Lisa Bondurant

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I spend my time raising kids, gathering eggs, cutting wood, scoping out trees for tapping, making syrup in the last days of winter, watching my garden NOT grow in the summer, writing, wishing that there were more hours on the clock for sleeping.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How We Have Changed Them

How We Have Changed Them.

When Thomas Jefferson had milk cows, he worked hard at changing them from what they were, to what he wanted. A cow made enough milk to feed a calf, a few pounds at most, from an udder small and compact. Through extensive breeding for the right dairy traits, he was able to bring the milk production of a cow up to five to six pounds of milk a day. This was an amazing amount for that time and something to be talked about amongst gentlemen farmers. A gallon of milk weighs just over 8 pounds.

We made them change to produce more milk for us, we wrestled their calves away from them to do this, calves they did not want to give up, a baby that did not want to be taken. We made them tame to make this all easier.

When I was a herdsman I had to make tough decisions. I had to decide who in the herd was worth keeping, which would be kept for another year, which would be sold to slaughter.  I would have to go to the field and take newborn calves from their mothers. It was a very sad business at times. Sometimes it was not.

We have changed them. We have made them wider to carry calves better.  We have made their udders bigger to make more milk. We have turned them into machines that are made to get pregnant, to make lots of milk.

I have seen cows with udders big as large duffel bags, large enough to carry a small adult inside. Udders so big the cows can hardly walk. A cow these days had better produce 80 pounds of milk a day. If she would slip in production to below 30, I would have to sell her. We now have cows that produce 125 pounds of milk a day. We give growth hormones to make them mature at a younger age and to make them produce even more milk. Then we give that milk to our children and wonder why our little girls are growing up to early.

These hormones use up a cow early. A cow can be in production for many years, but if on rbst (bovine somatotropin) for an extended time the cow will burn out her life in short order. The FDA has made it very tricky to label the milk containers. After all rbst is also a naturally occurring hormone and there are trace amounts in the milk from untreated cows. Therefore why should the milk plant be required to admit that there is even more hormones in the milk, its all natural after all!. But nature does not mainline large amounts of hormones straight into the cows tail head, as I did.

We could avoid these added hormones all together by only buying organic milk. But that would mean buying organic yogurt, butter, sour cream, cheese, ice cream and on and on. That can be very expensive, so only buying organic is not an option for many people.

We have changed the dairy cow in so many ways. We have changed their bodies, their milk and how they act. Today the herdsman can go the field to get a new calf from the mother. The mother does not even challenge the herdsman. Sometimes the cow has not even cleaned the calf. She calves, the calf hits the ground and the mother turns her back on it. The calf turns its back on the mother. Their connection is broken with the umbilical cord. The cow may not even want to nurse the calf, she will just wander off towards the milk parlor to be milked. With her udder so big she waddles.

How we have changed them is obvious. What we have changed in doing so, is a little sad and more then a little worrisome!.

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