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Get facts straight about dairy operation

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POSTED July 23, 2013 9:47 p.m.

Editor, Manteca Bulletin

An open letter to Jim Du Clair:

Today (Monday, July 22, 2013), I read your letter to the editor regarding a picture in the paper showing a young man helping his dad feed cattle on a dairy farm. You claim that this farm/dairy is engaged in the practice of raising calves for veal in the pens pictured. You expressed your outrage and disgust at what you think you see in the picture. As well, your statements portend an expertise in the area of dairy cattle husbandry.

Sir, I do not pretend to know you. Nor do I pretend to know your background. But, the level of your ignorance as to what is happening in the (dairy) industry is quite deafening. So please allow me to turn down the volume.

I was raised on just such a dairy. I will have you know that all dairymen would very much like to have the quintessential story book, picture perfect, nothing-dirty/broken-down facility as your letter would suggest should be. But the reality is that most of us are just happy we can pay our bills with the patched-up places we have.

Now, to give you a pittance of education:  A newborn calf cannot eat grass immediately, just as a newborn human baby cannot eat solid food. Both must be raised on mother’s milk for a period of time.

During this time, as they grow, they are exposed to solid food and, in fact, eat both for a period of time until they can live on solid food alone.

In the case of dairy cattle, this is for a period of 2-4 months. That, sir, is what the liquid food bowls are for. The dairyman feeds his calves milk from their mothers and, even at time, must purchase powdered milk to supplant a shortage of fresh milk. When the calves are old enough, they are placed en masse in large enclosures to be raised to adulthood. They are kept separated in age groups until adulthood. This is to prevent older/stronger cattle from preventing the younger from getting food.

I have never been involved in the raising of veal. However, I do know that veal calves would never  be exposed to the elements as those that are in the picture. Doing so would promote development of said animal which is precisely what you do not want for choice veal.

In conclusion, I would ask of you to educate yourself before throwing a blanket of stones upon some of the hardest working, least paid people in the country. Perhaps you will think of them when you complain of the high price of dairy products when you are in the grocery store.

Anthony Risso
July 22, 2013

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