Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Considering cow comfort

Posted By on Tue, May 29, 2012 at 12:30 PM

Dairy cows get spa treatment
  • Dairy cows get spa treatment

So often in the media these days we are bombarded with images, PETA videos, documentaries, and exposés depicting the horrors of factory farming. You know the ones: cows standing knee-deep in their own feces, chickens being tossed around like beach balls and crammed into tiny cages as they're loaded on trucks. It is, for the most part, common knowledge that industrial farming employs some pretty horrific practices in order to meet the bottom line. For most of us, we've heard it all before. We've seen Food Inc., and understand that our food system is flawed if not completely, well, fucked.

On the other hand, all of the debate surrounding our food system has inspired plenty of folks to demand change. Many farmers have set out to revise their practices, often opting for smarter, safer, and cruelty-free ways of doing things. These are the images we don't see enough of.

Even though we don't see it all that often (suffering cows must get more page views than happy ones), change is happening. It's out there. If it wasn't, people like veterinarian Sara Gilbertson would be out of a job. In addition to being a vet, Gilbertson is also an animal chiropractor who adjusts the spines of horses, dogs, cats, and cattle.

Recently, Gilbert was called to a farm in Chilton, Wis. to treat a 7-year-old cow named Lucky. A highly productive dairy cow when healthy, Lucky had apparently developed a pain in her right rear leg, and began walking with a limp. Instead of prescribing pain pills, Gilbertson gave Lucky a chiropractic adjustment, massaging and squeezing the cow's spine from head to tail. After the procedure, the cow reclined calmly, obviously comfortable and relaxed.

Video after the jump

Dairy Farm Uses Chiropractor to Help Cows by associatedpress

Dairy cows are most productive when they are happy and comfortable. As farmer Larry Meyer puts it, "It's kind of like how an athlete with a sprained ankle isn't as productive. If you can get a cow healthy and back to normal, it makes a difference in their productivity."

For this reason, many farmers like Meyer have shelled out the extra money to invest in chiropractic treatments, waterbeds, and even classical music for the comfort of their cows. Although there is no scientific evidence linking massages and waterbeds to increased milk production, dairy farmers say they can see that the cows are giving more milk with noticeably fewer impurities.

Science or not, it makes sense. Whether workers are cows, chickens, or people for that matter; happy workers are more productive than unhappy ones, and they produce higher quality products. Preach.

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