Animals in Agriculture

Farm Animals: Summer 1999

How Our Food is Produced Matters!
animal factories and their impact

by Chris Bedford

Our food supply is undergoing fundamentalchange with serious consequences for animals, our water, our healthand our nation's family farms. Today, a small group of giant agribusinesscorporations control most of our nation's poultry, beef and porkproduction. To maximize profits, these corporations have imposedfactory production processes on animals, family farmers, consumers,and the environment.

The Animal Factory System

Standardization. Animal factoriesseek to produce a uniform product with predictable costs. To thisend, animals are bred to be genetically similar and to produceas much meat, as fast as possible at as low a cost as possible.For instance, most broiler chickens come from only seven differentgenetic lines. This lack of genetic diversity makes virtuallythe entire nation's poultry supply vulnerable to an epidemic.Overbreeding also produces chickens with breasts so large thatsometimes they can't stand up, causing painful blisters and ultimatelydeath through starvation.

Concentration and confinement. Animal factories concentratethousands, sometimes tens of thousands, of animals into multipleindustrial barns. Large animals, like hogs, are kept in tightmetal cages throughout their entire lives. Industrial hog barnsare often windowless and contain as many as 4,000 hogs, confinedin metal pens built over slatted concrete floors. Factory-farmedpoultry are crowded into long industrial houses containing asmany as 25,000 birds. Hundreds of thousands of egg-laying hensspend their lives in tiny battery cages, which give each hen spaceno bigger than the piece of paper this article is printed on,stacked high in giant barns.

Contract system. Under the factory system, most farmersdo not own the animals they raise. Instead, local family farmersraise animals under a contract which requires them to providetheir labor, pay the energy and water costs and borrow the fundsto build the industrial barns and other facilities. The giantagribusiness corporations supply the animals, the feed and additives.A handful of very large corporations control the animal market.These "Big-Ag" corporations squeeze every last bit ofprofit from contract growers and the animals, forcing farmersto raise more animals for less pay under increasingly dangerousworking conditions.

Poisoning Our Water

One hog produces as much feces as four humans. North Carolina's7,000,000 factory raised hogs create four times as much waste– stored in reeking, open cesspools – as the state's6.5 million people. The Delmarva peninsula's 600 million chickensproduce 400,000 tons of manure a year; manure that contains asmuch phosphorus as the waste from a city the size of Los Angeles,and as much nitrogen as the waste from a city the size of NewYork. When this manure is inappropriately applied to land as fertilizer,as it often is, nutrients run off into waterways, poisoning wholewatersheds with excess amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus. Run-offfrom poultry and swine manure has been implicated in the outbreakof Pfiesteria piscicida, a tiny but deadly organism whichhas sickened humans and killed billions of fish along Atlanticcoastal bays.

Animal factory manure may also contain environmental estrogens.These estrogens bio-accumulate and drain into waterways, interferingwith aquatic reproductive cycles. In Israel, this run-off hasbeen implicated in the mass stetilization of fish in the Sea ofGalilee.

Risking Our Health

The animal factory system adds antibiotics and heavy metals,like arsenic and copper, to animal feed to promote rapid growthand prevent epidemic levels of disease among confined animals.Routine use of antibiotics call breed drug-resistant bacteriawhich enter our water and our food chain, threatening human health.

Young children and the elderly are particularly at risk fromthese resistant bacteria. Currently, poultry and hog corporationsfeed their animals sub-therapeutic levels of the latest generationof antibiotics, leaving human populations potentially vulnerableas a result. The US Food and Drug Administration is trying, againststrong industry resistance, to ban much of animal factory antibioticuse. Such use is already restricted in the European Union.

Animal factory production is inherently inhumane. It representsa fundamental violation of nature, with broad consequences forour physical and spiritual health. How our food is raised, matters.When living creatures are brutally transformed into factory unitsof production it desensitizes the human consciousness to the environmentand all of its inhabitants – further alienating us from thenatural processes upon which our lives depend.

We simply must abolish animal factories and pursue more sustainable,humane ways to raise our food.

Chris Bedford is the Chair of the Maryland Chapter of theSierra Club.


Niman Ranch: AWIApproved
good for the pigs, the family farmerand the community

by Diane Halverson

To help end mistreatment of farmanimals, the Animal Welfare Institute is supporting the NimanRanch Company and its network of familyhog farmers who follow humane husbandry criteria developed bythe Animal Welfare Institute. AWI's criteria require that allanimals be allowed to behave naturally. Unlike the crated sowson factory farms, the sows in the Niman Ranch program have freedomof movement, allowing them to fulfill their instinctive desireto build a nest when they are about to give birth. Unlike thefactory farm pigs housed on concrete slats over manure pits, NimanRanch pigs are raised on pasture or in barns with bedding wherethey can live in accord with their natures, rooting for food,playing and socializing. AWI's criteria require that the participantsin the program be independent family farmers, that is, the farmermust own the animals, depend on the farm for a livelihood andbe involved in the day to day physical labor of managing the pigs.This requirement helps to ensure that pigs are raised in modestnumbers, making it easier to know and manage the animals as individuals.

Niman Ranch, which buys the pigs and markets the meat, alsoforbids feeding or otherwise administering hormones or antibioticsand prohibits the feeding of animal by-products. Unlike factoryfarmers, humane farmers in the Niman Ranch program do not relyon antibiotics to mask clinical manifestations of disease or topromote growth; therefore, they do not contribute to the devastatingproblem of antibiotic resistance among humans.

Paul Willis, the farmer who inspiredAWI's involvement in the program, keeps 200 sows and their offspringon pasture or in barns bedded with straw on his Midwest farm.Niman Ranch rewards Willis, and farmers like him, by paying thema premium price. Niman Ranch products are available at 200 finerestaurants in California, at Trader Joe's stores in the West,at Whole Foods stores in northern California, and through theWilliams-Sonoma mail order catalogue. Additional markets are beingdeveloped nationwide. In a 1995 Opinion Research Corporation survey,93% of the adults surveyed believed that animals should be treatedhumanely, even when being raised for human consumption, and three-fourthsopposed confining sows in crates, laying hens in battery cagesand veal calves in crates. The Niman Ranch program gives a growingnumber of such consumers an opportunity to reject meat derivedfrom pigs raised in animal factories and assists in the preservationof humane family farms, thereby helping to set a humane standardin raising of animals for food.


COURT DEFEAT FOR CORPORATE FACTORYFARM

A St. Louis Circuit Court jury recently awarded $5.2 millionin damages to 52 rural citizens subjected to odors, flies andwaste spills from Continental Grain Company's sprawling northernMissouri hog operations. The lawsuit, in which the jury deemedContinental's facilities a "continuing public nuisance,"is one of the first in the nation where farmers and rural residentshave legally and successfully held a corporate hog factory giantaccountable for its degradation of property values and rural qualityof life.


STATE MAKES SWEETHEART DEAL WITHPSF

On July 29, declining to join forces with the DepartmentofJustice/Environmental Protection Agency and a Missouri citizen'sgroup, Missouri's Attorney General filed a consent judgement settlingall of the state's claims against Continental Grain-Premium StandardFarms, including a July 28 spill which dumped over 12,000 gallonsof shog manure into a local stream.

The sweetheart deal allows Continental Grain-Premium StandardFarm to pollute without penalty for the next three to five yearswhile it spends $12.5 to S25 million to research, develop andadopt unspecified "technology" to "reduce or eliminate"its pollution problems. The settlement does not set water or airquality standards to be met by the company.

A federal judge is expected to rule shortly on the July 22Department of Justice motion to intervene on behalf of EnvironmentalProtection Agency in the pending suit by Citizens Legal EnvironmentalAction Network against Premium Standard Farms.


AWI Quarterly Summer 1999, Vol. 38, No. 3

New Food Seal Sets Highest Standards for Humane Treatment of Farm Animals

Animal Welfare Approved Surpasses Other Seals; First Humane Program to Champion Family Farms and Repudiate Double Standards in Other Labeling Programs

New Standards Supported by Farmers, Top Chefs and Notables Such as Willie Nelson, Rosemary Harris and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

The Dairy Debate: Bovine Growth Hormone


MONSANTO'S GENETICALLY ENGINEERED PRODUCTS MEET RESISTANCE

by Ronnie Cummins

Monsanto has suffered a number of technological and public relations"glitches" over the past few years, including the massive marketplace failureof its billion-dollar flagship product, rBGH. After three years on themarketplace, only 4% of America's dairy cows are being shot up with thedrug. Wall Street analysts told Business Week magazine in 1996 that dueto farmer and consumer opposition (and the fact that rBGH damages thehealth of cows) the drug was a total failure, and that in economic terms itshould be taken off the market. [Editor's note: rBGH has been reliablylinked to health problems that cause extreme suffering to cows, includingmastitis, a painful inflammation of the udder. See the Spring/Summer1997 AWI Quarterly for more details.]

In scientific and public health terms, data continues to pile up thatsignificantly increased levels of the human growth hormone factor IGF-1in genetically engineered milk and dairy products constitute a serioushuman health risk for increased breast and colon cancer. In addition,scientific studies have recently been brought to the attention of the WorldHealth Organization that injecting mammals with genetically engineeredgrowth hormones very likely increases their susceptibility to deadly,incurable brain-wasting diseases such as BSE, commonly known as MadCow Disease, or its human variant, Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease. Consequentlythe WHO, the European Union, and the Codex Alimentarius areunlikely to ever approve rBGH as a safe drug, leaving the U.S. as the onlyindustrialized nation in the world to have approved rBGH.

Other troubles for Monsanto's genetically engineered products continueto mount: in mid-1996 Monsanto/Calgene's highly-touted "FlavrSavr" tomato was taken off the market, ostensibly because of productionfailures and genetic glitches; Monsanto's entire Canadian geneticallyengineered rapeseed or canola crop had to be recalled earlier this yearbecause of unexplained "technical difficulties"; and up to a million acresor 50% of Monsanto's Bt Cotton crop in the U.S. were attacked bybollworms in 1996, prompting lawsuits by outraged cotton growers whoclaim they were defrauded by Monsanto. Further, dairy cows eatingMonsanto's "Roundup Ready" soybeans are producing milk with differentchemical characteristics (higher fat levels) than cows who are eatingregular soybeans.


Ronnie Cummins is the National Director of the Pure FoodCampaign USA. For more information, write to: Pure FoodCampaign, 860 Highway 61, Little Marais, Minnesota 55614,or call (800) 253-0681.

More on Monsanto

A German activist who forwarded criticisms of Monsanto to anInternet mailing list found himself the target of the giant chemicalcorporation's lawyers—and the company lost.

Last winter, Werner Reisberger received a message from a group ofprotestors who were organizing an anti-Monsanto protest. The protestorscalled Monsanto "A corporation of poisons, genes and swindle." Reisbergerpassed the announcement on to an e-mail discussion list called GENESIS,which concerns food technology. The thin-skinned corporation suedReisberger, even though he was not the author of the message and thediscussion list only had 24 members.

"Monsanto claimed that I offended the company with the word'swindle' and endangered their creditworthiness," Reisberger wrote inEarth Island Journal. "They gave me three days to sign a declarationpromising never again to say, 'Monsanto, the corporation of swindle.'Every time I repeated this sentence, I would have to pay Monsanto100,000 DM ($66,666)."

Reisberger refused to sign, and a German court rejected all of Monsanto'sclaims and ordered the company to pay the court costs. Such hypersensitivelitigation only serves to make giant companies look silly, as Monsantoshould have learned from England's McLibel trial.

AWI Quarterly Fall 1997, Vol. 46, No. 4, p. 10.


Three Cheers for Ben & Jerry's—Anti-rBGH Label Can Be Used

Just when we feared that the large transnational corporations had co-opted the federal government and quelled the spirit of smaller companies, a press release from Ben and Jerry's arrived. They've won a lawsuit enabling them to label their ice cream with the statement: "We Oppose Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone. The family farmers who supply our milk and cream pledge not to treat their cows with rBGH."

Up to now, this fight has gone against the cows, the family farmers and the consumers ever since Monsanto persuaded the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to approve the corporation's "Posilac"—genetically engineered rBGH. FDA approved it and even refused to require labeling of milk from cows injected with the drug despite studies, some of which reported a 79% increase in mastitis (infection of the udder) resulting in greater need for antibiotics, reduced pregnancy rates, cystic ovaries and uterine disorders, digestive disorders and lacerations, enlargements and calluses of the knee.

According to Ben & Jerry's CEO, when FDA "approved voluntary labeling in 1994 but left regulation of labels to the states, we began contacting each state to get approval for our label. We sued the largest of them, Illinois, in federal court citing the Constitution's First Amendment protection of freespeech. We have the right to tell our customers what is and isn't in our ice cream."

Since 1994, Illinois has threatened to seize products having an anti-rBGH label, thereby effectively stopping such labeling throughout the country because it is not feasible for nationally distributed dairy products to be labeled differently in individual markets.

A 1996 poll commissioned by the US Department of Agriculture and performed by researchers at the Universities of Wisconsin and Oregon showed that 94 percent of more than 1,900 respondents surveyed nationwide favored labeling that would allow consumers to distinguish between milk fromcows treated with rBGH and milk from untreated cows. Other consumer surveys support this finding.

The FDA issued interim guidelines on voluntary labeling in February 1994, setting forth how labels could be worded so as to be truthful, not misleading, and in compliance with food and labeling law. Most states followed those guidelines, but a handful of states including Illinois refused to permit any anti-rBGHlabeling.

Ben and Jerry's CEO said he feels confident the label approved in this settlement with the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago addresses all legitimate concerns that could be raised by any state.

According to the Organic Valley cooperative, which supplies milk and cream to Ben & Jerry's, "The family farmers who make up the Organic Valley Family of Farms are in this business because we love cows. We would not knowingly subject our animals to a drug with side effects that could cause illness, death and create undue stress on the animal. Utilizing any genetically engineered product is counter to what we believe in."

From now on, humanitarians will be able to reject dairy products that don't have the anti-rBGH label and stop the spread of these cruel injections into helpless cows. It is a laudable precedent for other efforts to label products whose manufacture is injurious to animals. legislation on FDA rules regarding labeling is pending in Congress .


AWI Quarterly Spring/Summer 1997, Vol. 46, No.2 & 3, p. 17.


"Bovine Economics"

Having twins is usually a cause for celebration. But for a dairy farmer a cow that bears twin calves can be a bad omen: twin births weaken both the mother and her offspring. One or two sets of twins in any herd is par for the course, but when Lisbon, New York dairyman Jay Livingston discovered 20 sets of twins among his 200 milk-producing cows, it was a calamity. He lost little time in dispatching the 40 calves to the slaughterhouse where they were ground up for bologna and hot dogs. Many of the sickly mothers will soon follow their weakling calves, ending up as hamburger in the school lunch program.

The lot of these cows is more than an inexplicable twist of fate. Livingston had been injecting his herd with Monsanto's new genetically engineered growth hormone known as rBGH-trade name Posilac which promises to increase the amount of milk a cow produces....

For the first couple of months on rBGH "our cows seemed to be doing 0K" [Livingston] says. "Their milk production increased from 40 to 65 pounds per day. Then they just went all to pieces. We had a half a dozen die and then the rest started ''experiencing major health problems, cows went off their feed, experienced severe weight loss, mastitis and serious foot problems....

Dairy Profit Weekly, [an] industry report, quotes Mike Connor, a dairy nutritionist in Black Earthy County, Texas, who said two-thirds of his client farmers are phasing out rBGH. Noting recurrent side effects, he said, "Many concluded that the risk was not worth the benefit" Dick Bengen, an 800-cow dairy producer from Everson, Washington, recently told a Toronto dairy symposium that he had disappointing results using rBGH on his herd, saying that many of the cows with increased milk production require more feed. The extra costs -- a shot per cow every two weeks runs $5.80 -- and the additional feed made the economic gains marginal at best.

Excerpted from "Bovine Economics " by James Ridgeway. The article appeared in the March 28, 1995 issue of the Village Voice.

AWI Quarterly Spring 1995, Vol. 44, No.2 p. 16.


Congress Can Protect Dairy Cows

At a press conference on June 21, 1994, Congressman Bernard Sanders (Ind., VT), with the support of numerous animal protection, family farm, and consumer groups, announced the introduction of federal legislation, H.R. 4618, entitled the "Bovine Growth Hormone Milk Act."

The Congressman recognized that injections of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) make cows sick, citing that "the POSILAC (synthetic rBGH) label lists a variety (20) of adverse side effects." He continued:

It also warns that using synthetic rBGH may result in the use of more antibiotics, increasing the risk of antibiotics ending up in consumers' milk. The FDA calls this a 'manageable risk.' The question is, why are we taking any risk at all for a drug that no one, other than the Monsanto Company, needs or wants.

Congressman Sanders concluded, "There is no need for this inhumane treatment of cows."

Sanders' legislation requires the Secretary of Agriculture to label milk or a milk product intended for human consumption with the warning "This milk (product) was produced by cows injected with synthetic BGH" if it comes from injected cows. Such a label will enable American consumers to select dairy products that involve the least stress and suffering to the cows from which they come.


AWI Quarterly Spring 1994, Vol. 43, No.2 p. 11.


Corporate Greed Targets Helpless Dairy Cows

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given its stamp of approval to POSILAC, recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), for commercial use. The giant Monsanto Company has spent an amazing $300 million to create and promote this dangerous growth hormone. Cows immobilized in their stanchions must submit biweekly to injections of POSILAC which force them to give unnaturally high amounts of milk. POSILAC's official FDA warning label reveals its threat to the cows' welfare:

  • ...Use of POSILAC has also been associated with increases in cystic ovaries and disorders of the uterus during the treatment period. Cows injected with POSILAC may have small decreases in gestation length and birth weight of calves and they may have increased twinning rates...
  • Cows injected with POSILAC are at an increased risk for clinical mastitis (visibly abnormal milk). In addition, the risk of subclinical mastitis (milk not visibly abnormal) is increased ...
  • Use of POSILAC may result in an increase in digestive disorders such as indigestion, bloat, and diarrhea ...
  • Studies indicated that cows injected with POSILAC had increased numbers of enlarged hocks and lesions (e.g. lacerations, enlargements, calluses) of the knee (carpal region) and second lactation or older cows had more disorders of the foot region.

Mastitis is a cruelly painful disease affecting the udders of dairy cows. Farmers try to treat it with antibiotics. Increased use of antibiotics for food-producing animals is a major cause of resistance to antibiotics when treating human bacterial infections. In addition, Dr. Samuel Epstein, Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, warns that higher levels of "Insulin-like Growth Factor-l" in the milk from treated cows may lead to human breast cancer.

The FDA's bias in approving use of POSILAC is accentuated by its refusal to require labeling of dairy products containing milk from POSILAC-injected cows. The Animal Welfare Institute strongly urged FDA to require such labeling. Compassionate consumers have the right to know that a dangerous product was used on the cows which provided their milk, similar to the right to know that tuna is "dolphin safe" or that cosmetics are "cruelty-free."

FDA contends that such labels would give "misleading implications" and that "No significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rBST-treated and non-rBST-treated cows."

This ignores the clear distinction between products from a healthy animal and products from a sick and suffering one.

This distinction is made clear by dairy farmer John Kurtz who used rBST on his herd. According to Kurtz: "What actually occurred, by the time we finished the second lactation, is that we had none of the cows that received rBST stay in the herd. 100% of the cows failed to conceive during the second lactation, we had 19 death loss, and we had 14.8% 'down cow' loss."

After being analyzed at the University of Minnesota, it was discovered that "these cows had taken so much calcium out of their skeleton, even their shoulder blades had a ripple effect like a ripple potato chip where they had pulled the calcium out of the skeleton to produce milk."

Monsanto, reacting to negative publicity and lack of support among many producers, is beginning to sue companies who refuse rBST-tainted products. Swiss Valley Farms of Davenport, Iowa now faces legal challenge from Monsanto for advertising that their milk is farm-certified rBST-free.

The 12 member nations of the European Union have reject the use of rBST, but they could be forced to accept products from rBST treated cows if the United States challenges the European ban under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Thus this unjustifiable and unnecessary suffering may be inflicted oncows on both sides of the Atlantic.

Widespread public protest is called for to stop the spread of the insidious corporate cruelty. Already an "unexpectedly strong public resistance to a new drug that makes cows produce more milk" was reported on the front page of the Business section of The Washington Post (March 15, 1994). Please make your voice heard. The suffering which cows are forced to undergo simply to increase milk production cannot be tolerated.

ACTION: Urge your supermarket, grocer or convenience store to require certification that the milk, cheese and other dairy products they carry come only from cows that have not been subjected to injections of rBST. Encourage your friends to do the same. For more information and a list of companies whose products are rBST-free, contact: The Pure Food Campaign; 1130 - 17 Street, NW, Suite 300; Washington, DC 20036; 1-800-253-0681.


AWI Quarterly Winter 1994, Vol. 43, No 1, p.20.

Animal Advocates Urge Ireland to End Cruel Animal Transport

Photo from the January 8, 2004 demonstration.


WASHINGTON, DC (January 7, 2004)  On Thursday, January 8th, at 12:00 p.m., demonstrators organized by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) staged a one-hour protest outside the Embassy of Ireland at 2234 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, and delivered a letter to Ambassador Fahey urging Ireland, as new holder of the European Union (EU) Presidency, to lead the way in ensuring new, humane rules on animal transport including an 8 hour total journey limit for cows and other livestock traveling to slaughter or for further fattening.  

Each year roughly three million live animals cattle, sheep, pigs, and horses are transported insufferably long distances across Europe.  The sheer length of the journeys results in stress.  AWI's Wendy Swann notes, "Transporting live animals long distances undoubtedly causes immense suffering.  The animal welfare problems associated with the trade can only be alleviated with drastic changes in the length of time and conditions under which these sentient creatures are shipped."

From Ireland, thousands of young calves are taken by sea and road to the Netherlands for veal production; thousands of older calves are transported also by sea and road to Spain and Italy mostly for slaughter, and in 2003, over 138,000 cattle and calves were transported to Europe and over 35,000 cattle were shipped to Lebanon.  Ireland, who took over the Presidency of the EU on January 1 st , has opposed all proposals to restrict journey length intended to reduce animal suffering, although nine EU countries have supported such a move. 

"Ireland should not contradict the wishes of most EU countries for modest improvements in the transport conditions for livestock from the EU" Swann asserts. "In the summer, animals transported in livestock trucks often suffer from the effects of extreme heat and dehydration and some die.  During long journeys it is also inevitable that animals will become injured.  Ireland must stand up and support these long-needed changes to EU transport regulations."

Joyce D'Silva, Compassion in World Farming's (CIWF) Chief Executive adds; "As an Irish woman myself, I feel such shame that the Irish government opposes radical reform of this appalling trade in animal suffering.  At the moment, lambs can be taken from Aberdeen to Athens just to be slaughtered on arrival.  A trade in chilled meat is such an obvious and kinder alternative.  CIWF's call for change is receiving global support.  It's time for the Irish government and all governments to listen to public concern on this issue."

CIWF and AWI call for adoption of an 8 hour journey limit, a position that has received widespread support from the European Parliament, the Agriculture Council, and the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Welfare.

###

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • A media briefing covering the live transport of animals is available from AWI
  • Problems are exacerbated by lack of law enforcement.  For example, the European Commission carried out a series of investigations in EU countries and found that drivers, including those carrying animals from Ireland, frequently did not stop to rest the animals as required by law.
  • With regard to shipments to the Middle East, once animals are unloaded into a non-EU country, there is no longer any control over their welfare.  Investigations by CIWF and the German animal welfare group, Animals' Angels, have shown that EU cattle (including animals from Ireland) are brutally handled and inhumanely slaughtered in Lebanon.
  • In November 2001 the European Parliament adopted the Maat report which calls for a maximum overall limit of 8 hours or 500 km. on journeys to slaughter or for further fattening. In September 2002 at an Agriculture Council discussion, 9 of the EU Member States said they want an 8-hour limit.
  • In March 2002, a major report by the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare (SCAHAW) concluded that welfare tends to get worse as journey length increases and so "journeys should be as short as possible".
  • For betacam or VHS copies of video, further information or photographs contact CIWF's press office on +44 (0)1730 233 904 or +44 (0) 7771 926 005 (mobile). Out of office hours call +44 (0) 7771 926 005.

USDA's Ban on Face Branding

FACE BRANDING: GOING,GOING...

by Henry Spira

On May 17th, the Federal Register published the USDA's proposal to end face branding of domestic cattle and bison in the agency's tuberculosis and brucellosis identification program. As you probably know, January 1995 saw an end to face branding of Mexican steers. However, smaller numbers of domestic cattle have continued to be face branded as part of disease control programs. With the current announcement we can look forward to the complete elimination of the face branding of cattle within the next few months.

USDA's Acting Assistant Secretary Patricia Jensen said, "We are committed to continually evaluating USDA identification requirements to ensure that our methods are both humane and effective for livestock disease control and public health purposes." Jensen also said that these proposed regulations are USDA's response to increasing public concern that hot-iron branding on the jaw may cause undue distress to cattle or bison.

Congratulations to all of you who voiced your strong concerns to the USDA. You stopped the proposed expansion of face branding in its tracks. In fact, the USDA was so impressed with your reaction that they moved to eliminate all face branding with speed uncharacteristic of a government agency.

Many of you also voiced strong concern to the USDA about other painful animal agriculture practices. This concern is now empowering USDA officials to place farm animal well-being on the federal agenda. A similar recognition by fast food giant McDonald's recently led the company to publish a statement requiring their suppliers to adhere to humane guidelines for farm animals. Independent experts are suggesting the McDonald's initiative is already making a meaningful difference. There will now be pressure on other major companies to take similar initiatives, including fast food parent PepsiCo, with whom we are now in discussion.

Until very recently, "food animals," who account for 95% of all animal suffering, have not been considered as appealing or deserving of concern as some other animals. But now, increasing numbers of individuals and organizations are beginning to direct serious energies towards solving the nightmarish problems of the more than seven billion farm animals in the USA.

Clearly, we now have momentum and enormous opportunities for progress. But not all the news is good news. In future columns, we'll discuss the negative trends, including: how the US is promoting the consumption of a debilitating, high-fat diet in countries that to date have benefited from a largely meatless life-style, and the proliferation of mega factories, where pigs live their entire lives in steel cages unable even to turn around, at a time when such cruel systems are being phased out elsewhere.

AWI Quarterly Fall 1995, Volume 44, Number 2, p. 16.


USDA's Ban on Face Branding: A Good Start!

The US Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health InspectionService (APHIS), under strong pressure from AWI and other groups, at longlast has made significant progress toward reducing inhumane treatment ofcattle imported into the US from Mexico.

Getting Off the Face

On August 24,1994, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) withdrewits misguided 1993 proposal "to require that spayed heifers and intactcattle imported into the United States from Mexico meet the same M-brandingrequirement" that has been routinely inflicted on Mexican steers.Until now, the USDA required that steers be painfully hot-iron brandedwith the letter "M" on the right jaw to signify the animals'Mexican origin. AWI objected to this attempt to expand a cruel procedurewhich causes extreme pain.

Less noticed in the heat of the Mexican steer campaign is a smallernumber of domestic animals who continue to be face branded as part of USDAdisease control programs. Animal protectionists are now urging the USDAto eliminate face branding across the board as a desirable alternativeto firing up new campaigns.

Under the modified proposal hot-iron branding is no longer mandatory,and all brands must be placed on the right hip rather than the extremelysensitive face of the animal. The mark must be "distinct, permanent,and legible," but it can be applied by freeze branding, which theUSDA will accept under the new proposal as a painless alternative to thehot-iron brand. In 1986, the AWI Quarterly reported on the workof Dr. Keith Farrell who invented and developed freeze branding, a methodwhereby liquid nitrogen rather than red hot iron is applied to the skin.Farrell described the feeling when he freeze branded himself as a "tinglingsensation" without pain. It is widely used for identification of expensivehorses but has been resisted by the cattle industry in the past.

However, it now appears that the National Cattlemen's Association (NCA)supports the modified branding proposal. Live Animal Trade & TransportMagazine, December 1994, quotes NCA comments to APHIS regarding thechange in procedure: "If APHIS determines that moving the 'M' brandwill provide an effective means of permanent identification, then we supportthis decision."

Accepting alternatives to hot iron branding is an extremely positivestep. USDA should now follow up with a seminal breakthrough, prohibitionof hot-iron branding of imported cattle. Without such a prohibition, individualswho currently use hot-iron brands are under no compulsion to change theirinhumane procedures.

Ovariectomy Protocol: Anesthetics at Last

Great progress also has been made in modifying USDA spaying requirementsfor Mexican cattle. The Department's ovariectomy protocol required that"a complete ovariectomy will be surgically performed through a flankincision on each heifer." Remarkably, there was no mention of anesthesia!

Effective July 12, 1994, USDA remedied the protocol's glaring deficiencyby requiring that either local or regional nerve block anesthesia be usedfor the surgery. Also changed was the unnecessary requirement that twopainful brands be applied to these animals: the "M" signifyingMexican origin and a spade mark, like that found on a playing card, indicatingcompletion of the spay surgery. Now, one brand, an "M" with aslash will be placed on the hip, reducing the double cruelty formerly inflicted.The NCA also agrees with this change in procedure.

If adopted, these modifications will make a major improvement in thetreatment of Mexican cattle. USDA clearly is listening to public opinion.


AWI Quarterly Fall 1994, Volume 43, Number 3, p. 12.

Scenes from a USDA Inspected Slaughterhouse

*Caution, video contains disturbing images.

Requires Real Media Player. To download visit www.real.com.
Footage provided by the Animal Welfare Institute, Animals' Angels
and Humane Farming Association.

Requires RealPlayer to view.  To download a copy visit www.Real.com

Having Problems? Click here to launch separate RealPlayer.


Merciless MRSA Strain Alive and Kicking

Disturbing evidence of a potential epidemic has been published in a study by University of Iowa College of Public Health researcher Tara Smith et al this January. The study was the first in the country to document animal-to-human transmission of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), an antibiotic-resistant form of a common bacterium that causes deadly infections, though such research has previously been conducted in Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands.

AWI Establishes Abandoned Horse Reward Fund

Just as some people fail to recognize their responsibility to their dogs and cats, so too is the case with horses, many of whom are abandoned by their owners each year.

HOGS JUST MIGHT BE THE IDEAL GRAZERS

HOGS JUST MIGHT BE
THE IDEAL GRAZERS
 
Pastures and pens beat
crates and confinement
Photos by T. L. Getting; Text by Craig Cramer

NEW HAMPTON, Iowa. Tom Frantzen's hogs must consider themselves pretty lucky. Frantzen, president of Practical Farmers of Iowa, has developed an innovative system that makes the most of his hogs' natural abilities, keeping them happy, healthy and productive.

But Frantzen isn't running a nature preserve. With just 320 acres, he needs to squeeze as much profit as possible from his 100-sow farrow-to-finish operation.

 

 That's why he:

  • Runs gestating gilts and sows on intensively managed pasture to cut feed costs by half or more, and double per-acre net compared with growing corn.
  • Parcels out strips of annual crops such as corn, milo and field peas with portable fencing so lactating sows and their litters can hog them down, eliminating harvest costs.
  • Farrows sows and gilts in A-frame pasture huts to reduce capital costs and labor.
  • Tore out his farrowing crates and switched back to pen farrowing while maintaining litter size and boosting weaning weights and making it a pleasure again to work inside during winter.

"All this may sound pretty labor-intensive," says Frantzen. "But it's easier than running comparable confinement facilities. Confinement may reduce labor for some. But it's more than made up for by the increase in maintenance. Plus I'd much rather bed pens or move portable fences than fix scraper systems."

Grazing Gilts

Frantzen first experimented with grazing hogs in '90 on a 3-acre site that was inconvenient to crop. The previous a spring, he had drilled oats with a "shotgun" mix of perennial forages (including red and ladino clovers, alfalfa, brome, timothy and orchard-grass. "I used so many different species because I wanted a lot of biodiversity and durability ," he notes.

In spring' 90, Frantzen built a three-strand perimeter fence using high-tensile wire about 6, 12 and 18 inches high, and floating H corner braces. "I've never had any problems keeping the hogs in. They train to the fence very quickly ," he observes. "The key is to use a good, low-impedance charger."

Frantzen subdivided the grazing cell into three paddocks with fiberglass posts and two strands of Premier Maxishock wire 8 and 16 inches high. (Premier , P.O. Box 89N, Washington IA 52352, (800) 282-6631, (319) 653-6631.) Single-wire subdivisions hold well-trained sows just fine, says Frantzen.

"I made just about every first-year management mistake a beginning grazier can make," recalls Frantzen. First, he didn't move bred gilts onto the pasture until June 1. "That's too late. The forage was already past its prime, and stayed ahead of the hogs all year."

The 20 gilts provided a stocking density (the weight of the grazing animals relative to paddock size) that was too low at just 7,000 pounds per acre. And Frantzen moved them once a week on a rigid calendar schedule. The gilts selectively grazed the legumes and left overmature grasses. They still weaned seven pigs per litter farrowing in the A-frame huts in a separate pasture in September slightly below average for Frantzen's gilts.

In '91, Frantzen further subdivided his three paddocks so he had nine altogether, and moved 38 gilts onto the pasture May 1. "That got the stocking density in the paddocks up to about 40,000 pounds per acre, and I based pasture rotation on forage condition not the calendar." He cut back to 24 gilts when he moved a new group onto the pasture as forage growth slowed in midsummer. Grazing was more uniform and forage regrowth surged compared with the first year. Gilts were on pasture a total of 150 days, and weaned above- average litters of about 8.5 pigs each.

Not satisfied, Frantzen rearranged his interior fencing last spring, increasing the number of paddocks to 16. And instead of radiating from the central shelter, he arranged a system of lanes to each paddock. Before, with the longer paddocks, gilts trampled and overgrazed forage close to the shelter, and undergrazed forage at the far end of the paddocks.

Severe winter weather had hurt the forage stand, so Frantzen reduced his stocking rate to 30 gilts. But with smaller paddocks, the stocking density increased to 62,000 pounds per acre. Gilts now graze each paddock for about two days. "The forage regrows so fast the gilts just can't keep up with it and I've had to hay some paddocks," says Frantzen, who clips paddocks when gilts leave overmature grass.

Frantzen feeds a supplement of l.75 pounds of ground shell corn and a commercial mineral mix while the gilts are on pasture. Legume pastures are usually high in calcium, so it's important to supplement phosphorus. Be sure to use a source other than dicalcium-phosphate, suggests Mark Honeyman, an animal scientist at Iowa State University. Frantzen sampled forage to make sure his mineral mix properly balanced those nutrients with pasture sources.

"I save about 20 cents per head per day on feed, which translates into a gross of about $300 per acre," says Frantzen. "With so little input, the net is easily twice that of corn and that doesn't include the herd-health benefits or what I save by not having to spread manure."

'Hogging Down' Crops

"After three years, I'm starting to think hogs might be the ideal grazing animal," says Frantzen. Granted, they aren't ruminants and can't make good use of low-quality forage. But with a single stomach, they're also more adaptable to radical ration changes, Frantzen notes. "If the pasture is too wet, I can just pull them off and increase their feed to 4 pounds of corn and not have to worry about getting their system off-track or ruining the pasture.

"I've learned that the key to grazing hogs is to use at least a dozen paddocks and keep stocking density high," he adds. As his sward improves and he hones his management, Frantzen predicts the 3-acre grazing cell will carry 40 gilts at a stocking density of 83,000 pounds per acre.

This year, Frantzen added a second 2.5-acre grazing cell on some of his poorest pasture ground that's mostly dandelions and quackgrass. With no renovation, it's carrying 32 of the third-litter sows that grazed his original cell last year. "It's remarkable how hard they graze. They remember what to do," he observes.

Gilts have selectively grazed the legumes in the original cell, so now brome is the dominant species. To maintain a better balance of grass and legumes, Frantzen plans to alternate grazing cattle and hogs in the two cells each year.

In one drought-damaged paddock in the original cell, Frantzen experimented in '91 with annual forages. In early April, he used a garden seeder to plant four different forages in 6-inch rows in randomized blocks. The forages included berseem and crimson clovers, Tyfon forage turnip, and an annual hog-pasture blend called "Laugh and Grow Fat," which consists of ryegrass, rape, sudan and field peas. (Albert Lea Seed House, P.O. Box 127, Albert Lea MN 56007, (800) 352-5247, (507) 373-3161.)

He turned in gilts to graze this "salad bar" June 1, and they regrazed the annuals at roughly 30-day intervals. "The clovers made an excellent stand, but were killed by the first grazing," he reports. The mix fared best especially the rape, which regrew quickly and provided forage well into fall.

That year, Frantzen also let 18 other lactating sows and pigs hog down crops. In April, he planted about 1.5 acres in alternating four-row strips of 85-day corn and a mix of milo and Canada field peas. The sows farrowed on 3 acres of oats, peas, turnips and rape. In mid-August, when the corn was well-dented and the farrowing pasture grazed down, Frantzen used temporary fence to strip graze the corn, milo and peas. He moved the fence forward eight rows at a time, giving the stock about a quarter-acre of fresh feed.

"When I gave them a new strip, they weren't interested in dry feed for four or five days. When they started eating grain again, I moved the fence and gave them a new strip," Frantzen says. "There was no harvest waste and no harvest expense." This year he's trying the same practice using a drilled mix of oats, triticale, rape and Canada field peas for early-season forage, and planting giant hybrid fodder corn (also available from Albert Lea Seed House) to be hogged down in late summer.

Last fall, after the sows and pigs finished off the corn, milo and peas, Frantzen drilled 20 pounds of rye in the field. In early May, he turned in 16 gilts to graze until late June, when he moved them onto an oats/field-pea pasture. ("The rye did very well. I only wish I'd mixed in some vetch or mammoth clover," he says.

Pasture Farrowing Pays Off

Frantzen's father started pasture farrowing when he bought the farm (during the Depression, and capital was scarce. That's still a good reason to pasture farrow, says Frantzen. The housing investment is far below that of confinement. Each year, Frantzen has a local lumber company build two new A-frame farrowing huts from pressure-treated wood for $200 each. "I could find cheaper huts, but these won't fall apart or blow away in a storm," he says. He expects them to last 15 years, but some of his A- frames are more than 30 years old and still going strong.

Low capital costs aren't the only reason to pasture farrow, he continues. "Like the hogs, I'd rather be outside in the fresh air and sunshine. I don't want to mess with the flies, smell and cleanup chores in a confinement facility all summer."

Frantzen also contends that there's less labor with pasture farrowing. "It works out great with spring fieldwork. I only have to do chores in the morning. The hogs can take care of themselves in the evening." When he needs to move A-frames, he simply picks them up with a front-mounted fork and drives the tractor right over the interior fences (an 8-inch-high strand of Maxishock on fiberglass posts). The outdoor system performs as well as indoor farrowing, too. "My weaned-pig average for sows is about 8 to 8.5 farrowing inside or out."

The farrowing pasture's perimeter fencing is nearly identical to the one in Frantzen's grazing cell, only he runs the lowest wire just a couple inches off the ground to keep in little pigs. An underground water system from Kentucky Graziers Supply adds flexibility when arranging huts and interior fencing, says Frantzen. (KGS, 1929 S. Main St., Paris KY 40361, (800) 729-0592. See "Put Water In Every Paddock," The New Farm, Feb. '92.) The sod is mostly quackgrass and brome, which stands up to the heavy traffic. This spring, Frantzen planted 1,000 hybrid cottonwoods in four shelterbelts 185 feet apart in the pasture, to provide shade and slow winds.

Frantzen usually moves the first group of sows onto the pasture in early May, and continues farrowing on pasture until October. He makes sure there's never more than seven days difference in farrowing dates among sows in a single enclosure.

It's important to have the right genetics for pasture farrowing, says Frantzen. He's settled on the old four-way cross of Hampshire, Duroc, Yorkshire and Spotted Poland. "They have to have some color or they just can't take the sun," he says. Frantzen adds a Lactobacillus-based probiotic to his starter-, grower- and farrowing rations. But he feels the real key to keeping hogs healthy is to reduce stress. My outdoor system is hardest on 75- to 100-pound pigs in late fall and early winter when there are wide temperature fluctuations," he notes.

Pens Make Farrowing Fun

Soon after he took over the farm in '74, Frantzen built the Cargill units where he still finishes hogs. "Investment tax credits and good farm prices fueled my modernization fever," he recalls. In '78, he removed farrowing pens from the old dairy barn that still serves as a farrowing house. "I put in raised crates with plastic flooring, elevated walkways, a scraper system, outdoor liquid-manure pit, high-tech ventilation, heating pads and as many modern conveniences as I could get my hands on," he recalls.

"It was trouble right from the start. Pneumonia and other health problems plagued his herd. I went to crates because that's what we were supposed to do. But after the first litter, I said, 'My God, what have I done?"'

While Frantzen weaned roughly the "same number of pigs in crates as on pasture, the pigs were barely large enough to wean in 30 days. I hated just being in the farrowing house. I couldn't look my sows in the eyes, and I didn't talk to them for 15 years. Confinement is psychologically bad for both the animals and the operator." Last winter, Frantzen decided to make things right again. His scraper system broke down in November, and he dreaded the expense and chore of fixing it. Even though his crates were in pretty good shape, the flooring and undersupports were nearly worn-out. "So I went in with a torch, sledge- hammer and skid loader and tore everything out," he recalls.

" In place of the 14 crates and scraper system, Frantzen built 16 pens using wood from a basswood tree (Tilia americana) felled from his father-in-law's grove and milled locally. "Old-timers say basswood makes great pens because it's light but strong."

Frantzen built eight 10-foot gates that run along the central alley, and eight 7-foot divider gates that run from the alley to the sidewalls. "Wings" made from 4-foot sections of three-fourths-inch plywood are fastened with hinges to the dividers to form triangular creep areas at the rear of the pen. A plywood creep roof holds two 100-watt light bulbs mounted in aluminum shades. (See photo above)

Frantzen removes the dividers so sows can farrow together in group pens. "That's a lot less stressful for them, especially compared with using crates where they have to farrow where they dung." After a sow farrows, he sets up the divider to separate the sow and litter in their own pen. "I shut the piglets in the creep area early so they know where to go to get warm." That, plus the long, narrow pens and guardrails mounted on the sides, reduces crushing loss.

When the pigs are about 10 days old, Frantzen removes dividers to re-form group pens. "That helps reduce feeding chores," he observes. "I bed the pens every other day, using straw from the oats I rotate with corn and beans. It's not much work, because the pigs always dung in the same corner.

"The best thing about going back to pens is that my attitude is better. I don't dread working inside like I used to," he adds. The hogs seem to like it too. "My weaning average jumped to nine pigs per litter on the first farrowing, and the pigs are growing faster, too. Now they're bigger at 3 weeks than they used to be after a month. "Crates didn't meet my needs or the animals'. But these pens do."
__________

Editor's Note: We still get requests for the A-frame farrowing shed plans we offered in our Jan. '87 issue. For a copy of the plans and the article " Profitable Pigs On Pasture, " which describes how Colin Wilson manages pasture farrowing on his family's farm in Paullina, Iowa, send a SASE to: Pasture Farrowing, The New Farm, 222 Main St., Emmaus PA 18098. For more on Tom Frantzen's practices, see "Strips Boost Yields, Save Soil, " Feb. '91 an " Liquid Manure Magic, " Jan. '92.


Reproduced with permission of the publisher. The New Farm, Sept/Oct. 1992 p. 19-23.

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