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The Dark Side of Dairy

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Introduction Milk production is the darkest and most wicked part of farming. The dairy industry totals unethical, systematic cruelty. Cows are continued to be subjected to abuse in the name of increased profits. More than 9 million, cows compose the U.S. dairy herd. Repeated reimpregnation, short calving intervals, overproduction of milk, restrictive housing systems, poor nutrition, and physical disorders impair the welfare of the animals in industrial dairy operations. Once their productivity decreases, the cows are often weak and are processed as ground beef. In their fragile end-of-production state, handling, transport, and slaughter raise additional welfare concerns. Production Cycle Once a calf is born, they are immediately separated from their mothers. The female offspring will be used for milk production and male offspring’s, considered to have no value to a dairy farmer, will be killed for veal. The production cycle of a female cow will start at 25 months, she will be impregnated, give birth, and start to start lactation. Prior to giving birth, there will be a “drying off” period to allow the cows to heal and prepare for birthing. The drying offs period can cause large amounts of milk to be collected, resulting in udder engorgement. Restricting feed and water intake can increase milk production, but this can result in an increase in cortisol levels and can impact the cow’s welfare.

After giving birth the Dairy cows have a short time to recover, they will be re-impregnated in 4 short months to repeat this entire cycle. Reproductive techniques The reproductive techniques used have evolved rapidly. The techniques most commonly used are artificial insemination, many ovulation embryo transfer, and in vitro fertilization, this has become widespread with the dairy farming community. These techniques can be very painful and cause distress to the cows. There are four techniques in collecting semen from breeder bulls. These are aspiration from the vagina of recently bred cows, collection from an artificial vagina, collection by transrectal glandular massage, and electroejaculation. Electro ejaculations are the insertion of a device into the bull’s rectum that delivers an electric shock, this can increase cortisol levels, also named stress, and the bull can experience pain and distress. Housing The housing system for lactating and dry cows is mainly determined by the local climate. In the U.S., many dairy operations confine lactating and dry cows in indoor systems and only 9.9% of operations raising lactating cows on pasture. Cows that are kept in tie-stalls, or stanchions, will be individually tethered by the neck. Those in free stalls or cubicle, are allowed to move in the barn and aren’t retrained. Individual lying places are available and separated for one another by metal bars, most measuring between 2-2.4 m in length and 1-1.2 m in width, and they may not have bedding. Staryards are either located indoors or outdoors and are slightly larger than a cubicle system.

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The yards will provide bedding such as straw, but there are no individuals lying places. In the yard, cows are also allowed to walk freely as they are not tethered or constrained. Dry Lots are outdoors and are consisted of unpaved areas confining the cows. Physical problems/effects There are three main physical problems that will occur within the industry. These problems are known as lameness, mastitis, and tail docking. Lameness is one of the most serious issues within the U.S. dairy industry. The prevalence of lameness in cows can be as high as 24.6%. In a survey, it is shown that 20% of deaths or injuries of cows are due to lameness, followed by 16.5% due to mitosis, and 15.2% from calving problems. Lameness results in pain and discomfort, causing cows to develop hypoalgesia, altering their behavior due to the attempt to relieve the pain by changes in body posture, reduced walking activity, and more frequent shifts of their weight from one leg to the other. What causes lameness is hoof lesions, this being associated with concrete flooring. Insufficient physical activity is another cause to lameness when cows have access to exercise and pasture, it will help improve the health of the hoof, but these are not accessible to dairy cows. The most common reported a health-related problem with the dairy industry in the U.S. is clinical mastitis, resulting in 16.5% deaths. Milking machines can cause trauma to teat tissues are predisposing factors to this painful swelling of cows mammary glands. When a teat opens, pathogenic bacteria will cause an infection. Poor cubicle and cow cleanness can increase mastitis, but frequent bedding changes and milking parlor sanitation may reduce the risk. When a cow has their tail docked, two-thirds of the tail is amputated. The tail docking procedure is usually performed without anesthetic and is completed by the application of a tight, rubber ring that restricts blood flow to the distal portion of the tail, which is then removed with a sharp instrument. When cows don’t have a tail, they can suffer from fly bites, and the pain from the remaining stump can become chronic, comparable to phantom pain in humans after limb amputation. 50.5% of U.S. dairy industries will practice tail-docking, approximately 1 in 6 dairy farmers docked the tails of 100% of the herd.

There are some arguments in favor of tail-docking, these include improved udder and milk hygiene as well as cleaner milking parlors, but there are no scientific pieces of evidence that support these claims. There has been a claimed regarding tail docking made by the American Veterinary Medical Association, saying that “routine tail docking provides no benefit to the animal, and that tail docking can lead to distress during fly seasons.” Handling and Transportation When handling and transporting cattle, it can be very stressful for them. Because the transportation process involves mainly rough handling and unfamiliarity, the cattle will start to feel threatened. This can cause stress, bruising, and injuries. Cattle tend to remember and respond to traumatic experiences, injury and sometimes death is a factor because of this. Sadly when being transported different groups of animals are mixed and food, as well as water, aren’t given to the animals, causing threatening behaviors, weight loss, and dehydration. Once the cows finishing traveling to where they will be slaughtered, they are weak, hurt, and diseased. Slaughter Preceding to slaughter, there are five detrimental problems that can occur. The poor condition of arriving animals, stressful handling methods, distractions that hinder movement, improperly trained employees, and poor maintenance of equipment. Before being slaughtered the cow will be stunned, this is to render the animals senses to pain. Stunning consists of a captive bolt pistol or gunshot to the head. After being stunned, the cow should usually bleed to death and a thoracic stick will finish the slaughter.

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The Dark Side of Dairy. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 2, 2022, from
“The Dark Side of Dairy.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022,
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