My Trip to An Alabama Dairy Farm

Last week I had the opportunity to learn about something I know little about.; dairy farming. When you think of dairy states you think of Wisconsin, and maybe California, you don’t think of Alabama.  Alabama actually ranks #43 in milk production. The top dairy state in the United States are 1. California, 2. Wisconsin, 3. New York, 4. Pennsylvania, and 5. Idaho, however dairies are found in all 50 state and Puerto Rico.

If you go back several decades we used to have quite a few dairy farms in Alabama, but many have went out of business. When I heard that there was a gentleman in Lee County who had started dairy farming recently I was very intrigued and asked if I could come visit.

Meet Dr. Darrel Rankins:

Darrel Rankins Lee County Alabama Agriculture

Dr. Rankins and his family reside in not too far from Auburn, Alabama on their family farm. An Illinois native, he came to Auburn University 1989 and worked with livestock producers of Alabama for 25 years with his expertise in nutrition in beef cattle through research, teaching and extension. Rankins retired in April of 2013 after his 25 year tenure with Auburn University.

“I decided after 25 years I was ready to do something different” Rankins explained to me.

Rankins decided he wanted to get in to the stocker heifer business (having female calves usually 6-9 months old that you are feeding until they are of harvestable weight) or have a pasture dairy. After much consideration Rankins decided to enter the dairy business. He started visiting other pasture dairy farms across the Southeast to get a better idea of how he wanted to build his farm.

In April of 2013 after his retirement he started working daily on building his milking parlor (which is where the cows are brought to be milked). He built his parlor from the ground up all on his own.

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On November 15, 2013 DarLin Dairy officially opened for business upon the arrival of the cows. The cows are pasture raised and are therefore grass fed. There is no difference between milk that comes from pasture fed and those who are not. If cows aren’t raised in a pasture what do they eat? Dairy Carrie has a great blog post about “What Do Cows Eat Anyway?”

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Right now Rankins is milking anywhere from 50-56 cows, 2 times a day. The number he milks varies depending upon when some of the cows are in their “dry period”. After giving birth the mother produces milk usually anywhere from 10-12 months and then has a dry period which is when milking is terminated about 60 days before the next calf is expected to be born. Since November, Rankins has had 18 calves to be born.

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Rankins milks in the morning and in the evening.

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His parlor can milk 12 cows at a time, but it holds 24 at a time so that he can be preparing the next 12 while the first 12 are being milked. I was surprised the cows knew when it was time for milking and they made their way to the barn with a little encouragement from Rankin’s sons.

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Into the milking area they went.

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Where is PETA and the Humane Society?

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Homes outside of Ellsworth Air Force Base. (Image source: iWitness Rob Griffith/The Weather Channel)

Last weekend a very early snowstorm hit the parts of Wyoming, North and South Dakota. This is hard to imagine for me because I only  left there from my internship back in August, and it is currently still VERY warm in Alabama. This snowstorm was one of the worst people in that area have ever seen. They received 12 hours of rain then four feet of snow and sustained 60 mph winds during a 48 hour period of time. Through acquaintances like Katie Pinke I was able to see pictures of the snow over the weekend.

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Katie Pinke a farmer’s wife and mom in North Dakota. She was speaking to a women’s conference in the Black Hills during the storm. On Saturday she posted this picutture saying “Still no power. The hotel has a gas stove and a flash light in the kitchen. We get hot pork sandwiches to eat but it’s getting pretty chilly now and all roads from here are closed! But I spoke to an amazing group of women. We laughed, wiped a few tears and all better together in this experience. Next up? Extra blankets and a fireplace. One big sleepover in the lobby.” Read more about Katie’s Life on the Prairie at http://thepinkepost.com/

As the snow started to melt some the news of its destruction started coming through. throughout the week my heart has ached for people in that area. 4 people lost their lives and so many cattle died. It is estimated that 75,000 head of cattle were lost in this one storm. Some producers have lost anywhere from 20-50% of their heard.

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Cattle who tried to take shelter in this area were buried underneath the snow. More pictures can be seen here: http://bigballsincowtown.com/storm2013.htm

Since this was an early storm cattle were still in the pastures at this point in the year. During the winter months since the winters are so harsh in that area of the country the cattle are moved closer so they can be kept under close watch and cannot be too far away when bad weather comes. This storm wiped out calves that would have been sold this fall as well as their mothers that would produce future calves.

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This poor cow walked until it could not walk any more and was found as the snow began to melt away earlier this week. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Kristina Barker)

Cattle are actually pretty smart. I asked numerous farmers this summer how their cattle made it in the winter. They know to keep the wind at their back and walk with it. They walk to find places of shelter which in bad storms like this could even mean going through a fence. This time even if they found a creed bed, or man made shelter in the pasture to stand against many were sinking in the mud from the 12 hours of rain and were then buried under the snow suffocating them.

This event did not even break national news sources until yesterday because of the flack they received for their lack of coverage. The government is still shut down, therefore there are no disaster assistance programs to offer these people. Fund have been set up by individuals to help people in this region out. But here is my question.

Where is PETA and the Humane Society? 

They claim that they help during national disasters. They post pictures of their “help” and will run television commercials when hurricanes are on their way or wildfires are raging. HSUS has a webpage where you can give specifically for animal disasters.

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They claim to help animals during natural disasters, why aren’t they helping?

But where are they? I can tell you they will not come.

Why?

Because their goal is not to “help” animals. The have two major goals

1) They do not like animal agriculture which means they want you to become a vegetarian

2) Take your money

“My goal is the abolition of all animal agriculture.” –HSUS Director of Animal Cruelty Policy John “JP” Goodwin Their goal is not to help animals, but push their vegetarian agenda. To push that agenda they need funds and that is why they run commercials showing puppy dogs and kitty cats that have been neglected and abused. They pull at your heartstrings which in turn pulls out your wallet. At the end of 2009 their revenue for the year was $148 million dollars, yet they only spent one half of 1% actually helping animals.

This has happened before: According to Humane Watch

HSUS raised $34 million in The wake of hurricane Katrina, Supposedly To help
reunite lost pets with their owners. But comparatively little of that money was
spent for that purpose. Louisiana’s Attorney General shuttered his 18-month-long investigation
into where most of these millions went, shortly after HSUS announced its plan to contribute
$600,000 toward the construction of an animal shelter on the grounds of a state prison. In 2009,
Atlanta ABC affiliate WSB-TV reported that public disclosures of the disposition of the $34 million in
Katrina-related donations added up to less than $7 million.

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Groups like Humane Watch keep an eye on the Humane Society’s activities and works to inform the public through advertising campaigns, especially in places like DC and NYC. http://www.humanewatch.org/humanewatch-ads-hit-capitol-hill/

However the main reason they are not going to come is because they are an anti-agriculture group. Because they are against agriculture, they are not going to assist these animals and their owners. They will not help. They give millions of dollars to fight agriculture in all 50 states each year. They pay their lobbyist well and have put 17 million dollars in their own pinion plans.

This is just one example of a flaw in HSUS and PETA, they have many. Before you give your money because of a sad commercial you see, research the group. Most likely if they are advertising on national television they have too much money. Do you see your local pet shelter on television? Most likely not, they have to use every cent they have effectively, donate to them.  Most local humane shelters do great work, they are not at all affiliated with the Humane Society of the United States.

Since the government is not around to help if you are interested in donating to the disaster relief  a Rancher Relief Fund has been set up by the AgChat Foundation. You can donate here: http://www.razoo.com/story/Rancher-Relief-Fund?fb_ref=2eYjT2ox1