When Cows Retire: An Alternative Approach to Dairy Farming (Video)
Image credit: The Perennial Plate
Secret footage of dairy cows being bludgeoned with pick axes may have driven some folks to veganism, but much like this glimpse inside a humane slaughterhouse, it's worth noting that not all dairy is created equal. As the much awaited Perennial Plate roadtrip across America begins, we visit one Iowa dairy farm that is actually letting dairy cows retire, sometimes reaching the ripe old age of 15. (The industry average is 2.5 years before cows are taken to slaughter.) But is this humane, or just less cruel, and is it actually sustainable?
Holistically Managed Dairy Farming
Radiance Dairy in Iowa is definitely a little different from your average dairy farm. Run by Francis and Susan Thicke (Francis has a Ph.D. in soil science), the dairy is carefully managed in terms of energy usage and production, the design of their grazing system and, as shown here, the practice of letting cows live unusually long and productive lives. (Presumably male calves are not so lucky.)
Are Retired Cows Sustainable?
Of course whether this constitutes sustainability or not will depend on your perspective. Those who believe integrated farming with animals will doubtless find this inspiring, while those who believe vegan or veganic farming is the only sustainable and ethical option will be less impressed. (One TreeHugger colleague also pointed out that feeding additional cows that no longer produce milk could also be argued to be a pretty inefficient way of producing protein.)
The Perennial Plate Hits the Road
Whatever the rights and wrongs of farming with animals, it's good to see the Perennial Plate on the air again. From growing oyster mushrooms to hunting and eating roadkill, these guys have already produced some great content about real food and where it comes from. Their road trip across America will no doubt provide a whole lot more.
More on Meat, Dairy, Animal Farming and Sustainability
A Look Inside a Humane Slaughter House (Video)
Vegetarian Diet Could Cut Climate Mitigation Costs 70%
Shocking Video Shows Dairy Calves Bludgeoned With Pick Axe
Another Law Proposes Making Factory Farm Photography Illegal
Shocking Photos Reveal Organic Eggs Don't Always Come from Happy Farms