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Illustrative Essay, The Dairy Farmers Life

msdenna 2 / 6  
Mar 3, 2010   #1
Third person POV (my instructor said to use "one" "the individal") At least 7 paragraphs (think I have that covered). Any suggestions would be helpful. Grammer, word choice, anything you see that isn't quite right. Where I could expand on something or clear up a vocab word. Sorry the formatting got a little screwy when I copied and pasted. It needs to be APA formatted. Thanks!

Dairy Life:
The Tale of a Dairy Farmers Daily Life

Rachel Kerper

English Composition 101, Section A
Shirley Lauricella-Pawling
February 25, 2010

Dairy farming: does it bring a picture to your mind of a man in overalls, sitting on a stool, milking a cow by hand into a small bucket, the cow's little bell jingling from her collar? Well, not to destroy anyone's mental image, but it doesn't work that way. Less then 25% of U.S. dairy herds are less than 100 cows, while 44% have more then 500 (Pennsylvania Center for Dairy Excellence, 2008.). Do you have any idea how long it would take to milk 500 cows by hand? Me either, and I don't want to find out. Today's dairy farmer has more then just milking their cows to worry about. Dystocia, fresh cow problems, mastitis, cull cows, and milk price are just a few of the everyday headaches plaguing the dairies today.

Each individual must know about dystocia, otherwise known as difficult calving, since this is the first step of Ol' Bessie entering the milking string. Malpresented calves occur randomly in about 2% of all births, with 95% of these needing some type of assistance (Dr. R.A. Cady, n.d.). When one is checking to make sure that the calf is presented correctly, strict sanitation should be followed. Have someone hold the tail to the side and with an antiseptic soap the individual must wash hands, arms, and Ol' Bessie's vulva throughly. Next, one inserts their hand into Ol' Bessie's vagina. Sometimes extra lubrication such as KY Jelly is needed, but normally the birth canal is slick enough with amniotic fluid, which helps the calf ease its way though the birth canal. One should feel feet first, nose and face second. This is a normal presentation. If upon checking feet and tail are felt, start pulling because the calf can drown in the amniotic fluid. If pulling must be done, be sure to pull in rhythm to the cow's contraction or injury to Ol' Bessie can occur

So the calf has been delivered, but Ol' Bessie hasn't cleaned, or dropped her placenta. The individual will have to wash up again and reach back in there. Feel all those bumps on the placenta? Those have a very proper name, but most vets call them buttons. When pulling gently but firmly on the afterbirth does it give at all? If so pull it out, sometimes it just needs to be threaded through the cervix. If the placenta can't be pulled out, uterine boluses will need to be put in the uterus. Most likely Ol' Bessie will need to be started on an antibiotic to avoid infection. A retained placenta will get very smelly and will make the whole barn smell like something dead is living there. The best way to avoid retained placentas is to avoid difficult calving. Dystocia can't always be avoided, but a few ways to get better odds are to observe the calving and make sure you give the cow plenty of time to calve. Also, follow good sanitation procedures, select sires that have high calving ease, and most importantly know your limitations and when you need to call the vet (Dr. Cady, n.d.).

Fresh Cows
Fresh cow refers to just after the time when the cow has calved and is heavy in milk, usually the first sixty to ninety days after calving. With the calf delivered problems are over, right? Guess what, some problems are just beginning. Ol' Bessie isn't eating very much and seems "off." Mostly likely she has ketosis. Ketosis is a disturbance of an energy metabolism (Dr. Lynn Upham, n.d.), which signifies is she isn't eating enough to compensate for the amount of milk she is making. This can happen if she's had difficultly calving, or didn't have a proper

dry cow diet. To make sure of this one needs to get some ketone sticks. A ketone stick looks like a thin, flat piece of plastic with a little square of cloth on one end. Now, wait for Ol' Bessie to urinate, or lightly rubbing her under her vulva with little circular motions, will sometimes cause her to urinate. When she starts to pee stick the little cloth end in the stream of urine. If it turns any color from light pink to dark purple she has ketosis. The darker the color the worse the ketosis. A pink tint is fairly easy to treat, giving pills called nico-dex, or a variety of other pills specified for ketosis, will usually clear up the problem. If it is a darker pink, drenching Ol' Bessie with polyproplyne or any kind of drench designated to treat ketosis. Unfortunately a dark, dark pink to purple, will require an IV of dextrose. This may need to be done for a few days until Ol' Bessie feels better and her feed intake picks up.

What's that? Ol' Bessie was shaky when she got up and now won't get up at all? Well, that sounds like milk fever. Milk fever or hypocalcemia, is a disturbance of a calcium metabolism (Dr. Upham, n.d.). The only thing to do if Ol' Bessie is down with milk fever is run an IV of calcium. Not too fast though, as it can stop her heart and she'll die. One other major fresh cow problem is a displaced abomasum, or a DA. This is usually caused by ketosis. A vet will most certainly need to be called for this. The abomasum section of the stomach has "twisted" and the vet will need to preform surgery to correct it. Of course, again, it's best to prevent these problems as they cost one a ton of money. But even with the best dry and fresh cow management problems can not always be prevented.

Now ol' Bessie has been milking awhile. Things seem to be going along very well and then suddenly after milking her, one quarter is hot and hard. A new problem has arisen: Mastitis. Mastitis is an infection in the udder, usually only affecting one of the four quarters. This is a very expensive problem for multiple reasons. First, one needs to pay for treatment costs. Then there is discarding the milk for days, sometimes weeks; that's milky white cash going down the drain. Or even better, turning ol' Bessie from a four teat cow into a three-teat cow because the mastitis just won't clear up. Worst of all, if the mastitis is bad enough Ol' Bessie can die. Coliform mastitis is especially bad as it is the most severe of all the types. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when dealing with mastitis. When milking make sure the teats are squeaky clean, paying special attention to the ends. It doesn't matter what method is used to get teats clean, it just needs to get done, weather by a dip or antibacterial soapy water. Just get the teats clean. When done milking, make sure a post dip to prevent bacteria from getting inside the teat canal is used. It takes 30-45 minutes after milking for the teats to reseal on their own (Dr. John H. Kirk, n.d.). Also make sure that clean bedding is kept under Ol' Bessie at all times.

Culling is when one decides for one reason or another that ol' Bessie ain't what she use to be and it's time for her to be "retired". There are three main reasons why farmers send their cows to auction. Reproduction is the main reason, followed by production and mastitis(S.S. Bascom and A.J. Young, 1996). If Ol' Bessie can't get pregnant, she will never calve and will

eventually stop giving milk. Production is referring to how much milk Ol' Bessie is making. If she is milking less than thirty pounds of milk a day, she is not making money, but costing money. That mastitis that Ol' Bessie had just won't clear up, treatment is costing too much, or one just doesn't want a three teat cow. Well, off to the slaughter house she goes. Poor ol' Bessie, but remember she is a paycheck not a pet. If she doesn't make money then she needs to leave and be replaced with a new Bessie.

Milk Price
Milk checks come twice a month and they never seem to be enough. The milk check will break down something like this: $16.13 for every 100 pounds of milk shipped. Sounds like a lot doesn't it? But it costs more then $17.00 to make that 100 pounds of milk. Back in 2007 milk averaged $19.88 per 100lbs, and in 2008 it was $18.72 per 100lbs. Looking at 2009, milk averaged $13.99 per 100lbs (Dairylea Cooperative Inc - Member's Area, n.d.). The government sets the minimum price for what the milk companies have to pay one for milk. That doesn't mean they can't pay more, they just choose not to. But one can not just go and change milk companies, there is a slight problem. Dean Foods owns 70% of all the milk distributed in the New England states (Pete Hardin, 2009). And Dean likes to brag that their "shares exceeded the next five largest fluid milk processors' combined volumes" (Pete Hardin, 2009). Dean has an arrangement with Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) since early 2003. DFA and Dean jointly control Dairy Marketing Services (DMS). In April of 2009 Dean purchased Foremost Farms' consumer division. This leaves virtually no competition in the eastern half of Wisconsin for the school milk contracts (Pete Hardin, 2009). The best part, while dairy farmers in 2009 were losing record amounts of money and going bankrupt because of low milk prices, Dean Foods, DMS and DFA had posted their largest profits ever! Engles, who is Dean's CEO, wrote a letter to Sanders, a senator from Vermont. It stated "As you know, dairy processors do not set price of milk paid to the dairy farmer. The price that farmers receive for the milk they produce is set primarily by the United States Department of Agriculture. Dean Foods purchases this milk at regulated prices under the USDA's Federal Milk Marketing Orders. Adding to the complexity is the fact that we and other processors are just one part of a complicated system that stretches from the farm to the grocery shelf." Sander's replied by saying basically that U.S. Department of Labor's minimum wage law does not determine all wages in America, it is up to the employer to set wages(Pete Hardin, 2009).

A Way Out
Thinking that suicide is a way out is never a good thing. But imagine that an individual has lived on their dairy farm their whole life and even their grandparents milked cows there. Now they are about to lose everything because of record low milk prices. A New York State dairy farmer left a note on his barn door that should anyone come to visit they shouldn't come in the barn, just call the police. When the police arrived, they found he had shot all 51 of his milk cows and then turned the gun on himself (Norah Burton, 2010). In 2009 a Maine farmer was found hanging in his barn, and even more recently two other Maine farmers both shot and killed themselves (Norah Burton, 2010). In February of 2009 milk price had dropped below $12.00 a 100cwt. On fifty cows, costing about $17.00 to make a 100cwt of milk, you are losing roughly $5.00 a hundred weight. $5.00 doesn't seem like a lot does it? But a herd of 50 cows that milk on average, 70lbs a day one is losing $5, 425 a month! But most farms have over 100 cows, so double that loss or even triple it.

With all these problems you wonder why people even bother to milk cows. What I've mentioned isn't even really the tip of the iceberg. I want to tell you what happened to me over the last week or so. It started with a down cow. She wasn't fresh, but she was actually on the cull list. She just went down, I'm not sure why and the vet wasn't sure why either. We dragged her out of the barn and "put her down." This cost $98.00 to have someone come pick up her carcass, not to mention I am now short a cow. Then I had another cow calve in. She had no calving problems but didn't drop her placenta, most likely because she had twins, which takes a lot out of any cow. She then went down with coliform mastitis and also had to be dragged out of the barn and "put down". The coliform made her that sick that she had gone septic, I'm guessing her immune system was run down from having twins, she just couldn't fight off the infection. Then I had another very old cow that calved in and stepped off her teat. We decided to send her to auction. When we moved her she went down in the aisle and refused to get up, although it wasn't milk fever. Thinking that later that day she might get up I left her rest for a while. I went out a few hours later to check on her and she was dead. So now it costs $196.00 to pick up two dead cows. Was that the end of my bad luck? Nope. I had another out break of Coliform mastitis on a cow that is soon ready to be dried off. I treated her, ran two different IVs and it seems like she is going to make it. When I got to the barn Sunday morning another cow had calved and prolapsed her uterus. That is one sight that I don't need to see again for a long time. I called the vet and when he came out we put the uterus back in and sewed her up so she couldn't push it back out. When I was done helping it looked like I had murdered someone, my shirt selves were soaked in blood and I was covered in drops of blood everywhere, hair, face, shirt, pants.. Let me tell you, a uterus is quite heavy. I didn't relize that it weighed so much; I'm guessing close to 100 pounds. After these last two weeks I completely understand why some of these farmers "lose it" and commit suicide. But my story is not unusual. Most dairy farmers also have weeks like I've had. We do it because we take pride in providing a clean, healthy food product for consumers. I can guarantee dairy farmers don't milk cows to get rich. Although we wouldn't complain if it did happen.

EF_Kevin 8 / 13,334 129  
Mar 4, 2010   #2
Me either, and I don't want to find out.

I loe your engaging, natural writing style. It will be better, though, if you at least write "Me neither, ..." instead of either.

Next, one inserts their hand into Ol' Bessie's vagina. Sometimes extra lubrication such as KY Jelly is needed, but normally the birth canal is slick enough with amniotic fluid, which helps the calf ease its way though the birth canal. ----- AAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!

This needs a comma:
When pulling gently but firmly on the afterbirth does it give at all?

Comma and semi-colon:
If so, pull it out; sometimes it just needs to be threaded through the cervix.

another semi-colon:
She just went down; I'm not sure why, and the vet wasn't sure why either.

Google this to improve your writing:
what is a comma splice

OP msdenna 2 / 6  
Mar 5, 2010   #3
Thanks Kevin! You're always a big help!

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