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Farming


How Do We Love Our Animals? Let Us Count the Ways…

by Rootstock Editor

Feb. 14, 2019

by Rootstock Editor

Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
We love our cows (and pigs and chickens and turkeys)
And so should you!

We love watching 800-pound cows leap and play the first time they get out on the pasture in spring.

We love that our cows can wander green pastures, lie down outside, and socialize with their “girlfriends” all day long.

Three Jersey cows rub against one another to scratch some itches. One makes a silly face.

Out in the pasture, cows enjoy socializing (and scratching!) with one another.

We love that being paid well for our work means we can have a smaller herd, and that means we can give more personal attention to a pregnant cow and do things a little differently when it comes to rearing calves.

A mother cow cleans her newborn calf.

A mother cow cleans her newborn calf on the Perkins Family Farm in West Virginia. 

“I let them choose where they want to have their babies, inside or outside, but it’s usually outside. If I know a cow’s about to calve and bad weather’s coming on, I’ll bring her inside, and I’ll bring in a couple of other cows so she’s not alone and nervous.”

- Dan Kaiser, Wisconsin


"When I put these little babies out on pasture with their moms, they learn how to graze faster. They are being mentored by their moms just like we mentor our children."

– Dave Heidel | Wisconsin


“Dad was using nurse cows, and I noticed how much bigger and healthier those calves were compared to bottle-fed calves. But I didn’t like that they weren’t out grazing. It made for a tough wean. So now, the calves just run with the milk cows and graze with their moms. When the cows come in for milking, their calves either stand in front of them or go into a lean-to, and then they go back out to pasture with their moms when milking’s done. They are the most vibrant calves we’ve ever had. A side bonus to this method is that the calves become comfortable with the routine of going in and out of the barn and switching paddocks.”

– Kelly Placke, Wisconsin

 

We love being able to care for a sick animal with the same things we use for ourselves: quiet, rest, plenty of liquids, medicinal herbs, and a bit of time.*

"Because organic requires the use of only holistic measures to keep our girls in tip-top health, we really need to be on top of how the cows are feeling almost before they feel it so we can take care of something before it becomes a problem."

- Jamie and Sarah Huftalen, New York

 

We love our animals’ curiosity and personality! Whether it’s a cow or a pig, sometimes they act just like big inquisitive puppy dogs. 

A curious cow sniffs at the photographer's backpack while he's taking a picture in a different direction.

Curious cow sneaking up on one of our photographers.

Jim Campbell enjoys caring for his pigs from the day they are born to market day and watching them run around in the pasture, interacting with each other. “They run and play just like kids—they are very curious!”


"I love them all for their individual strengths. ...I frequently compare my cows to a classroom of students when it comes to dealing effectively with their varying personalities!"

– Molly Brannan | New York


We love that technology allows us to give our animals the comfort and care they deserve.

A brown chicken faces right into the camera and its upright red comb gives it a surprised expression.

This cheeky chicken gets her close-up on the Toews family farm in Colorado.

“We have a computerized monitoring system attached to the phone line that lets us know any time of day or night if the temperature changes or there’s any glitch in the food and watering systems. It only costs about 250 bucks per barn, but we think it’s priceless to have that peace of mind.”

– Joel Goede, Organic Valley egg farmer from Wisconsin

 

But our love is not only for the animals themselves. Many things are because of them. 

Two little boys hug in the milking barn with cows in the background.

The youngest Helget boys show some love in the barn at their Minnesota farm.

Our animals enable our families to live this organic farming lifestyle, where our children and pets can run around with no areas off limits due to chemical storage, where our neighbors pop by to return a tool and stay for coffee, and where we have a network of fellow organic family farmers offering advice and support.

“Seeing shooting stars at 4:15 in the morning is wonderful, and we grow our own organic food. But winter cold numbs our fingers and toes, and the end of our working day depends on when a cow is calving, or a calf needs an extra bottle at 9 p.m. to prevent dehydration, or the city’s Fourth of July fireworks frightens the heifers and they break through the fence. In all honesty, the good moments outnumber the bad. We are here because we believe in farming the organic way.”

– Judt Haase-Hardie, Wisconsin

 

We love the peace of the morning milking when it’s still dark and quiet and the cows moo a low welcome.

 

We love the evening milking when we have a moment to talk about our days with spouses or to simply enjoy each other’s company in silence.

One of Wisconsin farmer Louise Hemstead’s favorite times of day was when she and her husband, David, were in the barn milking cows together. She said it took the day’s stress away.

A little girl smiles into the camera over her mother's shoulder.

The Bess family from California spend some family time teaching their girls about milking.

 

We love how the longer we farm organically, the more connections we make between health and what we put in our bodies—because we see it working in our animals.

“When we started organic dairy farming, you’d look into our kitchen cupboards and see that we hadn’t connected the dots for our own health. But that has changed completely now.”

– Jon Bansen, Oregon

Juli Bansen surveys the family’s large garden while two of her children harvest in the background.

The Bansen family works hard to feed themselves from their own garden as much as they can. 

"We all love our office of the great outdoors. It is a fulfilling lifestyle in an infinite number of ways."

– Susan Hardy, New York


"There's this very strong sense of affection for animals that are working for you, and the only way I can repay the animals that work for me is with kindness and the best care I can give 'em. Just provide for every need. From the dogs, the cats, horses and cows -- everything on the farm."

– David Kline | Ohio


Footnote:

* But we also appreciate that if these things don’t work, we can give antibiotics. We never tolerate allowing an animal to suffer. But if we give antibiotics, the animal is no longer organic and has to be removed from the organic herd.