Like the Chino Valley area, the San Joaquin Valley was once an area with countless dairy farms. However, increased popularity and demand for almonds and walnuts has caused a steady decline of the number of farms in the area and vast orchards have been planted where once thousands of cows lingered in barren feedlots.
Our investigators returned to the San Joaquin Valley in February to check conditions for the animals at the remaining facilities. Unfortunately, not much had changed at the few operable dairies. Investigators observed hundreds of Holstein cows spending their days in muddy pens without a single tree or a patch of grass.
Investigators noted that numerous cows at each location were limping. At some feedlots, there was no dry area to be found for the cows to get out of the deep mud and rest – which significantly increases the risk of foot rot, a bacterial infection of the skin and tissue between the toes of a hoof. Continuous exposure to mud weakens the skin and allows the bacteria to enter. Other issues observed were eye infections and significantly emaciated cows – which is a common side effect of years of milk production.
Many people may not be aware, but the average lifespan for a “dairy” cow is only 5 years, while the natural lifespan for that same cow could be as much as 20 years.
A victim of profit margins, cows that are no longer “productive” are called “spent” in industry lingo, “culled” from the herd, and shipped to auctions, like the Escalon Livestock Auction, for immediate slaughter.
To learn more about what happens to many dairy cows once their life on a dairy farm is over, click here.