Monday, January 14, 2013

Sexing Semen For Dairy Cows, it's HERE!

I was just talking on the phone with my college friend, who lives in Texas. 

Her husband works for Sexing Technologies, and I was surprised to learn that they are already using sexed semen for the dairy cows at Texas A&M, especially for the high-producing heifers.  No one wants the female cow to waste her pregnancy on producing a male calf, when she could have produced a very valuable high producing female offspring instead. So they use sexed semen. My friend said they bring the bull and the heifer in to the lab facility. They get the bull's semen, put it through a machine which turns it into all female producing gametes; and then they artificially inseminate the valuable "high producing" heifer, thereby ensuring she gives birth to female offspring. My friend said it's that easy, and they do it all the time.

As I listening, I thought, Wow. I read Meat Market: Animals, Ethics, and Money by Erik Marcus back in 2005, and I remember his arguments about the fallacy of a humane (compassionate, no-kill) dairy.  A big part of Erik's argument was regarding the fact that sexed semen was too expensive, so there will always be lots of male dairy cows born, which are useless. 

So ... that's interesting that technology has advanced to the point where now it is becoming economical to use sexed semen, thereby preventing unwanted male dairy cows from being born.  I believe the dairy industry is wrong, period ... but I suppose it makes it a bit less inhumane if they will no longer have to kill all of the baby calves who are male.  What do you think?

Here's an article produced by the dairy industry. I enjoyed reading this, because it gives SO MUCH VALIDITY to what Vegan Outreach is always saying. Nobody can say that Vegan Outreach's message is some kind of fringe wacko argument, when it's the dairy industry themselves who are providing the same message.

Some fave quotes:

"Bill Wailes, Colorado State University Extension dairy specialist, says average milk production was 20,500 lbs./dairy cow last year. It was 5,000 lbs. in the early 1960s."

Oh, happy joy joy! To be that cow with the udders producing four times as much milk as what nature intended!

“A lot of dairy producers are in a situation where they can create more heifers than they need for replacement, and they’re trying to figure out how they can maximize profit per cow,” Wilson says.

And, oh, the industry likes to wax poetic, whenever confronted, about how their first concern is for the health and happiness of each individual cow.   But really ... are you truly looking after the best interests of a cow, or a human worker's, when all you are trying to do is maximize the profit?  People do great at maximizing profit with slave labor (used throughout history) or employing workers in dangerous jobs for which they are not adequately compensated and many other scenarios.  Have history and current experience shown us that "what maximizes profit" is the same as what maximizes health of the individual worker?

"Genetic progress and reproductive technology mean they can increase milk production with fewer cows, while replacing the entire herd every 30 months."

"Replacing the herd" means that the dairy cows are KILLED every 30 months, and most dairy cows don't live more than 2.5 years. When they have an expected life span of 30 years? HOW LOVELY. All the people who think they can eat dairy and cheese because no one is dying for the milk ... or that they are honoring a cow by drinking their milk ... I'm sorry, these people need a reality check. With death rates like these, it upsets me that milk is considered "vegetarian" at all. :( 

The funny thing is, in my opinion, the dairy industry in so patently cruel, I'm 100% against it ... while I am only partially against eating meat or eggs. (I'm against FACTORY-FARMED meat and eggs, which is 99% of it in our country, and that's why I'm vegan or vegan-ish, whatever you want to call it; but I'm not against someone having a chicken as a pet, for example, and that person eating the pet chicken's eggs. And I'm not against the idea of someone eating their pet chickens or pet dog or any other animal, after the animal has lived a nice good life. I'm also not against someone eating me, or feeding me to a tiger or other carnivorous animal, after I've had a nice good life. Just euthanize me so I have a peaceful death and then let the tiger eat my body if the tiger's hungry. I've got no problem with that.)

But for me, dairy is a whole other animal. :) Dairy equates to slavery, plain and simple. If someone were using me as a dairy animal, that means they impregnated me against my will, took away my child, fed the child something else when my own milk would have been the healthiest thing for it, and then they hooked me up to machines to steal my own milk every day!!! Then they will kill me when I'm about age 14 (after I've had 2 or 3 kids) because my milk production is slowing down. What the heck! I will not stand for that, and I will not stand for them doing that to our cows! 

Yes, I will tolerate some dairy ingredient embedded in my food once in awhile, but I am not happy about it! I can't help it that dairy products are sometimes in my environment. But I can help to educate people about how the dairy industry really is, so that we can put an end to it.  Or at least people can get some sort of clue, so they don't just go around eating milk and cheese happy-go-lucky, like there's nothing wrong with it.

Anyway, that's my philosophy!
Now back to my fave quotes from the article.

Currently, Holstein and Brown Swiss bull calves are worth about $100/head; Guernsey and Jersey bull calves are worth next to nothing. Calf raisers typically pick up calves 24-48 hours post birth and after they’ve received colostrum from mama. These calves are raised on milk replacer for 60-90 days before being sold or retained for backgrounding and feeding.

"Being sold" refers to the male calves who are sold to be killed while still very young, since they are otherwise "worth next to nothing," as the article so honestly points out. How many "right-to-lifers" are out there saying how each human life is so valuable and precious, but they support the dairy industry, which is so callous about the lives of these innocent baby cows?  

And how cool is that for us to separate the calf from the mother, after only 2 days, when a cow is a mammal who expect to care for her young for about a year after birth?   

And for all the people who talk about how "breast milk is nature's perfect food for baby," ... yes, I agree!  So why are we feeding the baby dairy cows "milk replacer" instead of the mother's milk?  Sadly, when the fact is that the mother cow is producing 4x the milk that she would have, 50 years ago ... it seems they could offer the 1/4 of the mom's milk to the baby cow.  Then at least the baby cow could drink "nature's perfect food: her mother's milk" instead of "milk replacer."  Then the other 3/4 could go to the dairy industry's "profits."  But no ... the dairy industry is so greedy that they want 100% of the mother's milk for their profits.   They won't even give part of it to the baby cow.   Even though the mom is suffering terribly with mastitis, diseased utters, and other problems due to the high milk production.

"Incidentally, the average production life of dairy cows is 2.5 lactations or so. Wailes explains some of the rapid turnover is due to selective culling, such as for subpar performance; some is due to non-selective culling, such as for lameness, mastitis, etc. Mostly, though, turnover stems from dairy producers’ effective sustained use of sexed semen."

"Yeah, lameness, mastitis, yadda yadda."  Dairy cows are developing all of these problems when they only got to live for about 2 or 3 years anyway?  So young to be developing such problems.  :(  And when they say the turnover comes from the effective sustained use of sexed semen ... they mean that suitable offspring to take their place (female cows) are being born at a faster rate, so the mother cows can be killed sooner.    The whole dairy industry is really sad.  
And finally:

"For the beef industry, maintaining critical infrastructure continues as a key wonderment, magnified by the smallest beef cowherd since World War II. There’s no reason to expect much expansion, either, in light of the litany of issues addressed over the past half-year in this exclusive BEEF magazine series." 

Per capita annual beef consumption has fallen to "around the 50-lb level" from it's previous position "not that long ago" which was said to be in the "mid-60s" (i.e., around 65-lb beef consumption per person). And the beef industry is worried. See article below.

You know ... as a solution to this "problem" ... what I hope they go back to smaller operations with smaller herds and much less beef produced; i.e., no more factory farms.   I'm guessing the could employ the same number of people as they do now (on their heavily mechanized factory farm systems) ... except it would be small farms, with the same number of people working (so no "jobs" would be lost). There would be fewer cows being killed for their meat (NONE would be killed for dairy products because there wouldn't be a dairy industry; I HOPE!), and the per capita meat consumption would be very very low. The beef would be very expensive, but I think it SHOULD BE. People who do eat beef and other meat products (seafood, chicken, turkey, pork) would eat it only once in a while, whatever is the minimum they think they need for nutrition; if they do it that way, they can afford the high prices. Then the animals will be treated well (or at least mistreated and killed in much smaller numbers), the workers will be paid very good wages and have a higher level of job satisfaction, working on small, privately owned farms. I think that would be a BIG IMPROVEMENT for the animals, the economy, the planet, and the health of the people.

In the meantime, I am as vegan as I find it practical to be (vegan-ish), because I am so upset about the billions of animals suffering here in the U.S. every day, in the most inhumane conditions, on factory farms.  Jeff lives with me and sees the way I live, the choices I make, the things that upset me: he thinks I'm vegan ... but people who are 100% vegan purists, or people who are omni's looking to nit-pick ... they say I'm NOT vegan (or that I'm a hypocrite if I say I am). 

Oh, how omni's love to find something which they think enables them to call a vegan a hypocrite! It either scares vegans into thinking they need to be 100% strict all the time, to be beyond reproach ... OR it scares people away from calling themselves vegan at all. It's really sad.

So I call myself vegan ... ish.  :)    Hopefully it makes sense to some people.   I know I've put out  ideas that seem radical to both vegans and non-vegans alike.  (More of my wacky, crazy ideas, woo-hoo!)  I don't seek to offend, and I apologize to anyone I have offended (example: dairy farmers, sorry!   I don't despise you or think badly of you personally; but I do genuinely think you need a different line of work!)   Feel free to comment and post your ideas, too.  Who knows, I might hear your idea and then modify my philosophy a bit.   I don't pretend to have it all figured out (no matter how emphatically I may express myself.)  This is just what I am thinking about today.

Thank you for reading!

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