Some people are concerned that bigger farms in modern American dairy farming sacrifice animal welfare for the sake of efficiency. However, this is not the case. Regardless of farm size, farmers are still responsible for the care of their animals.
Critics accuse that large farms neglect the care of the animals, but the accusations are flawed due to a lack of understanding. For example, the definition of a big farm for those outside of the industry is often that of any farm that has more than a few hundred head of cattle, though that is common on family farms. Another example is how practices in place for the safety of animals and workers are shared by people outside of agriculture, leaving the context and the experts who can explain what is being seen out of the conversation and causing misconceptions to arise. It’s not necessarily malicious. Often, we just don’t understand the why behind much of farming.
When given the opportunity, farmers and other farmworkers could explain what is done on the farm to provide for their livestock.
Modern American Dairy Farming Industry
The National Dairy FARM Program focuses on five area programs, one of which is animal care, to ensure high standards in animal care that reflect current science and on-farm practices. Though the program is voluntary, most US dairy farms participate (98%). The program even encourages farmers to report the mistreatment of animals, promoting healthy, happy animals as a must for agriculture.
In the dairy industry, farmers work to provide an environment that keeps their cows healthy, safe, and happy. Technology provides everything from automatic brushers to cameras that spot the early signs of illness, allowing cows to be cared for. Veterinarians and nutritionists work with the farmer to provide for these cows. And this pays off, increasing milk production.
If you don’t believe that dairy farmers take care of livestock, remember that dairy farming a business, too. It is in everyone’s best interest to provide a sustainable workplace. We’ll look further into that next week.