An Open Letter from a Dairy Cow
To whoever thinks I’m a victim,
You may wonder what in the world is going on that a dairy cow can be writing a letter. And you may also notice that open letters are usually “to” and not “from.” But all is not what it seems to be.
Hardly a month goes by without some “undercover” video surfacing from an animal rights group highlighting the plight of the poor cow. Well, let me just say that they don’t speak for me. I and my fellow cows are quite content, I must admit.
Are there some cows that are mistreated? I’d have to guess that there are. But frankly, I think you humans have a better track record of treating us cows than you do of treating your fellow humans, judging from the killings and wars and crimes committed that we hear about when the farmers talk. Those farmers that mistreat cows just aren’t going to be in business for very long and here’s why.
I realize that very few humans know just what makes a dairy cow tick. Truth is, dairy cows are metabolic athletes. Most of you like sports, right? Think of the marathon runner and what he has to endure to run the 26.2 miles in mere hours. He has to burn a bunch of calories. He might have a personal trainer. He probably has really comfortable shoes. And I’m sure he has to eat the right kind of food in the proper amounts to run that marathon a few times a year. He takes pretty good care of himself.
We dairy cows, pound for pound, need just as many calories to produce about nine gallons of milk as that marathon runner. But most of us do that every day. Some of us will double that amount or more when we are at peak performance a couple of months after delivering our calf. Do you think we could accomplish that if we weren’t happy? Do you think you could run a marathon every day if you weren’t fed right or were uncomfortable?
We get fed a specially balanced diet formulated by some of the smartest minds in the business. We get our feet trimmed and shaped on a regular basis. The farmer is constantly checking us for problems. When something goes wrong, we get medical attention.
We dairy cows were made for this; it is our purpose. We were bred to have a strong drive to eat to provide the calories necessary to produce that much milk. We were bred to have a sturdy frame to get around. We were bred to have strong feet to support our massive frame. Of course, there are some unfortunate cows that come along that just can’t keep up with the rest of us. The farmer has no choice but to cut them from the team. It’s nothing personal; it’s just business. It makes the rest of us better.
As time goes on, we dairy cows as a group get better and better. Every year we make more milk than the previous year. If we didn’t love our job, we simply couldn’t keep improving. Every year farmers learn more and more about us and what drives us and how to make us better. Sometimes, they might add a new ingredient to our feed. Or maybe they might try a new variety of corn. Often they just try to make our accommodations better so we are more comfortable. Comfortable cows make a lot of milk. Farmers like cows that make a lot of milk.
So, please, we are not victims. We like what we do. If you ever get the chance to stop and gawk at a group of dairy cows, please take it. Look at us and decide for yourself if we look unhappy.
And it’s normal for you to be able to see our ribs, OK? We are not beef cows. A marathon runner wouldn’t make it past the first mile if he was plump and out of shape, right? We wouldn’t be able to keep up with the demands of the job either if we weren’t in shape. But please, no cameras. We don’t want the farmer to think you are trying to exploit us and ruin our reputation like the animal rights folks.
The dairy cow
(Dr. Bill Croushore is a veterinarian with White Oak Veterinary Clinic in Berlin who services farms in Somerset, Bedford, Westmoreland and Fayette counties.)
This post originally appeared on DailyAmerican.com; it was reposted with the author's permission.