A Dairy Farmer Answers: Hormones, Antibiotics and Cow-Tipping

May 11, 2012

By Joanie Stiers

Linda Drendel feeds a calf at her dairy farm in Hampshire, Illinois

Linda Drendel, dairy farmer and farm mom of Hampshire, Illinois, gave the field moms a tour of her farm in 2011. The Drendel family milks 150 Holstein dairy cows, cares for 150 calves and heifers, and grows corn, soybeans, hay and wheat.

Q: Do growth hormones affect the quality of milk?
A: BST is a hormone found naturally in cows that stimulates milk production; rBST is an U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)-approved, manufactured form that enhances milk production in a cow. Studies show that milk from cows treated with the supplement is the same wholesome product that we have enjoyed for generations. This has been affirmed and re-affirmed by the FDA along with other leading health organizations. During the farm visit from the field moms, our veterinarian assured the moms that there is no health risk to them or their families by drinking milk that is not labeled as rBST free. Dale and I raised our family drinking milk from our farm, knowing that all milk is wholesome, safe and nutritious.

Q: How do you care for baby calves?
A: Cow care and calf comfort are very important to us on our farm. We provide safe and clean conditions for both the mother and her calf during and after the birthing process. Calves receive individual attention away from their mother soon after their birth to ensure their safety and to keep them warm and dry. We bottle-feed the calf the mother’s first milk, colostrum, within the first several hours after its birth and give the calf vaccines to promote its natural immunity. Our calves, free to frolic in their pens, have water and feed in front of them, and I watch them carefully to make sure they are well and content.

Q: Do you use antibiotics? Is that safe for my family?
A: Sometimes it is necessary for us to treat cows with antibiotics when they are sick, just as we need medication when we are sick. The milk from a cow being treated for illness is separated from the milk supply until that cow’s milk is clear of antibiotics and ready to re-enter the bulk tank. Milk is strictly tested for antibiotics on the farm and at the processing plant. During the field moms’ farm visit, our veterinarian assured the moms that any milk that tests positive for antibiotics cannot be sold to the public. All milk is free of antibiotics. Milk and dairy foods are among the most highly regulated foods in this country.

Q: Is cow tipping for real or a myth?
A: A myth! Cows do not sleep standing up, and who could sneak up on a 1,500-pound cow and tip her over?

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