Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I quite often, in this blog, talk directly to people who eat food.  Guess who belongs in that demographics?  And then I also enjoy encouraging other farmers, including myself, to work at producing the best food possible on our farms.  Somehow after thirty seven years in this agricultural industry I feel I have some leverage of experience to speak from.  Please remember though, I am not just preaching.  I have a vested interest in this country's future, including all that effects my grandchildren.

While encouraging all farmers to make improvements to the methods they are using to produce food for the rest of us, I am bringing to the forefront some of what is very obvious areas where improvement is needed.  Few of us farmers  want to be classed in that weird group known as 'tree huggers', but sometimes it would do some good to stand back away from the forest and simply take a look at the trees.

Modern dairy farming has gotten to the point where somebody really needs to stand way back, look at the whole picture, and then take action.  We have dairies in this country where the cow numbers total 5,000, 20,000, and now even having cow numbers in excess of 30,000 on some factory sized dairies.  Even if you have no practical farm experience in your background you probably realize that having this large number of animals confined creates an environment that has ramifications that quickly become unacceptable and unforgiving.  To put this in perspective; disconnect the water line to the toilets in your house for about one month.  But then continue using them and invite everyone in your county to move in with you. Producing safe, quality food from within this factory is a misnomer.    And remember it is the government, including your USDA, that promotes and approves of this atrocity.  As a tax payer you support this problem whether you wish to or not.

As farmers we can do better.  Thousands of small family dairies have sprung up all over this great country.  Many of these new farmers are now milking cows for the first time.  Just like me, they don't have all the answers or even most of them, but we do know that what you see in the link above is unforgiving and unacceptable for a list of reasons room does not permit in this short blog.  These small farmers are selling real milk and milk products from their grass farms instead of feces floating swamps.  I urge all commodity dairy farmers to regain your conscious.  At the same time I urge food buyers to take a look at these small farms for your food purchases.
Our small herd of grazing Jerseys.
And remember much of the ice cream, butter, sour cream, yogurt, school lunch milk, etc. all comes from dairies like these.  Does that improve your appetite? 

Our food industry has an answer to the problem of the deadly dangers in the milk produced in the filth shown above.  Their answer is pasteurization.  You can pasteurize a bucket of urine and manure all day long and it will still be compost material instead of quality food.  When the health officials ramp on about the need for pasteurization of milk they are labeling all milk produced in this farming paradigm as the same.  I would agree that milk produced under those conditions would need to be pasteurized, but I would also suggest that it then be fed to the hogs, and then only if the hogs had above normal immunities for pathogens.  But I like my hogs to much to put them through that ordeal.   

As food buyers we can help these farmers change by showing them where we choose to spend our dollars.  When more food buyers refuse these substandard systems of food production and opt for pastured meat and milk the real farmers will provide these products.  The benefits range from personal health improvements to ecology health to providing more jobs to Americans and much, much more.  The way I view things I see no justification for milking 30,000 dairy cows in a modern sewer.    


  1. Mr. Holmes,

    I have enjoyed reading your thoughts on a variety of farming topics. I think many of your ideas are great and I agree that we always need to be looking for "the better way." I am a food animal veterinarian and I see a lot of things about modern agriculture that need to be improved. I would caution you about painting with too broad a brush. I took a quick look at the link in the post above and I didn't like what I see, but I too come from a farming background and know that mud happens. If these farms consistantly treat cows as depicted in the pictures, they should be ashamed. However, I've been on hundreds of dairies of all sizes ranging from 20 cows to multiple thousands and they almost never look like the pictures I just looked at, except after a week of hard rain. You and I and each person that reads this blog are the faces of agriculture to the American people and to the world. There are many organizations (HSUS, PETA, etc) that are doing their level best to put us all out of business. They are working on "factory farms" now, but when they eliminated them, they'll move on to smaller farms as well. They don't want food animals to be more comfortable until they are slaughtered, they don't want them slaughtered at all. Food for thought.


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