Conversations with Animal Farmers


Our subjects cover: animals, religion (Christian, Jewish and others); diet and lifestyle (vegan and vegetarian); and other miscellaneous subjects.

Conversations with Animal Farmers
By Robby - 29 Jul 2011

I am a dairy farmer in the northern area of the lower peninsula of Michigan. In the past many years our farm has dramatically changed. In my opinion it is no longer a family farm. We hire employees. We buy straw instead of raising it ourselves. We are obligated to buy land 35+ miles away in order to raise enough feed for our animals. It seems that all everyone, besides me, cares about it more more more. Bigger, better machinery. Bigger, better barns. Expansion, expansion, expansion. I compare it to the industrial revolution of early America.

With the expansion of our farm and hiring of employees, our farm has definitely become less focused on the proper care and treatment of animals. Since my dad is always hauling our own milk I try take it upon myself to ensure that our cattle are being treated with respect. Although, one 17 year old kid cannot be at the farm 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We milk 20 hours out of the day. Since our parlor is not large enough for the massive amount of animals we put through it twice a day, most employees rush the cows. This can turn into slapping, yelling and whistling in order to get the cattle up our 1/8 mile long walkway to the parlor.

If I catch an employee mistreating an animal I will not hold back. I stand up for our animals, after all they do make my paycheck and everyone else's as well. Lately this has made me loose a brother. An animal that had fell and was not able to get back up, so she was placed in the old barn. We have a pen set aside for down cows as well as johnies cows that are soon to calve. Johnies was introduced to our herd in the mid 70's. It is basically like AIDS for cattle. In order to control this, we put them in the pen, away from the other cows that are calving.

Immediately after birth they are separated from their mothers. A cow licking it's offspring can transmit this disease, however johnies and non johnie cows cannot transfer this disease to one another. Anyways, back to my brother. The animal that had fallen was placed in the sick pen. I ensured that she had feed and water within reach 24/7, which involved many midnight trips to the farm.

After a week of not being able to get up and several failed attempts to lift her with a hip hugger my brother had decided she was not going to make it. So he had to shoot her, while I was in the next pen over bedding my 4h steers. After countless days of seeing her suffer and knowing that she would not make it, it was almost over. But not quite yet. He had taken 5 bullets. Instead of buying hollow points, which is what you need to do, he bought cheap-o ammo. After 5 shots the cow was still breathing. He went to his house and got more bullets and finished it. Keep in mind that this is my own brother. My family. My blood. I walked up to him, with tears in my eyes. I simply said, "What the f___." Not asking, telling. I yelled as loud as I could for, what seemed like, 5 straight minutes. I told him that I will not stand there and watch that happen and be okay with it. Just typing this makes my hands shake with anger. He just did not know what to say back to me. He had never seen me with so much anger in my face. He knew i wasn't trying to make myself seem in charge. I took the cow back to the burial sight, and gave her a proper permanent resting. I said a verse as i covered her up. "Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death." Isaiah 57:2 After cussing him out and throwing shovels and throwing stones with my truck I went home. I didn't eat dinner. I just sat there, not at all being embarrassed of what I had just done. I did not pray for my brother's forgiveness. I did not regret anything I had said that night. Later the same night my dad had tried to tell me that what he did was right. I told him it was, only 6 days too late. And 8 bullets too many. I told him, "If every cow's life is going to end like that I would rather do it myself and do it right." After cussing out both my brother and my father I went to bed.

My brother thinks that he is in charge and what he says, goes. After that night some things started to change. Whenever I've driven his truck I've noticed hollow point bullets sitting in the back seat. I had gotten my point across. Lately we have not had down cows that suffer. If the outlook does not look good, they are done away with. I think of cows and all animals alike as people.

As far as our employees go, they are not Christians (accept a whopping 1). They seem as if they do not care about anything more than a paycheck. They have little to no respect for the farm or the farm's future. If I ever see an employee mistreating an animal I will give them one chance. I sternly tell them to change their ways or change their occupation. Not many of them see me as a threat, being 17 years old. I have changed many of their opinions about this recently. I work hard to ensure that God's creatures are properly treated.

Lately my opinions of our farm have dramatically changed. I have doubts about staying on the farm, not that I have any desire to do anything but farm. My dream is to, someday, own my own farm. With 40-50 cows. Operated by me, my wife and one employee who knows the Lord. A small farm that still gives a damn about the treatment of animals. We currently milk 500 (give or take) cows, which is not big on a national scale. But it is in the top 10 (I think) in the county.

Feel free to ask any questions you might have.

Psalm 65: 9-13

9 You visit the earth and cause it to overflow; You greatly enrich it; The stream of God is full of water; You prepare their grain, for thus You prepare the earth.

10 You water its furrows abundantly, You settle its ridges, You soften it with showers, You bless its growth.

11 You have crowned the year with Your bounty, And Your paths drip with fatness.

12 The pastures of the wilderness drip, And the hills gird themselves with rejoicing.

13 The meadows are clothed with flocks And the valleys are covered with grain; They shout for joy, yes, they sing

Doesn't that remind you of commercial farming a little bit?