Ashamed to be a dairy farmer today

Yesterday, two industry representatives and a dairy farmer spoke about the treatment of bull calves on Australia’s Radio National program, Bush Telegraph.

It made Victoria’s dairy farmers appear as callous as Big Tobacco and today, I am ashamed to call myself a farmer of any description, let alone one that bludgeons premature calves to death with an axe.

The media feeds voraciously on such hideous depictions and it will be all over the internet and in the mainstream media unless something with even more news appeal happens this weekend.

This is something we can’t deal with by talking about industry standards and so on. Nobody believes that stuff. None of it resonates in the soul. We need to tell people the whole truth and how we feel about it.

And the truth is this:

I will never induce the birth of a calf unless its mother’s life depends on it. In the four years since I took over custodianship of the family farm, this hasn’t happened.

I can barely manage to hear the shot ring out as a suffering animal is euthanased humanely, even though I know it is the right thing to do.

I will always put the quality of our animals’ lives before profit.

We sell every bull calf we can to neighbours who rear them until they are big and powerful steers, even though we sacrifice income to do it this way.

The bottom line is that I will not do anything on the farm that I could not show five-year-old Zoe without any qualms. Our farm is also our home and we could not live with cruelty.

Farmer’s forums are jammed with distressed dairy farmers this morning and I spoke long into the night about it with another yesterday. I am ashamed yet I am proud to know I am not alone in this. If you are a farmer reading this, please add your voice to the news forums and don’t be afraid to tell them how your heart guides you.

13 thoughts on “Ashamed to be a dairy farmer today

  1. We too are appalled, horrified and disgusted by what we heard said by a dairy farmer and seemingly justified by 2 dairy industry representives. Our farm team is committed to the highest standards of animal welfare and that means we believe everything that lives and breathes deserves and should get the best life those charged with its care can give. Be assured Australia thousands and thousands of Australian dairy farmers feel the same way. Induction is not standard practice and many many dairy farmers have been lobbying to have it banned for years. Perhaps now we will be heard.

  2. Thankyou marion, this whole debate has left some of us very emotional, especially when we love our animals and try to do the best we can for them. I don’t know who the people are who think inducing calves and then blugeoning them to death is ok but I wish I could tell them that it’s not, and it’s not acceoted by the majority of their peers.
    I feel ashamed of this too, even though I know I personally have nothing to be ashamed about :'(

  3. I listened to the report on the radio, then had to go out to the supermarket to buy groceries. I walked past the meat section as I was thinking I would like some red meat for dinner. I noticed some veal amongst the beef products, looked at and picked up a few packets of red meat and chicken, put them back and kept on walking. I ended up buying something vegetarian because I just couldnt bring myself to buy any meat after listening to this radio programme.

  4. It is the tactic of these animal activists to find malpractice somewhere and then suggest that this is the norm throughout an industry.

    Somewhere in this world, yesterday, more than one human being brutally killed another human being but no-one would conclude that this makes all human beings murderers.

  5. Marion,I have followed your blog since its creation and its success in my mind comes down to your sincere passion as a dairy farmer to educate people about your industry and the people behind it. I listened to the audio on ABC rural, and I felt so terrible for the many, many farmers who have been so poorly misreprepresented. Please continue to represent the members of the dairy industry who are proud to uphold their contribution as professional caring people that understand the importance of animal welfare. Keep up your important work!

  6. I’ve never known cows to be induced. Ever.
    I’ve never known male dairy calves to be knocked on the head (if visibly healthy), but then again, I’ve never been anywhere there isn’t a market for them.

  7. Until today I had thought that Dairy Australia’s position was that “Routine induction” for the purpose of tightening up the calving period was to be discouraged. Shame this wasn’t mentioned by the spokespeople.

    Yes it is a veterinary practice that may be required to save a cow from serious injury or death, but it shouldn’t be an acceptable fall back for poor herd management.

  8. The tone of the interview confused me too, Julie, because you’re right, there has been a concerted effort to reduce calving inductions and dairy farmers have been keen to respond. Dairy Australia’s 2010 survey of farmers found: “The proportion of farmers using early induction as a regular management tool (4%) is now significantly lower than in 2008 (9%) and 2005 (13%)”. Thank goodness. Hopefully, nobody will be doing it by the time the survey next is conducted. I’d like to see it banned in all cases except where the cow’s health is in jeopardy.

    Just to clarify, this policy is actually that of ADF, which is the national lobby group for dairy farmers and sets the agenda that Dairy Australia implements. Dairy Australia has an online fact sheet about calving inductions at http://www.dairyaustralia.com.au/Animals-feed-and-environment/Animal-welfare/Cow-welfare/Reducing-the-need-to-induce-calving.aspx

  9. Marian, thank you for your thought provoking commentary. Please treat this is a very genuine question, because it is something of great concern to animal advocates n Tasmania and Victoria (I don’t know what part of the country you are in). ‘Spent’ dairy cattle in Tasmania are not processed in Tasmania, rather they are shipped interstate to Tongala, in northern Victoria, and it is a long, rigorous journey. Can any of the people here think of a way Tasmania processors could be prevailed upon to process these exhausted animals (if they must be slaughtered) rather than subjecting them to this journey? With best wishes.

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