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What Happens to Cows in Factory Farming?

Last Updated: 22.04.24



There are different types of cattle feed, and that is why it is extremely important to pay maximum attention to your cows’ diet. In order to make sure that your animals stay strong and healthy, their meals must contain all the necessary nutrients. When it comes to cows, their diet should consist of mainly grass hay, alfalfa hay grains, corn, and grass silage.

Some cows are lucky and they get to live in a nice and safe environment where they can enjoy a peaceful life. But, there are others who are not so lucky and they end up in factory farming. There are factories that treat cows very well, but we have all heard about those cases when animals are mistreated and they are only seen as sources of income.

Most of us don’t really know what happens exactly to cows in factory farming, and that is why we decided to write this article. Some of us are vegetarians while some of us love to eat meat, but in the end, we all love animals. This means that even if we eat meat, we still want animals to be treated nicely while they are alive.


Scientific breeding

Most people believe that in industrial factories, cows are treated strictly as a commodity. This means that they are not seen as animals, and nobody cares about their feelings and their wellbeing. Factory owners want to make profits and the larger and faster cows grow, the more money their breeders can earn.

In order to make them more valuable, breeding has become scientific and it is no longer natural. When it comes to making money, some people (business people) always find ways to increase their income. These “ways” are not necessarily safe or healthy for everyone involved. Cows, for example, go through a lot in order to meet certain standards.

Breeding in industrial animal factories is not exactly how one would expect, meaning that people artificially inseminate thousands of females with sperm from selected males (bulls). And, those males that are not selected for breeding are castrated – the scrotum is cut and the testicles are removed with a knife or a scalpel.

And, most of the times the castration is done without anesthetics, which means that steer can go through excruciating pain. Needless to say, they also lose a significant amount of blood. Another cruel process the males need to go through is the cutting or burning of their horns which severs arterioles and venules.

Companies are not happy with only owning the animals, they want to make sure that they have a sign that says that they belong to them. That is why cows need to go through another painful process that is called branding. In other words, companies will use a mold of either red-hot or freezing metal, to stamp a number into the animal’s skin.

Growth hormones and antimicrobials

It is believed that 90% of cows that are raised in industrial factories in the US have growth hormones added to their food. When we think about the fact that eventually, these cows will become the food we put on our tables, we might think twice before deciding what to choose for our next dinner.

Many scientists say that some of the hormones can actually cause major health complications in humans, which means that we shouldn’t eat meat from cows that were raised with hormones. Actually, what this means is that companies shouldn’t be allowed to add hormones to their animals’ food.

The European Union was the one that took initiative and decided that the use of growth hormones in domestic beef production or the import of hormone-treated beef will be banned. Growth hormones are so dangerous that even exposure to minor levels of residues in any meat products or meat itself can cause serious health issues.

But, besides growth hormones, companies choose to treat their cattle with antimicrobials (including antibiotics). Studies show that from 2009 to 2015 there were 24% more antimicrobials used on animals for food production and there were sold 34.4 million pounds of antimicrobials in 2015 alone.

And this is not everything. The Economist reported in 2017 that as much as 80% of all antibiotics sold go straight to farmers. What this means is that they use these antibiotics to treat their cattle. What we have to bear in mind is the fact that all of these affect us too in the end, and it is not just that the animals are mistreated.

Dairy cows

While most of the cows used for dairy production are kept indoors, some of them have access to outdoor concrete and dirt paddocks. They are housed in tie stalls which most of the times are not very comfortable – sometimes they even have chains or other materials around their neck.

Tie stall dimensions are essential for optimal production, too, not only for cow comfort, that is why it is recommended that many companies update their facilities in order to meet these two important factors. These two go hand in hand, which may encourage many farmers or companies to remodel their tie stalls so that they don’t make their animals feel mistreated.

Another painful situation that dairy cows can go through is when they are forced to produce unnaturally high amounts of milk. This can lead to mastitis, a very painful bacterial infection that leads to the swelling of the cow’s udder. In some factories, cows have up to two-thirds of their tails removed (without painkillers) because it is believed that the udder will stay cleaner.

Cows do not produce milk all the time, they are just like us humans – they make milk only after they give birth. That is why, in order for them to produce milk non-stop, they are artificially inseminated once a year. When taking into account the fact that the gestation period lasts nine months, we will discover that they spend most of their lives being pregnant.

And, when they finally give birth, something very terrifying happens and that is the fact that their calf is removed from them on the same day so that the breeders can have access to the milk immediately.



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