Farmed Animal Watch
A Project of Animal Place

February 5, 2003                                                     (To Search This Page Press Ctrl F)
Number #4 Volume 2


1.  Gross Abuse at Dairy Farm
2.  Sentencing in Calf Killings
3.  USDA Dairy Survey 2002 Highlights: Mortality, Calf Feeding
4.  Colostrum
5.  Holstein Cows: "Maybe We Should Have Just Left Her Alone"
6.  Taping Calves for Increased Milk Production
7.  Calves are "Definitely Underfed"
8.  Milk Somatic Cell Count "Soaring"
9.  Bovine Practitioners Adopt Welfare Policies; Discuss Influences
10 Continuing Contentions
11 Movie to Move Milk
12 U.K. McDonald's Switch to Organic Milk

 

1. GROSS ABUSE AT DAIRY FARM
The owners of the 2,000-cow Dutch Touch Dairy are not being charged despite evidence of gross animal cruelty at the operation. The Idaho Department of Agriculture concluded that owners Jack and Tillie Tuls did not provide "reasonable care or sustenance to crippled and sick animals," and that the dairy had subjected cows to "needless suffering and inflicted unnecessary cruelty by dragging, lifting and burying live animals." The findings were turned over to Twin Falls County law enforcement. Stating that it can't prove Tuls was involved in the animal mistreatment or that he gave direct orders, the sheriff's department has said there is insufficient evidence for criminal prosecution. A former employee, whose whereabouts are unknown, was identified as a suspect.
 
In mid-August, during a routine inspection of the dairy, an inspector with the Idaho Department of Agriculture found a pile of dead animals in an open pit. (The dairy had previously been cited for faulty dead-animal disposal in May.) Returning the next day, the inspector found calves and heifers crowded in pens, with some of the smaller animals unable to reach feed. The following day, a worker told inspectors that a cow had been dragged to a new burial pit and was partially buried while still alive. Later that month, a contractor -who is suing the dairy for unpaid work- signed a statement to the Department explaining that he had seen Tuls order an employee to move the nearly dead cow to the "dead pit." He stated that the employee tied a rope around both of the cow's hind legs and lifted her off of the ground with a forklift. Two hours later, the contractor saw the cow still alive at the pit. Another witness corroborated the incident without specifying that Tuls had given the orders.
 
In subsequent days, a state veterinarian found, among other problems, a number of thin animals at the dairy, some unable to walk and others unable to get up, and inspectors concluded that not all cows at the dairy were being milked twice a day. Towards the end of the month, the inspector found a barely breathing cow outside the dairy's hospital barn. She was covered in manure from being dragged out of the barn, and the ground was marked from her struggling and thrashing. The next day an employee told the state Dairy Bureau that nonambulatory cows or dead cows were scooped into a front loader. Cows who didn't fit were dragged. Inappropriate veterinary drug labeling was also found, and antibiotics were later detected in a load of milk.   
 
Another employee provided inspectors with a signed statement noting: "At no time during my four months of employment did I observe that any of the downer animals were provided with feed or water....The animals would be allowed to expire sometimes over the course of days. The animals would be in the open lots exposed to the elements....Standard practice was for Dutch Touch employees to bind the legs and head of the downer animals with several wraps of baling twine, then hook onto the twine and drag the animals away." (The article also contains general information on nonambulatory cows.)
 
In October, the Tuls agreed to pay a $5,000 civil fine for improper disposal of dead animals.
 
"Dairy Investigation Reports Animal Cruelty...Officials Decide Not to Pursue Criminal Charges Against Dairy Owner," The Times News, Jennifer Sandmann, January 30, 2003.
http://www.magicvalley.com/news/topstory/index.asp?StoryID=2242
 

2. SENTENCING IN CALF KILLINGS
"Well, your honor, those things happen. I don't know why it happened," Kevin Broers told the judge when asked why he had participated in the killing of 16 calves and beating of 17 others (see issue #99). The judge responded, "If you have no reason other than that's what you wanted to do that night, there might be something wrong with you," and recommended a mental evaluation during the 9 month jail term he sentenced Broers to. The longest term he could have imposed for the 3 counts of first-degree animal cruelty was a year in jail. He also ordered 240 hours of community service and told Broers to help repay the dairy owners $10,163 within 8 years or face returning to jail. Broers is prohibited from owning companion or farmed animals and from living with anyone who has animals after he is released. A 17-year-old female co-defendent  pled guilty to 3 counts of animal cruelty in exchange for a recommended 3-month sentence.
 
"Man Gets 9 Months for Calf Slaughter," The Daily Herald, Jim Haley, January 22, 2003.
http://heraldnet.com/Stories/03/1/22/16398012.cfm?cityid=19
"Man Sentenced for Beating 16 Calves to Death," Agri-View News.
http://www.agriview.com/display/inn_dairy_news/producer02.txt#
"Girl Sentenced to 30 Days for Calf Clubbing," The Seattle Times, February 4, 2003.
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/134627840_cowdeath04m.html
 

3. USDA DAIRY SURVEY 2002 HIGHLIGHTS: MORTALITY, CALF FEEDING
The National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) recently released part I of the results of its 2002 survey of U.S. dairy operations. The information was obtained from operations representing 83% of dairy operations and 85.5% of cows involved in the U.S. dairy industry. The following are some of the highlights of the survey findings. Overall, 8.7% of heifers (females) born alive died prior to weaning. Nearly 2% of weaned heifers died between weaning and calving, and 4.8% of cows died prior to slaughter in 2001. Waste milk (milk that cannot be sold, usually due to mastitis or antibiotics) was fed to heifer calves on 88% of operations but was pasteurized prior to feeding on only about 1% of operations. A total of 56% of operations used milk replacer containing medication (most commonly antibiotics).
 
The 82-page survey, which includes information on herd demographics, management practices, heifers, cow removal, health management, births, morbidity, mortality, housing, biosecurity, and operations structure and locations, is on-line at (PDF file): http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/ceah/cahm/Dairy_Cattle/Dairy02/dairy_reportv3.pdf
 
"Highlights of NAHMS Dairy 2002: Part I," Veterinary Services, Center for Epidemiology and Animal Health, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA, December 2002.
http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/ceah/cahm/Dairy_Cattle/Dairy02/Highlights-of-NAHMS-Dairy-2002.pdf
 

4. COLOSTRUM
"Colostrum Feeding," is an information sheet derived from the Dairy 2002 survey (see item #3). (Colostrum is the antibody-rich substance initially secreted by mammalian mothers which helps protect the infant as their immune system develops.) Among other things, it notes that 95% of calves are separated from their mother in 24 hours or less. Only 23% of calves received their first feeding of colostrum from their mother. Most instead received it from a bucket or bottle. Use of an esophageal feeder (a bag attached to a long tube that is passed through a calf's mouth and down their esophagus) has increased to 13%.
 
Due to intensive breeding, cows used for milk production have a relatively low, pendulous udder and tall babies, which makes nursing challenging. The large volumes of milk they produce result in very dilute colostrum. "Dairy cows aren't the world's best mothers," asserts University of Missouri veterinarian Jeff Tyler. He notes, "The only way for calves to get enough antibodies is to give them massive quantities (at least 4 quarts) of colostrum, which is not natural. So, dairy cows don't do well raising their calves without human intervention." Most dairies calve year-round, resulting in a continuous supply of highly vulnerable animals who are often kept in close proximity to adult animals. "Infectious organisms can become amplified over time as they are passed from calf to calf, until they eventually become overwhelming," Tyler explains. "The calves essentially become disease factories." According to Dairy 2002, scours (diarrhea) account for 52.5% of calf mortality, pneumonia for 21%.
 
"Colostrum Feeding," Veterinary Services, Center for Epidemiology and Animal Health, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA, December 2002.
http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/ceah/cahm/Dairy_Cattle/Dairy02/colostrum-info-sheet-orig.pdf      
"Calves vs. scours and pneumonia: The survival challenge," Dairy Herd Management, Maureen
Hanson, September 11, 2002.
http://www.dairyherd.com/news_editorial.asp?pgID=724&ed_id=2091&component_id=871
 

5. HOLSTEIN COWS: "MAYBE WE SHOULD HAVE JUST LEFT HER ALONE"
Holstein cows [comprising about 93% of the U.S. dairy herd] are too large, too in-bred, don't reproduce well enough and don't live long enough. So says University of Minnesota animal scientist Les Hansen. There is general agreement in the dairy industry that cow survival has decreased and the number of stillborn calves have increased since the mid-1990's. [Incidentally, the mid-1990's was also when recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) began being used on a commercial basis in the U.S.  Farmed Animal Watch will report on rBGH in an upcoming issue.] In-breeding for higher milk production has increased the probability of problematic reproduction. Poor health, death and reproductive problems are all associated with in-breeding. Some 46% of all living Holsteins are related to 3 Holstein bulls. It is predicted that, through cross-breeding, future Holsteins may look more like they did in the 1960's: smaller and less boney. "Maybe we should have just left her alone," Hansen surmises.
 
"Animal Scientist Predicts Holsteins Will Shrink," Agri News, Gary Gunderson, Jan. 28, 2003.
http://webstar.agrinews.com/agrinews/278814695161013.bsp  
 

6. TAPING CALVES FOR INCREASED MILK PRODUCTION
University of British Columbia animal welfare professor Dan Weary records and analyzes the meaning of vocalizations made by farmed animals. He says it's a safe bet that the calls made by cow and calf upon separation from each other are those of distress. He notes that cows allowed to remain with their calves for 6 months (those used for beef production) will, upon separation, vocalize for days to the point of hoarseness. In the dairy industry, cow and calf are usually separated within a day (see item #4). Brenda McCowan, an animal behaviorist at the University of California veterinary school, has found that playing the audio-taped bawling of calves to cows increased the amount of milk in the next milking by 2%. McCowan says such "bioacoustical assistance" could be a non-chemical way of increasing milk production.
 
"Moo, Oink, Snort, Grunt: UBC Prof Tries to Translate," Vancouver Sun, Nicholas Read, 1/28/03
http://canada.com/search/story.aspx?id=399c8b9a-c070-4aa3-9cb4-b3b15c331c4a
"Calls Could Boost Dairy Cow Milk Production," UPI Farming Today, Gregory Tejeda, 1/29/03.
http://upi.com/view.cfm?StoryID=20030128-043420-6398r         
 

7. CALVES ARE "DEFINITELY UNDERFED"
To get calves in the dairy industry on dry feed faster and save money on milk replacer, they are "definitely underfed" during the first several weeks of life. Most calves are capable of consuming milk at approximately 25% of their body weight per day in 6 to 8 feedings. They are commonly fed only twice a day, though, with a daily intake of only 10% of their body weight. Calves fed as much milk as they wanted gained 63% more weight than conventionally fed calves. They were also found to have a much more active immune system and to be healthier in general. This was attributed to them having more nutrients to fight off disease. Scours (diarrhea) shouldn't be a problem as long as calves are provided with ad libitum water and quality starter food. (A Cornell University dairy scientist contends that scours prevention is more a matter of management and sanitation than diet.) Research shows that allowing calves ad libitum milk is both biologically and economically advantageous.
 
"Consider a More Aggressive Approach to Calf Feeding - It Pays," Dairy Herd Management, Thomas Quaife, January 8, 2003.
http://www.dairyherd.com/news_editorial.asp?pgID=724&ed_id=2333
 

8. MILK SOMATIC CELL COUNT "SOARING"
The average somatic cell count (SCC) for the dairy industry nationwide is increasing at an "alarming" rate, 3 University of Minnesota dairy experts warns. Somatic cells in milk are primarily white blood cells and some cells shed from the lining of the mammary gland. Normal milk contains some of these cells but almost always less than 100,000 per milliliter (ml). Increased counts indicate inflammation, most likely caused by intramammary bacterial infection (mastitis). The higher the count, the more likely the milk is contaminated with pathogens and antibiotic residues, raising the suspicion that it was produced under poorer standards of hygiene and from unhealthy cows. Counts of 200,000 or more are indicative of mastitis. The risk of antibiotic residue in milk is 2 to 7 times higher in herds with counts above 400,000.
 
The dairy industry's national average SCC has been annually increasing by 2,400 cells/ml since 1995. Overall, annual bulk SCC rose from 307,000 cells/ml in 1997 to 320,000 in 2001. The trend is blamed on summer heat, poor sanitation, and insufficient regulatory pressure, among other factors. The SCC limit for grade A dairies is 750,000 cells/ml. (A bulk tank SCC of 700,000 indicates some two-thirds of the cows are infected and contributing abnormal milk.) Repeat violators are fined and may lose their license. For the 3rd time in 6 years, the National Mastitis Council is proposing a lowering of the limit to 400,000 by 2011. The American Association of Bovine Practitioners is considering a proposal to lower the limit to 400,000 by 2007. Opponents have argued that counts above 400,000 are not a human health risk. With PETA's recently launched "Got Pus?" campaign  (http://dumpdairy.com/pus.html ), industry watchers wonder if the dairy's "absolute refusal" to lower the count might come back to haunt it. The Agri-View article includes a 12-step program for achieving bulk tank SCC of under 100,000 cells/ml.        
 
"Industry's SCC Soaring," Agri-View, Jane Fyksen, January 31, 2003.
http://www.agriview.com/display/inn_dairy_news/producer01.prt
"Guidelines on Normal and Abnormal Raw Milk," National Mastitis Council, February 2001.
http://www.nmconline.org/docs/abnmilk.htm
"Lower the Count," AgWeb Dairy Today E-Report, January 31, 2003.
http://www.agweb.com/pub_get_article.asp?sigcat=dairy&pageid=92701&pubid=4&pubcontentsectionid=37&pubissueid=78
 
"Dairies with High SCC Levels Run Greatest Risk of Producing Milk with Antibiotic Residues," College of Agriculture and Life Science, University of Wisconsin, George Gallep, 03/26/01.
"PETA Picks Up on Pus," Dairy Today E-Report, October 25, 2003.
http://www.agweb.com/news_show_news_article.asp?articleID=92310&newscat=GN
 

9. BOVINE PRACTITIONERS ADOPT WELFARE POLICIES; DISCUSS INFLUENCES
At the September conference of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP), the board of directors endorsed the position on disabled farmed animals that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) adopted in June (see: http://www.avma.org/onlnews/javma/jul02/020715e.asp ). The AABP Animal Welfare Committee also endorsed the dairy industry welfare guidelines of the Food Marketing Institute and National Council of Chain Restaurants (see item #75), which the committee helped formulate. Veal industry guidelines are under review and beef industry guidelines are being developed. The Dairy and Beef Quality Assurance Center has developed a booklet and software to help educate producers. For third-party auditors, the AABP is proposing veterinarians on farms.
 
Issues discussed at the conference included control of air pollution from feed yards and dairies; minimizing environmental impacts of feeding programs; rendering; interactions between housing and cow health; heat stress; microbiologic water quality; bedding management; photoperiod manipulation; and the influence of barn design on hygiene, lameness and udder health. It was noted that in the past 25 years, milk production has increased dramatically while most measures of health have deteriorated (see item #5). Also of note was a point made by a National By-Products spokesperson that 137 million pounds of waste animal tissues are created daily.  
 
"AABP Embraces Disabled Livestock, Dairy Cattle Welfare Guidelines," Current News, The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, December 1, 2003.
http://www.avma.org/onlnews/javma/dec02/021201n.asp
"Air, Water, Land, Light: All Affect Cattle: AABP Conference," Current News, The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Susan C. Kahler, December 15, 2002.
http://www.avma.org/onlnews/javma/dec02/021215g.asp
 

10. CONTINUING CONTENTIONS
During a recent Dairy Business Association conference, John Fetrow, a professor of diary production medicine at the University of Minnesota named the following 13 points as likely to continue to be controversial: tail docking, nonambulatory cattle, stanchions and tie-stalls, denying access to pasture, calf hutches and crates, separating calves from their mothers at birth, lameness, castration, dehorning, castration and dehorning without anesthetics, singeing udders, BST, and using prods, nose leads, and nose rings. Fetrow advised operators: "Every industry is always asked to improve....Get over it. That's just the way it is." In particular, the article addresses tail docking and herd size.
 
"Cow Controversies Likely to Continue," Agri-View, Ron Johnson, December 20, 2002.
 

11. MOVIE TO MOVE MILK
McDonald's is hoping to cash in on "Home on the Range," an animated film featuring 3 cows who act as bounty hunters looking for cattle rustlers (with voice-overs by Roseanne Barr and Cuba Gooding Jr.), to be released by Walt Disney Pictures next autumn. McDonald's plans to begin selling milk with its "Happy Meals," and the movie will be cross-promoted with the company's "milk chugs." The project is said to be an "incredible marketing coup" for dairy promotion groups with whom Disney has been cooperatively working.
 
"Disney Project Highlights Cooperative Effort," Food System Insider, Insights, January 1, 2003.
"Mickey McMoo Marriage," Outlook, Dairy Today, January 2003.
http://www.agweb.com/pub_get_article.asp?sigcat=dairy&pageid=94099
 

12. U.K. MCDONALD'S SWITCH TO ORGANIC MILK
McDonald's announced it would begin selling cartons of organic, semi-skimmed milk in its U.K. outlets as of February 2nd. For now, the change will not include milk used in other items, such as its milkshakes. Two years ago, the company's U.K. outlets began using free-range eggs in its breakfasts, and Swedish McDonald's already sell organic milk and ice cream. A company spokesperson estimates the amount of milk the U.K. outlets will sell will constitute over 3% of the country's total market for liquid organic milk. Organic desserts may be next.
 
"McDonald's Switches to Organic Milk," Ananova, January 8, 2003.
http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_737567.html
"McDonald's to Sell Organic Milk," Independent Digital, Severin Carrell, January 12, 2003.
http://www.independent.co.uk/story.jsp?story=368625