Benefits to the Animals

Confinement in cold, damp barns can contribute to respiratory and other health problems for cows. Organic Valley farmer Ernest Martin converted his Ohio dairy farm entirely to grass after hearing about tremendous benefits in herd health from friends who were pasture farming. He saw that they were making money when he was not, due partly to lower vet bills and less need for antibiotics. Pastured cows get more fresh air and exercise, and spend less time crowded together. Even in winter, many of them are kept in "loose housing" without stalls, and prefer to go outside to feed.

Teddy Yandow, an Organic Valley producer who at 61 has farmed all of his life, also cites herd health as one of the main benefits to pasturing. He thinks the way cows are treated on his Vermont farm has also helped improve productivity. In the old days, he says, he was taught to push the cows around and holler at them; now "we treat the cows like family, move them gently." This summer they experimented with allowing calves to nurse, three to a cow, instead of bottle-feeding them as is more common. All summer he noticed that "the cows were so happy, the calves were happy, just blissful and healthy. They really have a wonderful life."

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