Yesterday, the whole group got up early to go to Tuls Calf Ranch. This ranch had 36K calves ON SITE. Seriously. The calves ranged from 1 day old to 5 months(ish) old. The ranch took heifers and bulls(steers) and raised them for dairymen in the area. The ranch would buy veal calves as well, and sell them pretty much as soon as they arrived. Contrary to popular belief, these calves were very well cared for. They weren’t dirty, overmedicated, sick, or anything else. Overall, we just saw a bunch of happy calves. Calves start out in hutches. For those of you that don’t know what a hutch looks like, these are similar to the ones on the calf ranch we toured: There are literally THOUSANDS of calves in these hutches. In the summer, they are lifted off the ground so the calves get plenty of air flow and stay cool, and in the winter, they are put on the ground and turned to face opposite direction of the wind so they don’t get too cold. These calves are so very well cared for. The ranch makes calf treatment a priority. Also contrary to popular belief–all cows here are treated the same way — heifer, bull, or steer! They are all given colostrum upon arrival, vaccinated, and treated with the utmost care. The calves stay in the hutches for a number of weeks until they are big and strong enough to be put in the calf pens. Once in the calf pens, they are sorted by dairy. The heifers stay there to finish growing out until they are old enough to go back to the dairy once again, and the steers are sold for consumption. Neat fact–Did you know that many steak restaurants get their steak and beef from Holstein steers? Some of the most popular are Logan’s Steakhouse and Texas Roadhouse. How ’bout them apples? One might think that a good portion of these calves don’t make it through the “program”, but this particular calf ranches dead loss was under 5%. That’s a pretty good number considering they take calves a day old who may or may not have been fed colostrum at the dairy (like they’re supposed to be). Overall, I was impressed with this operation. It made me feel better about the dairy industry knowing that these calf ranches are truly taking care of business. As some of you have heard (or read in my previous blog post: The Dust Bowl of 2011), Mercy for Animals sent an undercover investigator to pose as a new worker at the ranch. The radicalist coaxed other employees to use a pick ax to euthanize the calves and filmed it (only after partaking himself, mind you). It was a catastrophic event for this business and who knows if it will ever be the same. People should know that sort of behavior is NOT the norm on these kinds of operations. Animals are respected and treated kindly. At the vast majority of calf ranches, maltreatment of the animals is not tolerated and in the case of the calf ranch we toured, any harsh behavior towards the calves results in IMMEDIATE termination. Once again, I’m going to get on my soap box and declare to the world — “Animal agriculture is humane, and we treat our animals nicely because it benefits us to do so!” Not to say that there aren’t some very unfortunate exceptions, but those are few and far between. It does us (as an industry) no good to treat our animals badly. They are our livelihood–our bread and butter. We would be nowhere without them and because of this, they are treated with respect, and given everything they need in order to flourish. Until next time!! XOXO to my Texas folks!