Farming Enhances Animal Welfare
Many of the news clippings below explain how farm
animals benefit when they are kept out of the feedlots and allowed
to mature on pasture at a normal rate of growth and production. Other
items show how factory farming compromises their health and well-being.
As you will see, there is a dramatic difference between the two systems
of production. Choosing meat, eggs, and dairy products from grass-based
farms is a highly effective way to enhance animal welfare.
New term you need to know: “by-product
Fresh pasture and dried grasses are the natural diet
of all ruminant animals. In factory farms, animals are switched to an
unnatural diet based on corn and soy. But corn and soy are not the only
ingredients in their “balanced rations.” Many large-scale
dairy farmers and feedlot operators save money by feeding the cows “by-product
feedstuffs” as well. In general, this means waste products from
the manufacture of human food. In particular, it can mean sterilized
city garbage, candy, bubble gum, floor sweepings from plants that manufacture
animal food, bakery, potato wastes or a scientific blend of pasta and
Here are some of the “by-product feedstuffs
commonly used in dairy cattle diets in the Upper Midwest.”*
- Candy. Candy products are available through
a number of distributors and sometimes directly from smaller plants… They
are sometimes fed in their wrappers…. Candies, such as cull
gummy bears, lemon drops or gum drops are high in sugar content.
- Bakery Wastes. Stale bread and other pastry
products from stores or bakeries can be fed to dairy cattle in limited
amounts. These products are sometimes fed as received without drying
or even removal of the wrappers.
- Potato Waste is available in potato processing
areas, and includes cull potatoes, French fries and potato chips. Cull
fresh potatoes that are not frozen, rotten, or sprouted can be fed
to cows either whole or chopped. Potato waste straight from a processing
plant may contain varying amounts of inedible or rotten potatoes. French
fries and chips contain fats or oils from frying operations.
- Starch. Unheated starch is available from
some candy manufacturers and sometimes may contain pieces of candy.
- Pasta is available from pasta plants and
some ingredient distributors as straight pasta or in blends with other
ingredients, such as candy.
*This list is excerpted from “By-Product Feedstuffs
in Dairy Cattle Diets in the Upper Midwest,” published in 2008
by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of
Wisconsin at Madison.
Healthy Eggs: What We Knew in 1932
In the 1930s, animal scientists were trying to determine
the best diet for cows, pigs, and chickens that were raised in confinement. It
was a time of trial and error.
In a 1993 experiment conducted by the U.S. Department
of Agriculture, breeding hens were taken off pasture and fed a wide variety
of feed ingredients. When the birds were fed a diet that was exclusively
soy or corn or wheat or cottonseed meal, the chickens didn’t lay
eggs or the chicks that developed from the eggs had a high rate of mortality
But when birds were fed these same inadequate diets
and put back on pasture, their eggs were perfectly normal. The pasture
grasses and the bugs made up for whatever was missing in each of the
highly restrictive diets.
“The effect of diet on egg composition.” Journal
of Nutrition 6(3) 225-242. 1933.
Could This be the Tipping Point?
On January 30th, the Humane Society released a video
of extreme animal cruelty taken by an undercover reporter working at
the Hallmark Meat Packing Co. in Chino, California. The video shows pictures
of sick and injured cattle being prodded by forklifts and shocked with
electric probes in an effort to get them to stand up. “Downer” cattle—those
that are too sick or lame to walk—cannot be slaughtered according
to federal law. The workers were attempting to get around this ruling
by forcing the animals to stand up. Click
here to see the video. We want to forewarn you that it shows graphic
pictures of extreme abuse.
To make matters even worse, meat from this slaughter
facility goes to the school lunch program in dozens of states around
Refusing to buy feedlot meat is one way to protest
this horrific behavior. Writing to your government representatives is
Ranchers who raise their cattle on grass from birth
to market do not send their animals to large slaughter houses such as
the Hallmark Meat Packing Company where extreme cases of abuse were recently
documented. (See post directly above.) Instead, they slaughter the animals
on the farm or take them to small, independent slaughter facilities.
Ranchers who drive their grass-fed cattle to an abattoir
go to great lengths to keep the animals calm. Some bring along cattle
that are not earmarked for slaughter to give the animals the comfort
of being with their herd mates. Many ranchers watch the entire slaughter
process to ensure that their animals are being treated humanely every
step of the way.
Some ranchers practice “field slaughter.” In
this case, they approach the animal out on the pasture, making sure not
to trigger alarm. Then they kill it with a bullet to the head. The animal
dies instantly and has no opportunity to experience pain. Other ranchers
contract with a specially designed mobile slaughter facility that comes
to the farm and manages the entire process from killing the animals to
preparing the carcass for the aging process.
Typically, a grass-based ranch has fewer than 150
animals, and the owners can identify each animal by sight. Their goal
is to make sure all the animals are well fed and cared for and do not
experience unnecessary stress at any time of their lives.
To find a pasture-based rancher in your area, click
here. Ask the farmers about their slaughtering protocol.
Feedlot diets are a recipe for animal discomfort
Consumers are beginning to realize that taking ruminants
off their natural diet of pasture and fattening them on grain or other
feedstuff diminishes the nutritional value of the meat and milk. But
what does a feedlot diet do to the health and well-being of the animals?
1) The first negative consequence of a feedlot diet
is a condition called "acidosis." During the normal digestive
process, bacteria in the rumen of cattle, bison, or sheep produce a variety
of acids. When animals are kept on pasture, they produce copious amounts
of saliva that neutralize the acidity. A feedlot diet is low in roughage,
so the animals do not ruminate as long nor produce as much saliva. The
net result is "acid indigestion."
2) Over time, acidosis can lead to a condition called "rumenitis," which
is an inflammation of the wall of the rumen. The inflammation is caused
by too much acid and too little roughage. Eventually, the wall of the
rumen becomes ulcerated and no longer absorbs nutrients as efficiently.
3) Liver abscesses are a direct consequence of rumenitis.
As the rumen wall becomes ulcerated, bacteria are able to pass through
the walls and enter the bloodstream. Ultimately, the bacteria are transported
to the liver where they cause abscesses. From 15 to 30 percent of feedlot
cattle have liver abscesses.
4) Bloat is a fourth consequence of a feedlot diet.
All ruminants produce gas as a by-product of digestion. When they are
on pasture, they belch up the gas without any difficulty. When they are
switched to an artificial diet of grain, the gasses can become trapped
by a dense mat of foam. In serious cases of bloat, the rumen becomes
so distended with gas that the animal is unable to breathe and dies from
5) Feedlot polio is yet another direct consequence
of switching animals from pasture to grain. When the rumen becomes too
acidic, an enzyme called "thiaminase"
is produced which destroys thiamin or vitamin B-1. The lack of vitamin
B-1 starves the brain of energy and creates paralysis. Cattle that are
suffering from feedlot polio are referred to as "brainers."
Typically, feedlot managers try to manage these grain-caused
problems with a medicine chest of drugs, including ionophores (to buffer
acidity) and antibiotics (to reduce liver abscesses). A more sensible
and humane approach is to feed animals their natural diet of pasture,
to which they are superbly adapted.
Feedlot cattle succumb to dust pneumonia
Stripped of all living matter, feedlots can become
a mud bath in wet weather and a dust bowl in dry weather. When it's dusty,
the cattle are at risk for "dust pneumonia," according to USDA-ARS
researcher Julie Morrow-Tesch, PhD from Texas Tech University who studies
the behavior and physiology of feedlot cattle. She reports that "The
level of dust on feedlots can be high, which springs the cattle's immune
system into action and keeps it running on a constant basis." She
has found that many of the respiratory deaths in feedlot cattle can be
attributed to dust pneumonia.
Animals that are kept on pasture do not have "dust
pneumonia" because they are in a natural environment where the dirt
is carpeted with a dense mat of nutritious grass and legumes.
How much ammonia can chickens tolerate?
large amounts of ammonia accumulate in confinement poultry operations,
peaking when the animals reach market size. The levels can reach as high
as 50 parts per million. To see how chickens react to ammonia fumes,
scientists exposed them to concentrations of 0, 25, and 45 parts per
million. Not surprisingly, the researchers reported that the chickens "foraged,
preened, and rested significantly more in the fresh air than in the ammonia-polluted
The scientists noted that the hens were equally distraught when the ammonia
levels were 25 or 45 ppm, leading them to conclude that
"ammonia may be aversive to hens" even at very low concentrations.
The preening pastured hens in the above picture have
the good fortune of breathing unpolluted air all of the time. (Click
on photo to enlarge.)
("The preferences of laying
hens for different concentrations of atmospheric ammonia." Applied
Animal Behavior and Science, 2000. 68:307-318.)
In the feedlot, it's considered "natural" for
cattle to be sick
Feedlot Magazine, a monthly periodical for
the cattle industry, offers a candid portrayal of animal welfare as seen
from the point of view of the feedlot manager. "Subacute acidosis" is
a condition that comes from feeding ruminants an excessive amount of
grain, i.e., the amount given to most cattle being raised in feedlots.
Animals with this condition are plagued with diarrhea, go off their feed,
pant, salivate excessively, kick at their bellies, and eat dirt. But
according to the industry, this is a normal and expected situation. "Every
animal in the feedlot will experience subacute acidosis at least once
during the feeding period," the article notes. It then goes on to
reassure readers that this is "an important natural function in
adapting to high-grain finishing rations..."
We beg to differ. There is nothing
"natural" about subacute acidosis. It's a chronic belly ache
brought about by switching animals from their natural diet of pasture
to an artificial, high-grain concentrate.
the article in its entirety...
Two years and Bossy is hamburger
The typical dairy cow raised in a confinement dairy
is injected with hormones to increase her milk production. Then after
only two year's on the job, she's slaughtered and turned into hamburger
because she's either sick, lame, fails to breed, or is a less than stellar
producer. The average cull rate in the dairy industry is 30 percent.
That means that each year, almost a third of our dairy cows are slaughtered
and replaced with new heifers.
A cow that's treated well, spared the hormones,
and raised on pasture can be expected to produce milk for ten years or
more. The cull rate in a grass-based dairy can be as low as 7 percent.
The money that a farmer saves by not having to replace a third of the
herd every year helps offset the fact that a cow free of artificial hormones
produces less milk. Bossy gets the respect that she deserves and consumers
get hormone-free, nutrient-rich milk.
The low-tech solution to preventing shipping fever?
Don't ship them!
Around six months of age, virtually all the calves
being raised for the meat market are rounded up and shipped to distant
feedlots. About a week after arrival, a high percentage of them come
down with "shipping fever," a viral infection that is the biggest
killer of beef cattle. The disease costs U.S. and Canadian producers
more than $1 billion a year. The cause of the disease is simple. The
shipping ordeal stresses the animals, which compromises their immune
systems. Then they are thrown in with calves from other ranches, exposing
them to a host of new viruses.
To combat shipping fever, the USDA's Agricultural
Resource Service (ARS) developed a genetically engineered vaccine, which
the ARS then licensed to pharmaceutical giant Schering-Plough. Soon,
there will be yet one more drug in the feedlot arsenal and yet more revenue
A better way to fight the disease, say producers
of pastured products, is to keep the calves home on the range. Calves
that stay on pasture live such low-stress lives and are exposed to so
few viruses that they rarely get sick.
with low-stress weaning
Weaning is a stressful time for calves, especially
if they are weaned just before being shipped to distant feedlots. Calves
that are raised and finished on pasture are not subjected to the stress
of shipping because they remain on the farm from birth to market. But
the calves still have to be separated from their moms, so a number of
grassfarmers are experimenting with ways to ease this transition. One
technique is called "across the fence" weaning. In this case,
the calves are removed from their mothers but are kept separated from
them by only a minimal fence. Because the cows and calves can still see,
smell, and hear each other, weaning tends to be less stressful.
Another stress-reduction technique is called "delayed
weaning." In this variation, the calf remains with its mother for
a few months longer than customary. Ranchers report that the older calves
accept separation more easily. There may be advantages for the producers
as well. Jim Girt of the River
Run Farm in Clatskanie, OR has found that his late-weaned calves
were healthier and weighed 90 pounds more at slaughter than closely related
calves that had been weaned at the normal time.
Pastured cattle can follow
a natural eating schedule, resulting in less stress and injury
When allowed to range freely, cattle enjoy a twilight
grazing session. They like to graze in the early evening because the
temperature is more moderate, the flies are less persistent, and the
grass tastes sweeter.
Most feedlot cattle, on the other hand, are fed
in the morning. This means they have nothing to eat in the evening when
their instincts are telling them to graze. This could be why they are
more aggressive in the early evening, says animal behaviorist Julie Morrow-Tesch.
She believes that the nightly pushing and shoving matches that she has
witnessed on Texas feedlots
"are a substitute for cattle's instinctive twilight grazing."
She estimates that these evening melees cost feedlot operators an average
of $70 per head. The cost would be even higher if environmental factors
were taken into account, she says, because the disruptive behavior "can
raise dust levels above allowable limits."
One possible solution is to feed the cattle in the
evening. Morrow-Tesche tested this theory and found that evening feeding
halved the number of aggressive incidents. But a more far-reaching solution
would be to raise the animals on pasture. Grassfed animals are not only "better
their meat is more beneficial for consumers.
more about the Morrow-Tesch study...
And now—pot scrubbers!
In the "what will they think of next" category,
feedlot nutritionists have been experimenting with substituting kitchen
pot scrubbers for hay. Feedlot cattle need some roughage in their diet
in addition to the grain concentrate or they will become sick and gain
weight more slowly. But why bring in all that bulky hay, reasoned investigators,
when pot scrubbers might do the trick? To test this novel idea, the scientists
fed a group of steers a high-grain diet and then inserted either zero,
four, or eight plastic scrubbers into each animal's rumen (stomach).
The experiment appeared to work. "From day 113 to 152, steers provided
with pot scrubbers had 16% greater average daily gain than those fed
the 100% concentrate diet without pot scrubbers."
Wouldn't it be gratifying if the money spent on
this questionable study had been spent on exploring the health benefits
of raising animals on pasture?
(Loerch, S. C. (1991).
"Efficacy of plastic pot scrubbers as a replacement for roughage
in high- concentrate cattle diets." J Anim
Sci 69(6): 2321-8.)
Sickness rampant in feedlots
In a 1999 study, Oklahoma State University researchers
scrutinized the health of 222 calves that were raised in South Dakota
and then shipped to Kansas to be fattened in a typical feedlot. The main
focus of the study was a common feedlot disease called bovine respiratory
disease or BRD. During the 150-day stay at the feedlot, half of the cattle
were treated for BRD, some of them more than once. Even more troubling,
examination of the animals at slaughter revealed that 37 percent of the
animals that had not been treated for BRD had lung lesions characteristic
of the disease. In total, 87 percent of the cattle had been either treated
for BRD or had suffered from the disease and escaped diagnosis.
(Gardner, B.A., et al,
"Health of Finishing Steers: Effects on Performance, Carcass Traits,
and Meat Tenderness." J. Animal Science,
A novel way to recycle your
Animal researchers have discovered an efficient
way to recycle paper: feed it to cows! In a dubious feeding experiment,
scientists ground up telephone books, glossy magazines, computer cards,
computer printout sheets, newspapers, cardboard boxes, feed sacks, brown
bags, and coasters. Then they soaked the paper in whey to make a sort
of paper mache. "Based on in vitro digestibilities," they reported
in the Journal of Dairy Science, "we conclude that it is possible
to recycle selected paper/whey combinations through ruminants."
Possible, yes. But desirable??
(Becker, B. A., J. R. Campbell,
et al. "Paper and whey as a feedstuff for ruminants." J
Dairy Sci 58(11): 1677-81.)
Ascites—a common condition
in factory-raised broilers—causes severe distress
Forcing meat chickens to grow quickly, which is
standard industry practice, can result in heart failure or "ascites." The
underlying problem is that the chickens develop so rapidly that their
heart muscles cannot keep pace. Ascites kills millions of birds worldwide
and costs the industry an estimated $500 billion per year.
The toll is not just financial. Canadian researchers
investigating the course of the disease determined that during the final
stages of ascites, birds are severely distressed.
"In advanced stages, the birds are unable to reach the drinkers
and become dehydrated. Death is usually preceded by prolonged agony,
and is likely a result of dehydration, starvation, respiratory failure,
and heart failure. Given the severity of symptoms and chronic nature
of this condition, the ascites syndrome must be addressed as an animal
("Ascites in Broiler Chickens
from a Welfare Point of View" A. A. Olkowski and H. L. Classen.
Department of Animal & Poultry Science, University of Saskatchewan,
Saskatoon, SK, S7N 5B5, Canada)
Compared with factory farms,
Tweedy's Egg Farm is a "Chikin" Sanctuary
DreamWork's delightful summer 2000 movie "Chicken
Run" failed to convey the abusive conditions found in our modern
poultry facilities. In the movie, the cartoon hens are trying to escape
from Tweedy's Egg Farm to an idyllic island where they can free range.
Although Tweedy's Egg Farm is far from ideal, it is decidedly better
than American confinement operations. At Tweedy's, the chickens are treated
to individual bunks, roomy coops, and have plenty of room to roam outside.
Compared with confinement operations, Tweedy's Egg Farm is what heroes
Ginger and Rocky would consider a "Chikin Sanctuary." Our factory
birds would be trying to escape to Tweedy's---not away from it!
Fattening animals in feedlots
increases their risk of heat stress and death
July and August are high-risk months for cattle
in Midwest feedlots. The heat, humidity, and long hours of daylight can
result in a four percent mortality rate. Inadequate shelter is a primary
cause of the heat stress. Another is the fact that the animals are standing
on concrete, dirt, and manure which trap the heat, making the ground
at least eight degrees hotter than a natural, pasture environment.
Researchers are turning
bison into feedlot cattle
Bison are superbly adapted to year-round range feeding.
They are extremely hardy, tolerating cold weather better than cattle.
In addition, they cope with the limited forage available in the winter
months by an automatic slow down of their metabolic rate. Even when confined
to a feedlot and fed a constant ration, bison will eat less and put on
less weight in the winter months, clinging to a physiology that allowed
them to survive on the open plains.
Efforts are underway to sabotage these survival
traits. For example, researchers theorize that raising bison under artificial
lighting conditions will "trick"
them into thinking winter is over, speeding up their metabolism. The
animals will then eat more of the artificial feedlot diet and increase
their rate of gain. Not mentioned is the fact that they will also pack
on more saturated fat and lose more of the rich store of omega-3 fatty
acids and selenium they gleaned while on pasture.
more about on-going efforts to turn free-range bison into feedlot cattle...
Let them eat grass!
Although most feedlot diets supply enough nutrients
to satisfy minimum vitamin requirements, mistakes do get made. In an
incident reported in a veterinary journal, cattle being fattened in a
feedlot were fed a diet deficient in vitamin A. (The vitamin had been
added to the rations, but had been destroyed by heat and humidity.) Deprived
of this key vitamin, the cattle suffered blindness and convulsions. Interestingly,
heifers fed this same vitamin-A-deficient diet were free of symptoms,
and, when tested, were found to have adequate levels of vitamin A in
their blood. The researchers were puzzled until they discovered that
the heifers had been able to forage on sparse grasses and weeds found
along their fence row. Apparently, the grass was so rich in vitamin A
that even these meager gleanings were enough to compensate for the vitamin-deficient
("Divers TJ, et al,
"Blindness and convulsions associated with vitamin A deficiency
in feedlot steers." J Am Vet Med Assoc 1986
Raising chicken and cattle
on the same pasture benefits both
In sharp contrast to the previous story, chickens
and cattle can be of great benefit to each other when raised together
on pasture. Ideally, the cows graze the pasture first, followed by the
chickens a few days later. The chickens eat the fly larvae that are just
emerging from the fresh cattle manure, reducing or eliminating the need
for chemical fly control. In addition, the chicken manure increases the
protein content of the pasture. Glen Fukomoto from the Cooperative Extension
Service on the Big Island of Hawaii found that four weeks after being
grazed by chickens, the grasses were 37 percent higher in protein. (20
percent versus 14 percent.) The cows were treated to this extra helping
of protein the next time they grazed the pasture. And since the chickens
were raised drug-free, their manure was free of toxins. The cattle got
no hidden surprises.
(For a detailed account of life on a multi-species,
holistic farm, read the article on Joel Salatin's Polyface farm featured
in the July, 2000 edition of the Smithsonian magazine.)
(Fukomoto, G., "Pastured
Poultry Production, An Evaluation of its Sustainability in Hawaii." Livestock
Management, April 1999, LM-1.)
Can bubblegum replace
In 1999, the Department of Animal Sciences at the
University of Illinois designed a study to determine the desirability
of feeding stale chewing gum and its wrappers to cows. The researchers
found that feeding the novel mixture was "safe"
and practical. In fact, they concluded that the innovative feed improved
the overall diet. "Results of both experiments suggest that chewing
gum/packaging material can replace up to 30% of corn-alfalfa diets for
growing steers with advantages for improving dry matter intake and digestibility."
Needless to say, the scientists did not bother to
determine how the bubble gum and aluminum foil wrappers influenced the
nutrient content of the meat.
(Wolf BW et al, "Effects
of a return chewing gum/packaging material mixture on in situ disappearance
and on feed intake, nutrient digestibility, and ruminal characteristics
of growing steers." J Animal Science 1999.
Cheap chicken. You get what
you pay for.
To bring us cheap chicken, commercial producers
have been dramatically speeding the growth rate of broilers. In 1950,
chickens took 12 weeks to reach four pounds. Today, through a combination
of selective breeding, growth promoters, and high-energy feed, broilers
reach four pounds in just six weeks. This speedy growth saves us money
at the check-out stand.
It also kills a growing number of birds. Commercial
chickens grow so quickly that their hearts and lungs can barely sustain
them. As the demand for oxygen increases, their hearts beat more rapidly.
If the demand continues, their right ventricles become enlarged and eventually
fail. Called "ascites,"
this condition kills millions of birds worldwide and costs the industry
an estimated $500 billion per year. (Learn
more about ascites...)
More and more consumers are rejecting this false
economy.. They are choosing to pay more for healthy birds that are raised
outdoors without the use of growth promoters or feed antibiotics. Their
families get a richer supply of vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids in the
Switching cattle from
grass to grain can be lethal
Few people realize that a diet with a preponderance
of grain is an unnatural diet for ruminants such as cattle and bison.
Even when a high-grain diet is introduced slowly over a period of weeks,
which is the standard practice in feedlots, numerous health problems
can arise, including "Sudden Death Syndrome," a lethal disease.
The following experiment is a striking example of
the foreign nature of a grain-based feedlot diet. In an effort to better
understand Sudden Death Syndrome, researchers fed a starchy, grain-based
meal to an Angus steer and a Jersey cow that had been maintained on alfalfa
hay. Within hours, the contents of the rumen of the animals became much
more acid, plummeting from a normal pH of 7.1 to 3.8. "Both animals
exhibited anorexia [an unwillingness to eat] and depression..." The
cow developed laminitis (a painful inflammation) and dehydration. After
two days of testing, the animals were switched back to hay. It proved
too late for the Jersey cow, however. She died despite "fluid, corticosteroid,
and antihistamine therapy."
To an animal unaccustomed to eating large amounts
of grain, one grain-based meal can be fatal. Grassfed cattle, bison,
and sheep remain on their original diet of pasture and hay their entire
lives and never have to undergo the stress of adapting to an artificial
(J.R. Wilson et al, "Analyses
of rumen fluid from sudden death lactic acidotic and healthy cattle
fed a high concentrate ration." J. of Animal
Science, 41:1249-1254, 1975.)
Cattle gain faster on
Cattle that put on weight quickly get to market
sooner— increasing profits for the producer. Commercial
feedlot operations speed gain by feeding animals grain, treating them
with synthetic hormones, and doctoring their food with antibiotics. Grassfarmers
have found a better solution: feed the animals the type of food they
like. When the animals' preferences are taken into account, they eat
more and put on weight more quickly.
A surprisingly simple way to increase weight gain
in the winter months is to feed animals hay that was harvested in the
afternoon. A USDA study shows that cattle, sheep, and goats will eat
50 percent more of this afternoon hay. Why? Grass has a higher percentage
of carbohydrates at this time of day, and the researchers speculate that
the animals like this high-energy, sweeter, more digestible grass.
(Data below comes from Shewmaker, G.E., et al,
1999. "Diurnal Variation in Alfalfa Quality and Implications for
Testing, Western Alfalfa Improvement Conference Proceedings, June 1999.)
Feeding afternoon hay to
dairy cattle increases milk production just as much as synthetic hormones
Sugary afternoon hay appeals to dairy cows as well.
Amazingly, a team of USDA researchers found that feeding hay harvested
in the late afternoon rather than early morning increased milk production
by as much as 10%—results
"equivalent to those obtained by using the hormone bST."
What's more, the cows fed afternoon hay gained weight, while the cows
fed morning hay lost weight. The researchers estimated that harvesting
hay in the afternoon increases the value of the crop by $15 a ton.
With so many concerns about hormone-laced dairy
products, one wonders why these observations have not received more media
attention. (To learn more, read Late
Afternoon Cut Hay Makes More Milk.)
Dairy Cows Raised on
Pasture are Healthier
I n a website devoted to grass-based and seasonal
dairying, Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA) reports
that grass-fed dairy cows are healthier than cows raised in confinement: "By
getting cows out of the barn, cow comfort is improved. Grassy pastures
tend to be drier and cleaner than confinement facilities, and fresh,
well-managed forage is more nutritious. Farmers report that they don't
have the pneumonia, scours and mastitis they did when their cows were
raised in a high-input, confinement setting." To read more about
grass-based dairies, go to the Appropriate
Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA) website.
Pastured pigs are
Pigs raised on pasture are healthier than pigs produced
in confinement. Specifically, they have fewer problems with respiratory
diseases, rhinitis, as well as foot and leg problems. A survey of Missouri
hog producers demonstrated that hogs raised on pastures had the lowest
(Kliebenstein, J.B. et al. 1983.
A survey of swine production health problems and health maintenance
expenditures. Preventive Veterinary Medicine.
Vol. 1. p. 357-369.)
Raising chickens indoors
under constant light depresses their immune systems
Most of our commercial broilers are raised indoors
in crowded sheds with the lights left on 23 hours a day. The constant
lighting speeds their growth, getting them to market a few days earlier.
But the unnatural light also depresses their immune system by suppressing
their production of the immune-boosting hormone, melatonin. A new study
reveals that birds with low levels of melatonin are more vulnerable to
disease. The response of the poultry industry is to dose the beleaguered
birds with more vaccines and antibiotics.
(Kliger et al, 2000. "Effects
of photoperiod and melatonin on lymphocyte activities in male broiler
chickens." Poultry Science 79:18-25.)
Feedlot diets subject
cattle to varying degrees of gastric distress
In their natural habitat, cattle eat grass, along
with relatively small amounts of grain when the grass is going to seed.
In the feedlot, they are fed large quantities of grain. Unaccustomed
to this starchy diet, the animals can develop a condition called acidosis.
According to Todd Milton, Ph.D., Extension Feedlot Specialist at the
University of Nebraska, "... we cannot prevent some degree of acidosis
during the feeding period, rather we must manage to prevent cattle from
the more severe acidosis challenges."
(Milton, T., "Managing
nutritional disorders with high-grain rations in beef cattle."
Proceedings of the 2000 Intermountain Nutrition Conference, January 25-26.
Publication 164 of the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station.)
Wild turkeys thrive
on grass, bugs, berries, seeds, and nuts
Turkeys raised on pasture have a diet that resembles
their original diet. Zoologists studying wild turkeys found that "the
youngsters instinctively peck at moving things - which are usually protein-rich
bugs or larvae." While adult turkeys "prefer grass and other
plant leaves, along with berries and bugs." Click
here for more information.
products get a bonus supply of vitamin E
The chart below shows the relative amounts of vitamin
E in corn and grass. As you can see, when animals are raised on fresh
pasture, they get considerably more of this important vitamin. When consumers
choose grassfed products, they, too get an extra helping of this immune-boosting,
age-defying antioxidant. Learn
Feedlot diets low in
vitamin A can cause blindness and convulsions
When cows graze on high quality, fresh pasture—their
natural diet—they have ample amounts of vitamin A. When they are
switched to an artificial grain diet, vitamin A deficiency is common.
Very low levels of vitamin A result in "hypovitaminosis A, which
is characterized by poor weight gain, ataxia, convulsions, night blindness,
and total blindness. When we eat meat from feedlot animals, we, too,
have less than optimal amounts of vitamin A. What is best for the cattle
is best for the consumer.
(Booth, A., M. Reid, et al.
(1987). "Hypovitaminosis A in feedlot cattle." Am
Vet Med Assoc 190(10): 1305-8.)