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Is dairying ethical?

Posts: 755
Location: zone 6b
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I'll start out saying I'm a soft-hearted fool. I got very attached to my dairy goat before I was able to start milking her. Part of the problem is how much she loves me. I have to really harden my heart to be able to do some of the things dairying people do. I couldn't bring myself to separate her babies from their mother all night at 10 days old, let alone take them away from her after a few days to bottle feed them. So I let them sleep together until they were almost 3 months old, making do with the few cups of milk I'd get per day in the mornings and actually *buying* milk when it didn't meet our needs.

So I finally separated them last night to get a real amount of milk this morning. I got 8 cups (is that half a gallon?) but her udder was so full it was painful to her and I had to tie her to milk her (usually she just stands there and lets me milk as long as the cut branches I bring are tasty). I don't think it's normal for a goat to be able to make half a gallon of milk overnight, that's probably a gallon a day. I don't think it's normal for their udders to get that full. It was painful to her and I'm wondering at the ethics of doing that to her every morning so I can play with cheese making. I guess the problem is that animals have been selectively bred to be able to give more and more milk, until they get problems like blown udders, mastitis and ketosis (milkier ones are more likely to get it).

And nobody seems to consider how painful it is to them to have that weight hanging from their bodies and their skin stretched so much from carrying more milk than nature ever intended. If a gallon weighs 8 lbs then a half-gallon is pulling with 4 lbs of weight on their relatively small udders. And I shudder to think of how much weight a decent dairy cow must tote around when full! The best dairy cows can give over 25 gallons of milk per day! If that's from twice a day milkings that's 100lb udders!
Posts: 3374
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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It is their job. Now, I don't mean you can abuse them--but a little discomfort (that won't cause permanent damage) in exchange for good feed and attention and a roof over their head is a fair wage.

Our cows and goats WANT to be milked most of the time (even when not in milk) because the want the feed and extra attention.
Posts: 2409
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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If you had a big farm would you be able to take mary/john away from their kids for 8 hours a day to pick your apples in hot sun for hours.
How about the discomfort of the heat and possible getting hurt by critters/heat/equipment/etc.
Almost every human do it every day so that they can be guarantee shelter, food, money for hobbies, and human contact.
If it is good enough for me or mary (she doesn't even get 2 months maternity leave), then it is surely good enough for a dog/goat.

And if you think that you milking is bad how do you think I or McFarm milk the animals that you buy your milk from.
Not to mention the fish/meat/egg that you get. In all reality you should just become a vegan.
How could you be so mean to the animals at McFarm do you not know how bad they treat their animals and yet still you buy it.
Dont worry I do the same too.
Have you ever taken the life of an animal to eat? I have it is bloody and somewhat stinky. But I dont have a hue problem doing it again.
But I dont think I could do it just for fun. Then again I probably dont have a problem "killing" foxes/bear/snake to make sure I "feel" safe.

I think your solution might be to sell this goat and get a new one and dont became so attached to it.
Think of it the same way yo think of McFarm goat/cow.
So how do you get to raise a goat and not become super attached to it. Dont baby it.
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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I agree there are lots of un-ethical ways to manage dairy animals. The important thing, is that there are ethical ways. If something seems unethical to you, dont do it. You do not have to wean babies at a certain age, or feed supplements that increase milk production, or do anything that feels wrong. Keep modifying your management until you find the sweet spot where dairying is a harmonious and ethical pursuit. It exists.

Here is what I have reached with my dairy cows, that I feel is very much ethical and wonderful-

We milk once a day, only milking during fresh pasture season, no supplements except kelp and salt. Lots of people think that because their pastures arent good enough that feeding alfalfa or a little grain is a gesture of kindness. I disagree, sure hungry kids love candy, but it isnt good for their system. Farmers need dairy quality pastures before they get dairy animals. If the pastures arent good enough to support heavy lactation, start with beef and use mob grazing to improve pasture quality. High energy/protein feeds force a ruminent into higher production which does strain their entire system.

Calves stay with their moms all the time for 3 weeks. We milk once a day, in the evening. After 3 weeks, calves get seperated during the day, and reunited with moms after milking in the evening. There is no stress. Calves hang out with calves during the day while moms enjoy the break from constant mothering. At 2-3 months of age, calves get weaned completely and put on our best clover pasture. They bawl, they want their moms, it's seperation anexiety. I consider it a part of growing up, stressful yes, unethical no. At this time the calves can still see their moms across the fence, and get used to grown up life without milk in a couple of days. Growing up is a challenge, even for a calf.

Natural breeding to select wholesome genetics ensures that udder structure is physiologically compatibe with the animal's body type. Resist the commercial dairy model of unhealthily huge udders on skinny cows. You can and should select for cows with strong udder attachment, and compact but productive udders. Milk yield can still be excellent, udder health is better, and it certainly seems more comfortable for the animal. Pendulous udders are a bad thing and should be selected against in any dairy herd. When the variables of udder structure, milk production, feed, and calf nursing are in harmony, there is no undue hardship on the dairy animal. Finding and creating this balance is not easy, but it is absolutely doable.

There are a lot more ways to do something wrong than to do it right. Good on you for asking yourself if your system is ethical, that is commendable. Keep striving for a healthy, harmonious dairy system. When done right, there is nothing more satisfying in all of farming than a well run natural dairy. Love those cows!!!
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