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Indiana Family of Farmers
Indiana Dairy Blog

Dairy FAQ

On-Farm Practices

What are dairy farmers doing about animal welfare?

Dairy farmers strive to deliver high-quality animal care every day and they take tremendous pride in doing so. Healthy cows produce high-quality products, so it doesn’t make sense for a farmer to give his or her cows anything less than the best treatment. Nutritious diets, comfortable living conditions and good medical care are among the many practices routinely used by dairy farmers to ensure a healthy herd.

To download the Animal Care PDF, click here.

How are newborn calves cared for?

Dairy farmers provide comfortable, safe and hygenic conditions for both motherand calf during the birthing process and afterward. Because dairy farmers care about the health of their calves, the calves are placed into separate living quarters shortly after birth to control their environment and protect their health. Since newborn calves need time to build up their immune systems, it’s better that they aren’t around older animals — and the possible germs those animals could pass along. Also, it’s very important that the calves get two quarts of colostrum — the mother’s first milk after giving birth — when they are newborns. Colostrum is high in fat and protein and has lots of antibodies in it that help strengthen the immune system. When calves are left to nurse their mothers, they usually don’t receive enough. That’s why dairy farmers often step in and feed them colostrum from a bottle.

Why do farmers treat cows with antibiotics?

Sometimes, cows get sick, just as some humans do. Without proper medical care, the cows would become seriously ill or die. So, it is simply humane to treat them– and make them well again with medications prescribed by veterinarians. If a cow is treated with antibiotics, she is kept in a separate pen or milking group. The milk from that cow is disposed of, and does not reach the food supply.

What’s different about organic farms?

A specific set of farming practices makes milk and other foods eligible for “certified organic” status. On organic dairies, cows must receive feed that was grown without the use of pesticides, commercial fertilizers or genetically- modified ingredients. They are not treated with supplemental hormones and are not given certain medications to treat illness. If they are given medication, then they must permanently leave the milking herd. They also must have access to the pasture. Many of the same practices are utilized by conventional dairy farmers, as all farmers make the welfare of their animals and environmental stewardship top priorities.

Have large, corporate-owned “factory farms” driven America’s family farms out of business?

No. Of the 65,000 dairy farms in America today, most are smaller farms with less than 200 cows. In fact, 99 percent of American dairy farms, including larger farms, are family-owned and operated. Like other business owners, many dairy farmers are modernizing, expanding and improving overall efficiency in order to continue to support their families and provide consumers with high-quality, affordable milk and dairy products. Dairy farming is a very diverse industry, and there is room for all sizes of dairy farms.

Are dairy farmers currently cloning cows?

Cloning is a niche-market technology and it remains to be seen whether dairy farmers will choose to use it. There are currently very few cloned dairy cows in this country – only about 150 cows out of the 9 million total U.S. dairy cows – and many of these are "show" animals. Dairy farmers and cattle ranchers have been using safe and proven methods to breed the best livestock for decades, and cloning simply gives farmers another option in breeding animals. Currently, FDA has a voluntary moratorium on food from cloned animals.