Questions to Ben & Jerry’s
Ben & Jerry’s ice creams advertise that their milk comes from well treated cows in the Netherlands.
You can see what they say here: http://www.benjerry.co.uk/caringdairy
I was curious to find out some information that they didn’t really talk about on their website, so I sent them some questions.
1- Are the cows free to roam most of the day? how long is she milked for in a 24 hour period?
Outside grazing is an important part of Caring Dairy and all our dairy cows are able to leave the barn in the summer time. In the winter however, most of them stay in the barn, since it is too cold and wet outside for them in the Dutch climate. In the winter time they are housed however in free stalls where they can walk around.
Sadly she didn’t answer the second question.
2- When the cows give birth to the calf, how long does it stay together with her?
To prevent the spread of diseases like para tuberculosis, calves are advised to be separated from their mothers 1 day after birth.
Scientific research has shown that separation so soon after the birth is less stressful for both the mother and calf than separation after a couple of weeks or months.
Rather than going for “less stress” it would be great if they went for “no stress” and left the mother with her baby until he grew up. Imagine how horrible it must be for a mother to get her newborn baby taken away from her? And how horrible it must be for the newborn to grow up without a mother?
3- Does the calf have full access to drink milk when he/she wants to?
That depends on the farming system. In farming systems with automatic feeding systems for milk the calves have free access to milk 24h. In other farming systems the calves are fed twice a day (after milking in the morning and the evening). Calves have always unlimited access to water and feed.
4- If it’s a male calf, where does it go after it grows up?
Male calves are raised on the farm for two weeks and then go to a bull calf farm for at least another 6 months. This is based on strict regulations in the Netherlands regarding calf housing and animal welfare.
So male calves are taken away from their mother after 1 day, stay in the farm for 2 weeks and then 6 months later is slaughtered for their muscles.
5- How often do the cows give birth to a new calf?
On average once every 13.5 month (starting from the age of 2)
A cow’s gestation period is 9 months. So 4.5 months after she has a calf she is forcefully impregnated again.
6- What happens to the cow when she is old and no longer able to produce milk?
On average dairy cows in the Netherlands live for around 6 years. Part of the Caring Dairy programme is to increase the average age of the cows by preventative health care measures e.g. close observation of cows to promote a healthy well-being as opposed to just treating symptoms when they are already ill. This is good for the cows (longer healthy life), the farmer (longer source of income from one cow) and the environment (less replacement of cows). When cows are no longer able to produce milk they are sent to an abattoir.
A cow’s normal life-span is of 20 to 25 years, yet their cows only live for 6 years. In that time period they’ll have had 4 babies taken away from them. Then they are killed.