What Do You Do With Cows When They Stop Producing?

Chickadee

Farm Hand
Messages
61
One of our dairy cows is 10 years old. She is still producing milk, but I know she could stop at any time. What do you all do with your dairy cows when they stop producing milk for you? I'd like to keep her and continue to provide her a home, but I'm sure that's not very practical to do on larger farms.
 

OhSusanna

Farm Hand
Messages
48
I think that's a tough situation that everyone faces at some point when they raise livestock. I know some families who keep them around as pets, but personally, we send them to slaughter - chickens, ducks, turkeys, cows, whatever is no longer producing. We slaughter for meat to sell and for our family as well. It's tough because you do grow fond of them, but I figure that I'm giving them a very good life while they're here. I keep moms and their babies together until they babies are no longer babies. I don't use rape racks, pig gestation crates, or anything inhumane like that. I don't feed my cattle cheap corn and my chickens aren't locked in a cage. They all go out to pasture. I know some people disagree with culling and they feel like the animal has earned their retirement and should be kept around. I completely understand that viewpoint. I'm just more pragmatic about it, I guess. My one exception is goats. They're pretty cheap to keep around though.
 

RichZ

Golden Chicken
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151
A friend of mine is a fourth generation dairy farmer, and he says that his family makes a living from his cows, when they stop producing, they join his "retirement herd". He can't bear to sell them for meat. I did the same with my dairy goat herd. All of my goats (120 does) were pets and had names. I have to admit, that neither my friend nor I exactly made a lot of money in our dairy businesses. What to do with non-productive dairy animals is always a tough decision.
 

OhSusanna

Farm Hand
Messages
48
RichZ, do you have any of your livestock or poultry slaughtered or do they all retire? What do you do with the kids afterwards? I'm just wondering how you handle that. Don't egg and milk producing animals get old and feeble pretty quickly after they stop producing? Do you have them euthanized eventually like you would a cat or dog? I'm just picturing a cow with painful arthritis and wondering how it works out. I hope my questions don't seem intrusive. I've just never seen that side of things. I'll eventually be in that same situation with our goats.
 

RichZ

Golden Chicken
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151
Susanna, my wife and I can't handle killing animals that we raised. We no longer are in the dairy goat business, but when we were, most of the doe kids joined the herd, some were sold, but only to other dairy herds (that we checked out before selling them) or they were sold as pets. We spent a lot of time figuring out genetic to produce productive and people oriented goats. Our kids were popular, both as pets and dairy goats. The buck kids were harder, but again we only sold them as pets or herd sires. They were harder to place and we worked with a farm rescue person who helped us find good home for buck kids when we had too many. I can't guarantee that no kids we sold ended up on dinner plates, but we did everything in our power to avoid that.

Even after being retired, they unfortunately don't live forever, and when they did get feeble or sick, we had them put down by our vet. I know it sounds crazy, but each one was a beloved pet. They all had names, all answered to their names and many commands. As you know, goats are incredibly smart.

As you probably also know, feed prices tripled in 2010, and put our goat milk enterprise out of business. We stopped breeding, and some of our younger does went to our friends' farms, though most of them also went out of business. Our goats spent their days in retirement on our farm. Luckily, we both had other jobs, the farm was not our only income, but farming gets in your blood and ending a farming business is not a happy thing.

We also had a pretty big egg business, we live in upstate New York and we had eggs shipped to a couple of restaurants down in New York City who had a reputation for using farm fresh, all natural, free range eggs...our eggs. when chickens stopped laying they stayed on the farm in happy retirement. Naturally, our farm business could have made a lot more money if we didn't get attached to our livestock, but we are animal people. We also had a horse rescue, had a flock of sheep, had rescue llamas and alpacas, but that's all another story.

By the way, your questions are not intrusive. I enjoy your posts, we seem to have a lot of similar view points
 

Almost Eden

Farm Hand
Messages
56
One of our dairy cows is 10 years old. She is still producing milk, but I know she could stop at any time. What do you all do with your dairy cows when they stop producing milk for you? I'd like to keep her and continue to provide her a home, but I'm sure that's not very practical to do on larger farms.
Maybe you can find another use for her. Back in the day those cows worked as draft animals on the farm (oxen) if they weren't going to be slaughtered. If she has a good temperament, she could also be used to keep another lonely herd animal company.
 

Sam Carter

Farm Hand
Messages
48
All of my goats (120 does) were pets and had names. I have to admit, that neither my friend nor I exactly made a lot of money in our dairy businesses. What to do with non-productive dairy animals is always a tough decision.
You know you shouldn't do that, right? I understand why people do it, they just love animals and that's fine, but that's why the decision is hard. Your profits will go up if you sell them for the beef.
 

RichZ

Golden Chicken
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Messages
151
Maybe you can find another use for her. Back in the day those cows worked as draft animals on the farm (oxen) if they weren't going to be slaughtered. If she has a good temperament, she could also be used to keep another lonely herd animal company.
Good point, she could definitely be used as a companion animal.
 

RichZ

Golden Chicken
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151
You know you shouldn't do that, right? I understand why people do it, they just love animals and that's fine, but that's why the decision is hard. Your profits will go up if you sell them for the beef.
Yup, I know that Sam, that's one of the reason our business wasn't profitable. But I just couldn't send my animals to slaughter.
 

Ben

Farm Hand
Messages
35
We slaughter. I also hunt deer during deer season. That's healthy meat for the table and freezer. That's leather for goods. That's fur and hide for warmth. We use all the parts we can and we sell them too. If you aren't a vegetarian or vegan then your meat and leather goods are coming from somewhere and an animal is slaughtered to provide it. If it comes from the mass market then that likely means your cow suffered on a factory farm. No judgement coming from me though. I charge a high price for our meat because those cows aren't cheap to raise when you do it right. Families do the best they can.

That issue upsets so many people who thought it would be fine when they were first starting out. They don't realize how they'll feel about it until it's time and sending them off to slaughter is only slightly easier than slaughtering them at home. Unfortunately, that's how many farms end up with overbreeding and overcrowding problems. If you have a male with your females, you'll have babies and the numbers can get away from you so quickly. I grew up on a farm, so slaughter was a part of life. You treated them well and gave them a good life and when it came time to slaughter them, you killed them quickly and made it as humane as possible. Those animals were an asset on the balance sheets though.
 
 
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