Sunday, October 13, 2013

The reality behind Meatless Monday

The month of September was a pretty 'eventful' month for our family. Labor Day weekend landed us in the ER with our oldest who was doubled over with stomach pains. Within 36 hours he was on his way into surgery to have his appendix removed. Fortunately, there was no leakage or rupture present in his appendix and we were able to avert a much more serious situation.
Just about a week after he was given the 'all clear' from his doctor at his post-op follow-up appointment, our youngest began complaining of stomach pains. Within a few hours we found what we suspected to be a hernia and hydrocele, familiar to us only after our oldest had similar symptoms a few years ago. The next afternoon we found ourselves scheduled for the second surgery of the month, to repair the hernia before it became more serious.
The following Monday morning, we made the pre-dawn trek to or local hospital for the procedure. After seeing him off to the OR, I experienced a flurry of emotions.... grateful that he was in good hands, thankful that it would be repaired with a relatively simple surgery, anxious for our little guy who had never been under anesthesia before, overwhelmed at having so much 'grown-up stuff' on our plate in such a short amount of time.
Knowing we had an hour or more to wait, we headed to the cafeteria for some breakfast and coffee. While we surveyed our options, this sign at the bottom of the menu board caught my eye....
Fantastic. Awesome. NOT.
This "Meatless Monday" sign was posted in font 3-4 times larger than the font describing any of the menu options. Quickly realizing that it was Monday, I moved over to the grill area where made-to-order meals were being prepared. I was certain that my decision to order a breakfast burrito, complete with eggs, cheese and sausage would not be available. Thankfully - I that was not the case.
The Meatless Monday sign appeared to be simply a suggestion, urging cafeteria goers to give chickens, pigs and cows a "day off," by choosing meatless menu options. Interestingly enough, chickens, pigs and cows Never take a day off.
As a dairy farmer's granddaughter, daughter and wife, I can tell you first hand that our cows don't know the difference between a 'regular work day' or any other day, like Sundays, birthdays, Holidays, baby births and funerals. They expect to be fed, cared for and milked every single day, without fail.
Let's just say that for some reason, we decided to give the cows on our farm a "Day Off." On a nice sunny Sunday, we delivered their freshly mixed feed to the bunks as we do twice every day, and told the ladies, "Today is your day, you just enjoy your feed, relax in the sunshine, chew your cud and socialize with your lady friends. No milking today, you just relax, and we will be back with your dinner this evening."
Beginning the next morning, and over the course of the next couple of days, I would expect to see the following as a result of not milking our cows for a full 24-hours:
1. Inflamed and swollen udders
2. Cows in pain and discomfort
3. A drop in milk production throughout the herd
4. An increase in the population of our hospital pen
As a result of milk stasis, milk that is produced, but is then left in the udder, rather than coming out during milking, inflammation and  would begin to occur in the udder. Many of the cows would then be at high risk for developing Mastitis - persistent, inflammatory reaction of the udder tissue - in one or more of her udder quarters, meaning within one or more of her teats. Each of a cows' teats are independent of one another, just as a woman may develop an infection in one breast and not the other.
Mastitis, if left untreated, can overtake the cow, with the possibility of making it impossible for her to stand and can be fatal. The infection should be treated with antibiotics immediately, to reduce the swelling, reduce the fever and restore her health before it becomes more serious.
Mastitis can also occur in cows who are milked on a regular schedule, and can be detected by following proper milking procedures. After the udder is cleaned, the first bit of milk is expelled from each teat by hand, and inspected for irregularities, before the milking machine is attached. If the milk has "cheese-like" consistency or is "watery", the cow is held for treatment and her milk does not enter the milk supply. With early detection, the symptoms and recovery time can be minimized.
With the mention of antibiotics, a common concern is that the milk and milk products available for purchase in the grocery store contain antibiotics. Rest assured - Your food is Safe! Let me explain.
When a sick cow is found within our herd, she is removed from the group pens, and placed in our on farm hospital area. The cows in this pen have been identified as needing individualized care and/or medication to treat an illness or injury. The milk from these cows is not combined with the milk produced by the rest of the herd. It is stored separately and used on the farm to be fed to calves or is disposed of.
As with any medication, there is a period of time when the medication, antibiotics for example, is present in their system, both in the milk and meat. Once treatment has ended, there is a withholding period, typically ranging up to 7 days on milk and up to 28 days on meat, before the milk produced by that cow or the meat can be sold for human consumption.
During the withholding period, that cow will remain in our hospital area. Before she is released back into the milking herd, testing is performed on the farm to ensure her system is cleared of medication.
Milk is the most highly regulated, extensively tested food product. There are strict regulations when it comes to producing milk. When the milk truck comes each day to pick up the milk from our farm, a sample is taken before the milk is loaded onto the truck. When the truck arrives at the processing plant, a sample of the milk on the truck is tested for residues. If that sample should happen to come back positive for drug residue, the individual farm samples are tested to determine which farm contributed to the contamination of the load.
Every single load of milk delivered to processing facilities is tested for residues. Contaminated loads of milk are rejected at the processing facility, without being unloaded. Milk received into processing facilities is free of antibiotics, wholesome, nutritious and safe for you and your families.
But back to the intention of this post... giving our cows a "Day Off" and not milking them for a day, would initiate a downward spiraling effect. Please understand that if you are choosing to have a Meatless Monday, it is not necessarily for the benefit of the cows, chickens and pigs on the farms.

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