Just because there is one bad apple does not mean the whole crop is bad. There are many stories out there today of animal abuse and neglect on farms. We have seen some of the horrible videos of dairy cows being abused, and it sickens us as well. Just like in any industry, there are some “bad apples” who mistreat their animals. This is not common and not acceptable at all. We at East Hill Creamery want to show you every detail of our farm, and especially we want to be transparent about the main ladies behind the cheese – our cows! This is the first of many blog posts that tell you about our cows and their lives at East Hill Farms. That way, you can be certain that the cheese you eat from us comes from happy cows who are given the best of care. Let's begin by telling you a bit about our cow herd today.
We, the Burleys, started becoming a “seasonal” dairy in the late 90's. To be seasonal is to be more like a beef cow-calf herd. Most beef (beef cows raise calves for the meat, dairy cows are raised to produce milk) herds have their babies (calve) during a certain season, whereas most dairies have babies all year round. This helps break the disease cycle and reduces the chance of sickness and medical intervention.
In light of all the recent blizzards and snow, you may be wondering what we do for our cows in the winter time. Well, in the winter, we have two big “mobs” of dry cows. They get fed corn silage and baleage (stuff we grow on our farm). The first half of the cows get dried off in the middle of January (dried off means that we quit milking them), and the second half gets dried off the first week of February. They average about a 60 day dry period, or vacation as some may call it, before they have their babies. This resting time allows their body to involute--which is a complicated process that the cows' bodies go through from lactating to calving (hormonal changes).
We put them in places where they are protected from the weather. We have used a lot of bedding in the past, but we have found that the bedding causes a lot of problems. For example, it is not unusual for it to warm up and get a rain here, and then all the bedding is wrecked. Also, we will have cows that “cast” themselves in the bedding, and then they cannot get up and they struggle and can sometimes die. So, we do not put out bedding anymore, but the cows have a lot of wind breaks.
This is a photo of cow #1789.
She will be 14 years old on April 7th and will begin her 13th lactation (milking season) this spring. Over a quarter of our herd is over 5 years old, so we believe that our good animal welfare practices enable our cows to have great longevity and survivability.
This is just the first of many posts about our cow herd. We will go into more details when specific events happen, such as calving season. We want you to be assured of how much we care for our animals and all we do to ensure they are comfortable and happy. Feel free to post questions or email us if you want to learn more.