was on the farm, I saw many atrocities that didn't phase me then....but I can't believe I was apart of then. I saw cows that were giving birth that needed chains added around the babies hooves to help pull the calf out. I saw cows lick the afterbirth off there calves and then never see them again. The average amount of time the mother and calf were together was 20 minutes. The calf didn't even get to suck on the mother's teet. The babies were put into the calfbarn and fed milk by bottle from the bulktank (so it was fed the milk of the mother and 50 other mother's).

The male calves were allowed to live in the calfbarn until the truck picked them up. Veal or raised meat was there destiny. The females would stay in the calfbarn until they were old enough/big enough to be put out to pasture before breeding. The female either stayed on the farm or was sold to another farmer. The average life of a dairy cow can be 20-25 years, but life expectancy is more like 5-10.

After the birth the mother needs to be milked, and because the calf is taken away, machines do this. This is the time that mastitis can set in. There's also no cleaning of the machines from cow to cow, so this can spread like wildfire if not noticed. After birthing some cows loose muscle ability and so uterine walls or vaginas can prolapsed....basically flop out of cow....at this point the solution to to sew the vagina shut.

It's crazy to think I was a participant in all of these scenarios. But the silver lining here, is that I feel justified in my knowledge and what I've chosen to become. My other life as a meat eater, and participant feels like another life, like it wasn't me, but it was....