Maybe you’ve seen this picture floating around social media recently. It annoys me greatly.
Usually I’d let my friends in the livestock world handle this issue, since we don’t raise animals commercially, but you wouldn’t believe how cruel people who argue for humane treatment of animals are being to actual people, so I’m throwing my hat in the ring.
These pens are typically for dairy calves. And what the camera cleverly obscures in this picture are the cattle panels that allow the calves into a yard space.
You can see the panels vaguely in the first row of hutches if you know what you’re looking for.
The hutches are often used to make sure each of the young calves gets the proper amount of nutrition each day. It’s very easy to see if someone skipped lunch or hasn’t touched her water if everyone has their own.
The reality is we know almost nothing about this farm.
Studies show dairy cows do well on sand, so its possible there is sand in each pen. It might seem odd to us, but feels like a beach vacation to the animals.
There might be an employee assigned to every row of hutches; someone who feeds and waters the calves every day and can check on them, even get to know them.
It is highly likely a dairy didn’t grow to be this large without a lot of careful planning and consideration; for the employees, for the set-up and equipment, and for the biggest investment of all- the animals. To make the most profit a dairy farmer needs the most milk. Milk is best produced when the cow is comfortable and satisfied.
I was thinking about this because yesterday I noticed Fanny (goat on the left) kneeling down in the pasture on her front legs, back legs still straight because that is what goats do, trying to find green grass under all the dead stuff. I almost took a picture so you could see what a pathetic creature looks like trying desperately to get a bit of nutrition but I thought it might go viral on Facebook. In my make-believe photo shoot I would have then panned my camera back to reveal the giant round bale of hay, her water trough and grain pan. Not starving. Not malnourished. Only a little pathetic. 😉
She, like the rest of us, is looking forward to spring and the green that will come with it.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a farm needs to be explained with millions.