you have ever driven through the center of Florida, you’ve
probably seen cows grazing or resting under shade trees. These
cows were almost certainly being raised for beef. Although the
horrible final destination for dairy cows is the same as with
beef cattle—the slaughterhouse—dairy cows in Florida
spend much of their lives on concrete, confined in overcrowded
and disease-ridden farms.
Production in Florida
farming is one of Florida’s biggest animal industries, second
only to the beef cattle industry in dollar value. For decades,
the number of dairy farms in Florida has been in decline, while
the size of herds on individual farms has increased dramatically.
Today, most dairy farms in Florida have between 500 and 1000 cows,
and several huge mega-dairies have over 3000 cows!
lives of dairy cows are a bleak cycle of pregnancy, birth and
milking to provide one thing—milk for human consumption.
heat and humidity of Florida’s climate makes life difficult
for dairy cows. Florida’s hot and wet conditions also increase
health problems such as mastitis, a common but serious bacterial
infection of the mammary gland.
an attempt to fight the heat, and to better control waste, farms
confine cows in warehouse-sized buildings that have giant fans
running 24 hours a day. But confining cows creates other problems.
As a result of standing on concrete, and from lack of exercise,
dairy cows commonly suffer from painful feet or leg injuries.
Lameness is one of the most frequent reasons that dairy farmers
Short, Sad Life of a Dairy Cow
Like other mammals, cows have to give birth in order to produce
milk. Immediately after giving birth, the dairy cow’s calf
is forcibly taken from her and fed artificially.
calves are of little value to the dairy industry, so dairy farmers
sell them to the notoriously cruel veal industry (there would
be no veal without the dairy industry!), or just abandon them
at the farm. In 2000, workers at a dairy farm in Okeechobee were
caught on film dumping day-old calves in a pit, and shooting them
with a pistol.
female calves are moved into tiny, individual pens where they
spend the first weeks of their lives, cut off almost completely
from contact with other cows. A strip of fabric serves as shade.
Farmers claim that they must isolate calves to protect them from
infectious disease, noxious ammonia and other threats to young
animals that are common in modern dairy farms.
a calf leaves the pen, she will be dehorned, a painful and stressful
mutilation, usually conducted without anesthesia (farmers explain
that dehorning reduces injuries in the crowded dairy). Before
the calf turns two, she will be artificially inseminated and begin
her “productive life.” Cows are milked twice, even
three times per day, and are pushed to produce as much as 20,000
lbs of milk per year!
a few short years, a cow’s milk production declines and
she is sold for slaughter. Cows are also killed if they have difficulty
getting pregnant, or due to chronic mastitis or lameness, anything
that makes her no longer profitable. A cow’s natural lifespan
is 25 years or more.