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Thursday, May 2, 2002

Those Notorious Calf Hutches


Here in New England lots of little boxes known as calf hutches are a familiar sight, but few people know the first thing about them. All too many think they're used to raise calves for veal. This is NOT the case, so I would like to set the record straight.

Before calf hutches were invented, newborn stock was kept in the barn, usually tethered in a dark corner with little ventilation. Bacterial diseases spread fast in such close quarters, so if one calf got sick, so did all her friends. Drafts and sudden fluctuations in temperature caused respiratory infections. Despite plenty of disinfectant and antibiotics, the calf mortality rate was high.

No one worried about the problem, however, except the farmers. People driving by a dairy farm couldn't see calves that were tethered in the barn so they assumed they were romping around in some pretty meadow, happily nurtured by their own mothers, a practice that vanished years ago. Now that calf boxes are lined up conspicuously along the roadside, everyone's upset about "inhuman conditions."

A calf hutch may look small as seen from a passing car, but it is no little box. A mouse living in an ice chest would feel more crowded. A calf enclosure in over seven feet long and more than three feet wide. It is deep enough to protect the calf from summer sun and winter wind and is kept as clean as a doghouse. It has a large open doorway facing south, a window facing north and a ridge vent in the roof.

As soon as a newborn calf has received that first vital nursing of colostrums from its mother, it is given ear tags and taken to its new home, usually a hutch with a large fence around its entrance. The hutch has been steam-cleaned since its last occupant, lined with fresh straw and moved to a new position. If I were a calf I'd find my box pure bliss compared to being tethered in the fetid darkness of a barn.

Newborns are bottle fed twice a day with whole milk for about ten days. They are then tethered to a hutch without a fence and fed grain and milk supplement for the next three months. Next they're sent to school, put with other youngsters in big airy pens so they can learn about sharing, competition and getting along with others.

Talk to any farmer and you soon realize that calves are "the babies" of the family, treated not only with care but with affection. Hutches usually are lined up somewhere between the farmhouse and the barn so anyone passing by can stop and say "Hi." The calves, provided with fresh air, sunlight and a little green grass to nibble, stay clean and dry and above all, healthy.

The calf hutch idea was dreamed up by Wisconsin farmers and proved to be such a success in reducing calf mortality that it quickly was taken up by New England dairy farmers. Unfortunately rumors that the "poor little fellows" in the hutches were being fattened for veal became so common that even our local residents believed them.

THE CALVES LIVING IN HUTCHES ARE NOT BEING RAISED FOR VEAL! These calves are all baby girls. They will grow up to be heifers, and once bred, will become milk cows. All boy calves are taken to auction before they're a week old. Most are bought by farmers who raise vealmost located in Pennsylvania.

Boy calves raised for veal are kept indoors in a controlled temperature of 60-65 degrees. They're fed no herbaceous food, only milk and special grain, which results in the pale, iron-deficient meat. They are kept on this diet for about a year before going to slaughter. You are entitled to feel sorry for them only if you never buy veal or order Veal Marsala or Veal Piccata when dining out in a restaurant.

Next time you pass a dairy farm, stop and let your children pet some of the babies. These future milk cows will even eagerly suck your fingers. Don't feel sorry for them. They are both happy and healthy.

46 comments:

  1. I do feel sorry for them, and no I don't, nor would I ever order Veal anything in a restuarant! As far as dairy cows go, well this is not a kind life for them, and what happens to them once you cannot make them pregnant anymore to make them produce milk, not for their young, but for humans! Greed and money!

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    1. How do you know what a cow wants to live? They get fed special food, they are kept in a nice clean hut until they are old enough to handle outside bacteria and diseases, they are loved and cared for, sounds pretty good to me! Farmers don't farm for money, they farm because they love it and because they know people like you have to have food to live. Thank a farmer next time you eat!

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  2. Disgusting how you can take the babies away from their mothers. The mothers scream and bellow don't they like any mother would if her baby was taken. How long do you keep the dairy cows before they go to slaughter 4 years? And they are artificially inseminated right to keep on milking? No thanks I won't be eating veal, drinking milk or any kind of meat or dairy.

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    1. Right so what your is we shouldn't have adoption for humans either? Cow's always ball it's how they 'talk' dairy cow's aren't sent to the slaughter after 4 years! Yes they are artificially inseminated because if a bull did it the cow would get beaten up by the bull. Next time you eat remember a farmer grew that food.

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  3. Not all boy calves are raised for veal some are raised for beef. As much as you would like to say dairy cows are mitreated and have an unfair life for most that is simply not the case. All dairy farmers think of is cow comfort. You can argue all you want about it but we need milk! It is the best source for calciom and vitamin D. When children are one year of age we are told to give them cows milk for a reason. You may not like it but we do need milk. Calves are taken from their mothers so they don't get sick! There are certain diseases that cows can pass on to their calves thru their manure. Yes they are artificially inseminated because it is safer than keeping a bull.

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    Replies
    1. We DON'T need (dairy) milk!

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    2. Totally agree with you Cherryl!!! Our breasts produce milk to feed our babies and after that almond, coconut milk and others can be given....we do not need cows milk!!! All mothers produce milk to feed their own babies.....not every other species!!!!! Would you consider putting a newborn human baby onto a cow to be nursed or nurse a baby calf on your breast....no of course not!!

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    3. We are the only mammal that drinks another mammals milk after weaning. We DO NOT need cow milk. Calcium and Vit D are found in other foods.

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    4. "We need milk"? What an ignorant statement. When we are INFANTS we need milk from our HUMAN MOTHER. No mammal other than us harvests and drinks the milk of another species.

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    5. You are fully 100% right! The media has just gone out of its way to make farmers sound terrible, it's pathetic.

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  4. It is disgusting. A farmer put over 100 behind my home. The stench has made me physically sick. How can that strong smell of ammonia be good for the calves. Some people will justify anything for more profit.

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    Replies
    1. It's in an open ventilated space so it doesn't bother the calfs at all! Farmers don't farm just for profit, they farm because they lover it and are needed to provide food for you

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  5. I believe this article, but the problem is, it skips over one key point: The babies are taken off their mothers' milk far too early. The colostrum isn't the only important part of the milk, and these babies are "suckling" on fingers because they're missing an important part of their nutrition.

    I understand a dairy farm exists to make money, and rightly so. So not all the mothers' milk can go to the calves. But perhaps it would be better if calves were fed my their mothers for longer than a day or two, and there was a slower transition to formula or other incomplete foods.

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    Replies
    1. sorry you missed the point the calvess are never suckled by their moms.. they are removed immediately after licking and hand fed the colostrum by work hands. there's never absolutely any contact between the animals until they get to be 3 months or so and put into a pen with other calves.

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    2. They do this because the calfs can get diseases easily from the mom's milk

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  6. To add to my previous comment, when many calves are born at once, perhaps one of the mothers would feed a few of the calves, for a few weeks. It's still not ideal (I wouldn't just breastfeed my kid for a couple weeks then switch to some other milk)... but it's better than the current situation. And overall milk production might increase if the calves grow up into stronger, healthier milking cows.

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    Replies
    1. But the calf can get diseases easier from the mom so it's safer for the calf to be removed soon after birth

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  7. And if your child was stripped from you after "that first vital nursing of colostrums from its mother"....?

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    Replies
    1. Humans keep thire breasts way cleaner then a cow would keep hers so that's why they remove them sooner so they don't get sick and die

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  8. I'd like to know who f*ck you think you are with the "You are entitled to feel sorry for them only if...." comment. That's like saying if you hunt deer, you have no right to claim you care about animals. If you eat fish, you have no right to protest the slaughter of whales in Japan. You're nothing but a pompous ass trying to justify your exploitation of animals with this post, nothing more.

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    Replies
    1. Because people who know nothing about farms are the ones who are trying to tell a farmer how to run a farm, it's like an elephant telling an eagle how to fly..it won't work

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  9. Wow people, get over yourselves...

    Do you consider the slave labour included in the technology you are posting your pretentious righteous comments from?

    Wake up people and stop being ignorant armchair bandits.

    If you really gave a shit about what happens in life you wouldn't drive a car, nor use technology. When was the last time you used disposable plastic?

    Plastic does more damage to the earth than taking a calf away from it's mother. Think about the inhumane things you are causing by using plastic that will outlive you for generations. You are a direct cause of this but I'm sure most of you get around ignoring this ignorant use of plastic.

    How about the massive amounts of pesticides and insecticides that are pumped into the earth from you eating only green. How the soils are raped and don't contain the nutrients they once did.

    Shut the fuck up. Live sustainably and encourage others to do so. While you take a pretentious approach to a system designed to eliminate disease you are running around blind to your own impact on the earth.

    Making people wrong does not solve anything. Educate yourselves before looking like ignorant moronic armchair activists doing nothing to solve any of the problems that exist. Stop wasting your time bitching and go create solutions.

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    Replies
    1. Because you know what I do re: disposable plastic, my viewpoint on slave labour etc.

      Pot calling the kettle black don't ya think?

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    2. Thank You! Finally someone that knows what they are talking about!

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  10. People have apparently lost all sense of where their food comes from. W&W, it seems you have been invaded by a PETA chapter.

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  11. Disgusting and inhumane. We stopped drinking cows milk long ago
    and we haven't eaten veal for 40 years!!!
    No matter how you spin it....it's still horrible!!

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    Replies
    1. Do you eat cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, ice cream, etc? All made from cows milk. Go vegan if you think this is horrible while I sit back eating my cheeseburger and having ice cream for dessert.

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    2. It's also horrible when people who have no idea about farming tell farmers how to run a farm.

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  12. And the angel of the lord came unto me, snatching me up from my place of slumber. And took me on high, and higher still until we moved to the spaces betwixt the air itself. And he brought me into a vast farmlands of our own midwest. And as we descended, cries of impending doom rose from the soil. One thousand, nay a million voices full of fear. And terror possessed me then. And I begged, "Angel of the Lord, what are these tortured screams?" And the angel said unto me, "These are the cries of the carrots, the cries of the carrots! You see, Reverend Maynard, tomorrow is harvest day and to them it is the holocaust." And I sprang from my slumber drenched in sweat like the tears of one million terrified brothers and roared, "Hear me now, I have seen the light! They have a consciousness, they have a life, they have a soul! Damn you! Let the rabbits wear glasses! Save our brothers!" Can I get an amen? Can I get a hallelujah? Thank you Jesus.
    Life feeds on life feeds on life feeds on life feeds on........
    This is necessary.

    ReplyDelete
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  15. How sad that the author of this blog post thinks the conditions described are "happy and healthy." Being separated from it's mother and herd, "tethered" to a hutch "7 feet by 3 feet" is torture, and just because it is "steam cleaned" and "lined with fresh straw" does not change the fact that this is solitary confinement in a prison. Then comes years of being artificially inseminated, having it's own calves taken away, and being pumped full of hormones and antibiotics in order to be a perpetual producer. You have deluded yourself in to thinking this is acceptable. If you really thought about what you are doing, you would no longer defend such a terrible practice. You better hope there is no afterlife, because god forbid you return as a dairy calf. I would not wish this life on my worst enemy.

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  16. Was it not Jesus that supplied all those people with fish from the sea? Was it not Jesus that broke the bread for people to eat? What was all served at the last supper?

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