Monday, August 22, 2011

Call It the Anti-HSUS Amendment

Here’s a switch: The North Dakota Farm Bureau is pushing a state constitutional amendment that would ban laws restricting the use of modern agriculture practices, including gestation stalls and battery cages.

The amendment is a clear reaction to efforts by the Humane Society of the United States to enact laws banning specific industry practices. For example, two years ago California enacted Assembly Bill 1437, ending the sale of eggs from facilities using battery cages. A year earlier, HSUS was successful in passing California Proposition 2, which makes it a criminal offense to confine hens in cages, pigs in gestation stalls and calves in veal crates.

The North Dakota Farm Bureau’s amendment would add two sentences to the state constitution: “The right of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state. No law shall be enacted which abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology, modern livestock production and ranching practices.”

Said NDFB President Eric Aasmundstad, “We are looking to prevent damage from being done to the industry to prevent it from thriving … It’s that simple … There are groups that would have it otherwise.” NDFB has been cleared by the state to begin gathering the needed 27,000 signatures to put its amendment on the ballot in 2012.

NPPC agrees with the American Veterinary Medical Association on sow housing. The AVMA supports housing that minimizes aggression between sows, protects them from environmental extremes, reduces exposure to hazards, provides access to food and water and facilitates observation by caretakers. The AVMA notes that gestation stalls meet all these criteria.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Surprise! Larger Farms are ‘Better’

A University of Wisconsin study has concluded that large dairy farms—that is, CAFOs—produce higher quality milk than smaller ones.

Researcher Steve Ingham said he wanted to test the common belief that smaller farms are “better” than larger ones. So he looked at data from more than 15,000 Wisconsin dairy farms, divided into three categories by size. He used two measurements—standard plate counts and somatic cell counts—to rate milk quality. The first measures bacteria and the second infection in cows.

Milk from the CAFOs, Ingham found, had the lowest scores for both bacteria and infection levels. Large farms came in second and the small farms ranked third, or highest in both bacteria and infections.

“It could be that (CAFOs) have more money to spend on good equipment,” said Ingham, who is now with the state agriculture department. “It could be that they have the ability to cull out cows with mastitis more quickly.” Regardless, he said, “the numbers speak for themselves. They give a good snapshot of the industry right now.”

The study was published in the August issue of the Journal of Dairy Science.