Letters

Letters 09-15-2014

Stop The Games On Campus

Four head coaches – two at U of M and two at MSU – get a total of $13 million of your taxpayer dollars each year. Their staffs get another $11 million...

The Truth About Fatbikes

While we appreciate the fatbike trail coverage, the quote from the article below is exactly what we demonstrated not to be true in most cases last season...

Man Has Environmental Responsibility

I tend to agree with Thomas Kachadurian (“Playing God,” Sept. 8) that we should not interfere with the power of nature by deciding what is “native” and what is not. Man usually does what is better for man (or so we believe), hence the survival and population growth of our species...

The Bush & Obama Facts

Don Turner’s letter to the editor on 8/25/14 stated that there has never been a more corrupt, dishonest, etc. set of politicians in the White House. He states no facts, but here are a few...

Ban Pesticides

I grew up downstate in a neighborhood without pesticides. I was always very healthy. Living here, I have become ill. So I did my research and found out a lot about these poison agents called pesticides (herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, chemical fertilizers, etc) that are being spread throughout this community, accumulating in our air, water and soil...

Respect for Presidents?

Recently we read the Letter to the Editor that encouraged us to stop characterizing President Obama as anything other than an upstanding, moral, inspiring “first Black President”. The author would have us think that the rancor in the press, media and public is misguided. And, believe it or not, this rancor is a “glaring exception to … unwritten patriotic rule” of historically supporting all previous presidents...


Home · Articles · News · Features · CAFO Farmers
. . . .

CAFO Farmers

Anne Stanton - December 20th, 2010
CAFO farmers: ‘Our cattle are healthier’
Last week, Northern Express wrote about a confined animal feeding
operation in Mesick. Here, two owners of CAFOs in Alpena and Mount
Pleasant talk about their operations and their value to society.

Confined dairy cows are healthier animals.
So says Corby Werth, a dairy farmer with 185 cows in Alpena, and Jerry
Neyer in Mount Pleasant with 1,000 dairy cattle. They say that confined
animal feeding operations (CAFOs) is a term used for regulatory purposes,
but that CAFOS in Michigan are generally owned by families who have been
farming for generations and take pride in their work. That’s in contrast
to mega-dairies out west, where the largest dairy CAFO in Oregon holds
55,000 milk cows.
Werth and Neyer agreed to explain the operations of a dairy CAFO to the
Express, hoping to shed light on the operations.
Both farmers keep their cattle sheltered from the elements in a facility
with curtains they raise or lower to let in sunshine or block the bluster
of wind and snow. The farmers make it a point to give the cows enough room
to move around and to lie down, in part, because cramming cows into tight
quarters stresses them out, which can lead to illness, udder infections,
and lower profits, Neyer said.
“Some guys will do it (pack them in), but most of us don’t do it or very
much at all. If they don’t have a comfortable place to lay down, they
won’t get the rate of gain as fast as they want.  Not only will the cow
suffer, but so will the producer.”

CLEANER SITUATION
Although dairy cattle in their CAFOs don’t get to walk around in a sunny
pasture, they are healthier, eat a more balanced diet with nutrient
supplements, and are less likely to be caked with mud or manure, which
means cleaner milk for the consumer, Neyer said.
A dairy cow begins her working life at the age of two, beginning with
artificial insemination, which is actually less dangerous for both the cow
and farm workers, Werth said.
“A bull in the pen, they are big and not exactly easy on animals.
Sometimes they can kill the cow,” said Werth, whose grandpa was killed by
a bull.
As for those who are concerned about bovine growth hormone that increases
milk production, Werth and Neyer are among virtually all dairy farmers in
the state who have voluntarily pledged not to use it. But neither farmer
believes it’s really harmful to humans.  “It’s a hormone that’s naturally
occurring in a cow, and it was an extra amount we gave to them when their
hormone levels naturally dipped lower in the cycle. I considered it
greener because you’re making more milk with less animal,” Werth said.
Once the calf is born, it’s removed from the mother and bottle fed with
powdered milk. The calf must be separated in order for the mother to be
commercially milked, the farmers explained.
“What happens to the calves on our farm is they are kept with other calves
in an individual pen, bedded with the straw. They are kept with the mother
for an hour, and she’s able to lick it off.” Werth said. “The big reason
we do that is for the safety of the calf. The cows, when they get up and
going, the calf automatically wants to nurse. So it’s for the safety of
the animal, the cow knocking the calf down, stepping on the calf. That’s
why we remove it.”

TWICE A DAY
Male calves are typically sold to a beef farm, while the females are kept
to later provide milk. Farmers milk the cows twice a day in a mechanized
milking parlor—usually producing about 6 to 10 gallons a day per cow,
about two and half times the amount of milk as they did in the 1950s.
Females have a nine-month gestation and are kept pregnant most of their
lives in order to keep milk production going. On average, they give birth
to a calf once a year. Once they stop producing milk, they are normally
slaughtered and sold for beef. If antibiotics are given to the animal in
the case of illness, they cannot be slaughtered or sold until 30 days
afterward to ensure the medicine has been flushed out of the cow’s system.
Like all dairy farmers, Werth and Neyer said they don’t routinely
administer antibiotics, only doing so when an animal is sick. (In
contrast, beef cattle and pigs are routinely administered low levels of
antibiotics daily at most CAFOs in order to promote growth.)
Critics believe it’s cruel to keep a cow nearly constantly pregnant and
milking. But Neyer doesn’t agree.
“Nature’s that way, out there in the wild,” Neyer said, adding that deer
have fawns once a year. “Your pets would do that all the time if you
didn’t get them neutered or spayed. It’s a natural thing. It’s not
unnatural to have a calf every year.”

MANURE MIX
Critics contend that this style of intensive milking leads to a shorter
life span for the cow, averaging two to seven years.  Organizations, like
the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter also have qualms with the potential
environmental impact of dairy CAFOs, such as manure spillovers to
groundwater, rivers, streams, drinking wells, land, and air--the stench of
the larger CAFOs is often very nasty and can burn nostrils and raise havoc
with asthma sufferers.
CAFO manure is typically used to fertilize the fields of corn and hay,
which is fed to the cattle. Although this is a long-time and traditional
farm practice, the amount of manure from larger CAFOs is vast and the
nutrient load can overwhelm available fields. Manure from a CAFO is often
a brew of growth hormones, antibiotics,and chemicals used to clean the
facilities. The manure can also contain dangerous pathogens, such as
e-coli, according to the website of the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, the
state’s most active CAFO opponent.
Dairy cow manure may also contain birthing fluids and blood, milkhouse
wastes,  and copper sulfate that’s used in the footbaths for cows before
they are led into the milking parlor.
Werth, who has had no environmental problems, said they scrape the manure
into a lagoon, which has a solid cement floor with plastic side walls.
“It’s completely contained like a swimming pool. We irrigate it into the
fields for nutrients,” he said. “There is no chance of contamination
whatsoever.”
Phil Durst, a Michigan State University extension agent in Mio, said
organic wastes such as placentas pose no concern since they are  naturally
broken down by bacteria. Copper and sulfur—the two elements in copper
sulfate—occur in soil and don’t create a problem that he’s aware of. He
believes the excretion of growth hormones or antibiotics are in amounts
too small to be of concern, although neither is tested in manure before
application.
The biggest threat to the environment is to overload fields with manure.
Too much nitrogen and phosphorous will contaminate groundwater. Therefore,
the manure is analyzed for the content of both elements before it’s
applied to fields, Durst said.
“It’s really important to manage manure and nutrients well. I find that
farmers are conscious of that,” he said.





 
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