Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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March 9, 2006 -- Number 10, Volume 6

1. Overcrowding and Small Stalls Reduce Cow Comfort and Productivity

Cows raised for milk production who are kept in overcrowded or stalls that are too small and restrictive spend less time resting. As a result, they are less comfortable and less productive, according to two academic experts. JW Schroeder, North Dakota State University, describes a cow's day, noting they spend about 21 hours per day "walking, standing in their stalls, grooming, and ruminating," and another 3 hours in the "milking parlor." Schroeder says that "rest is a major component of their comfort" and that some studies show that cows produce two more pounds of milk for every additional hour of rest. The researchers cite stall design and overcrowding as two major contributors to decreased resting time.

"Poor stall design and overcrowding are among the factors that can interfere with a cow's resting time," says Schroeder. "25% overcrowding can reduce the time cows spend lying by two hours. Also, overcrowding can limit the cows' access to stalls and feed." Schroeder notes a few specific requirements to keep cows comfortable, including sufficient space to stretch front legs forward, to rest on a clean and soft bed, to lie down unobstructed, etc. He also recommends that dairy farmers "do not keep cows in lockup more than an hour (because) more time in lockup limits grooming and other activities." Schroeder also believes that the amount of rest a cow receives is evidence of how comfortable she is and can greatly influence her welfare.

Roger Palmer, another dairy industry expert from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says that "modern dairies must be designed to support efficient production, and cow comfort is one of the most important factors to consider when developing these designs." In his March 2005 paper (see below), Palmer describes in detail the results of several studies measuring cow welfare and productivity according to various stall design factors. The paper notes significant differences in cow welfare and resting time based on stall size, positioning of the neck rail, manure curb, and brisket locator, and use of different bedding materials. Palmer writes that mattress-based stalls result in more clinical lameness than sand bedding and that "there is a strong correlation between stall softness and cow preference."

1. "Comfort Important to Dairy Cows," Bismarck Farm and Ranch Guide, 3/2/06

2. "Cow Comfort Issues in Freestall Barns," Dairy Science Department, U. of Wisconsin-Madison, March 2005
PDF file (702k):

2. UK to Resume Veal Calf Exports to EU; Protesters Continue Decade-Old Struggle

EU veterinary experts have decided to lift a 10-year-old ban on exporting live calves raised for veal from the UK to the European Union (EU), originally put in place due to BSE concerns. Over the 10 years, the ban is said to have cost the UK cow farming industry 675 million pounds, but BSE is only one major concern about exporting live animals. For many years prior to the ban, UK animal advocates protested exporting live cows, calves, and other animals to the European mainland. According to the BBC, "The export of live veal calves prompted mass protests at ports in the 1990s and led to the death of protester Jill Phipps in 1995 outside Coventry airport where calves were loaded onto flights for the Netherlands." Phipps's mother and the nonprofit group Compassion in World Farming have vowed to resume protesting should exporting live calves begin again. The new EU ruling also opens the door to the UK to potentially begin transporting live adult cows "within the next few months."

1. "Live Exports That Sparked Protests," BBC, 3/8/06

2. "EU Vets Debate Veal Calf Exports," BBC, 3/6/06

3. Farmers Groups and State Agencies Seek to De-List and Kill Reintroduced Wolves

In the US, lethal interactions between farmed animals and wildlife are becoming an increasing concern for farmers who are lobbying for the right to de-list and kill currently endangered species. In Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, wolves have been repopulated since the 1994 federal government program to reintroduce them to Yellowstone National Park. Idaho and Montana have agreed to federal regulations on minimum wolf population sizes, but Wyoming is seeking to classify wolves as predators, which would allow farmers to kill them without regulation.

The Wyoming Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that there were 118 wolves in the state in 2005, compared with 89 in 2004. In 2005, 41 wolves were reportedly killed by state agency personnel, but the director of the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association claims that is not enough. He says that wolves should be considered predators and that "aerial gunning is a critical tool" to control them. Wyoming farmers say wolves killed eighteen calves in 2004 and six in 2005. The New York Times article includes the following interesting quotes from two people with opposing viewpoints:

Charles Price, Upper Green River Cattlemen's Association: "That's the way we took care of them (wolves) before. It's the way my grandparents took care of them. They roped them, shot them, anyway to get rid of them."

Ed Bangs, Fish and Wildlife Service of Helena, Montana: "Essentially, they (wolves) would be managed as pests. Anyone could kill them at any time, anywhere, by any means. The reason wolves became extinct is because we killed them all. The only reason they came back is because we regulated killing."

"Resurgent Wolves Now Considered Pests by Some," New York Times, 3/7/06 (Registration)

4. Investigation and Video Show Conditions of Ducks Force-Fed for Foie Gras

Results and video now available from the Animal Protection and Rescue League (APRL) show evidence of inhumane and unsanitary conditions at one facility that force-feeds ducks to produce foie gras. Foie gras is produced from the oversized livers of force-fed ducks and geese, and is considered a delicacy by some people. According to one reporter, that is equivalent to feeding a 150-pound person more than 30 pounds of food each day. The APRL video, now available for download from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, shows evidence of incapacitated ducks unable to stand or walk, and in some cases being eaten alive by rats. Based on these cruelty concerns and others, momentum has been building to ban foie gras production, including legislation passed or pending in 15 countries and the state of California. In the US, Oregon, Illinois and New York states are also considering similar bans on foie gras production and sales.

1. "Pate Problems Raise Fowl Abuse Issues," CBS4 / Miami, 3/6/06

2. Related video from news channel:

3. Related video from APRL and PETA:

5. Avian Influenza Outbreaks in India, France Prompt Declines in Chicken Demand

India's first known outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) was reported on February 18; it occurred in Navapur, located in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. The government intended to cull up to 700,000 birds but reportedly had insufficient workers and equipment; it also ordered the 48 chicken farms located around Navapur to close for three months following the slaughter of all potentially infected birds. About 80% of the population in Navapur is said to earn its income from poultry farming. Because of the outbreak, the Indian poultry industry says it has already lost $1.1 billion due to declining consumer demand, with more losses expected.

According to, the trend is not limited to India: "The spread of avian influenza around the world has sharply reduced poultry consumption in the affected regions." In France, H5N1 was confirmed on a turkey farm on February 25, resulting in several countries banning French poultry imports. France and India each have large poultry industries, with France as the world's fourth largest poultry exporter and India as the fifth largest egg producer. In the US, major poultry slaughter companies including Pilgrim's Pride, Gold Kist, and Sanderson Farms are blaming avian influenza for declining sales, particularly the export market.

1. "Officials Struggle to Halt Poultry Consumption Decline,", 2/28/06

2. "International Egg and Poultry Review," The Poultry Site / USDA AMS, 3/1/06

3. Full Document: "International Egg and Poultry Review," USDA / AMS, 3/1/06
PDF file (24k): (

6. Other Items of Interest

"Investors Challenge Dean Foods' Approach to Organics," Boston Common Asset Management / CSRwire, 3/3/06
Shareholders of the US's largest dairy company have filed a resolution to appoint an independent committee to review sourcing of raw milk to ensure it does not violate legal or ethical obligations. According to an asset management company behind the resolution, "Besides complying with the law itself, we question whether Dean's procurement of milk from factory farms violates consumer trust and jeopardizes the value of its organic brands." Instead of responding to shareholder and consumer concerns, Dean Foods has reportedly filed for legal exemption from stockholder oversight of where the company procures its milk.

"Increase in Finisher Mortality," The PigSite / BPEX, 3/6/06
United Kingdom: An informal survey among UK pig veterinarians indicates that "finisher" mortality rates have increased, along with the number of sudden deaths among seemingly healthy pigs. The surveyed veterinarians report higher incidences of postweening multisystemic wasting syndrome (PMWS) and acute respiratory disease, believed to cause the rise in sudden deaths, as well as "pyaemia" and arthritis.

"60 Farm Deer Test Positive for CWD," The Capital Times / AP, 3/4/06
A Wisconsin deer farm and "hunting preserve" was closed on January 17 and all of the animals shot by US Department of Agriculture officials because of chronic wasting disease (CWD). After testing brain tissue samples, 60 of the farm's 76 deer were declared positive for CWD. The same location was the site of Wisconsin's first CWD outbreak in 2002, but the owner had fought government efforts to close the farm for more than three years.

"Reaction against Carbon Monoxide in Meat Packaging Spreads,", 3/3/06
The increasingly common practice of using low levels of carbon monoxide (CO) to sustain a fresh appearance for animal flesh products is facing stiff opposition from retailers and legislators. A ban on CO-treated meat by major US retailer Kroger has been echoed by others including Publix, Wegman's, Stop & Shop, and Super Fresh. Massachusetts Representative Ed Markey said he would submit a bill to ban CO-treated products if similar action is not taken by the Food and Drug Administration. (Registration)

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Compiled and edited by Hedy Litke and Che Green, Farmed Animal Watch is a free weekly electronic news digest of information concerning farmed animal issues gleaned from an array of academic, industry, advocacy and mainstream media sources.