Thursday, December 22, 2011

If Cows Were Meant to Fly

Rose died this month. She was only 8 months old. She was my littlest Guernsey Girl and I was especially proud of her because she was my first AI calf. She made me a "daddy", and I fell in love with her the moment she was born.

She was a very special and valuable little cow. You see, she was supposed to grow up and share her milk with us and our friends. It was her destiny from the moment she was conceived to group up and live her life in Paradise. She was going to be one of the rare milk cows who actually walks on green pasture, eats grass, spends hot afternoons hanging out under an old apple tree, and is known by a beautiful name, not a number. I was going to hug her often and know that if she had arms, she'd hug me too. But I was going to be satisfied with a wet kiss on the cheek.

She was a registered Guernsey - Ava's Paradise Rose. That was important because like so many livestock breeds that aren't popular for huge commercial farm/ranch operations, Guernseys are on the American Livestock Breed Conservancy list of "watched" livestock breeds. Their numbers are declining rapidly. Holsteins (the huge black and white cows) star in the California dairy ads. They outproduce any other dairy cow for quantity, but their milk has little butter fat. Old timers refer to it as "blue milk." Dairies use Jerseys to add fat. They have the highest butter fat content in their milk. So, there's no place for Guernseys in the quantity-centered commercial dairy world where cows need to produce in a confined environment. And it's a shame. Because Guernseys produce a unique milk that is truly unlike any other dairy breed in the world.

Guernseys are known for producing high butter-fat (5%), high protein (beta casein A2) milk with a high concentration of beta carotene. Combined, these give Guernsey milk its wonderful, rich flavor and beautiful gold color.

You're curious. How did Rose die? She ate corn. But we don't feed our cows corn. They're grass-fed. You're right. Little Rose escaped from her pasture one night and got out onto the road where I had put poultry feeders with corn and wheat for our turkeys and chickens that roam about. She couldn't help herself and ate all the chicken feed in the feeders. She didn't eat rat poison, fertilizer, or herbicide. She just ate corn. In less than 24 hours, she was critically ill. Because cows don't have wings. Her sensitive and complicated digestive system was meant only for grass and its pH was neutral. Mature grains like corn turn a cows gut acid - destroying all the beneficial bacteria responsible for digestion, thus shutting it down. The acid also destroys the lining of the gut. Despite Ross's heroic efforts, consultations with our vet, and all our love, little Rose hemorrhaged and bled to death.

A lot of folks like their corn-fed beef. They like the higher fat content and the "marbling" beef has when it's corn-fed. What most people don't know is that cows are corn-fed in feedlots only for a short period of time. 60 - 90 days. Because the day they start eating grain, they start dying. They have to be fed antibiotics with their feed because without a normally functioning gut, they are susceptible to all kinds of infections and illnesses. To keep them alive until they're fat enough to slaughter, they're also fed antacids. Sweeteners, like molasses, are added to the grain to get them to eat even more than they normally would. After all, the clock is ticking and they need to be fat enough before they're slaughtered or die on the feedlot from eating corn.

I'll never forget Rose. I artificially inseminated Dicey and conceived my first calf. I watched Dicey give birth and touched her calf when she was just minutes old. I named her after my grandmother who died the week she was born. I bottle-fed her for many months. I picked out the little red calf halter that she wore so I could grab her when she was being naughty. Along with Xubie, they were my "kids."

I hope Rose can teach a lesson to folks who don't know much about their meat and the animals that provide it.

If cows were meant to fly, they'd have wings. 

About Guernseys

The Guernsey breed originated about 1000 years ago. Three monks on the Isle of Guernsey bred cows to produce the characteristic golden milk that Guernseys are now famous for. Today, science has confirmed that these dudes were really onto something.

Guernsey milk has three distinct qualities that set it apart from the milk of all other dairy breeds: high levels of beta carotene, high levels of omega 3, and the protein (casein) A2. Evidence suggests that Guernseys excel in absorbing the nutrient carotene and transferring it to butterfat. This extra carotene is what gives Guernsey milk its gold color along with cream and butter. Everyone who has sampled our Paradise butter knows how amazingly bright and yellow it is in the summer when our Guernsey Girls are eating green grass. Guernsey milk also contains three times as much omega 3 as other milk. And the ratio is considered to be superior - 1part omega 3 to 2 parts omega 6. Other milk is 1 part omega 3 to 6 parts omega 6. Recently, Guernsey milk is getting more attention because of the type of protein it contains. Guernseys are the only breed of the 6 major dairy breeds that carry 95% or more of their beta casein as A2/A2. Other breeds are between 33% and 50%. These breeds carry the A1 protein. Some research suggests that A1 protein may exacerbate conditions for people with compromised immune systems and cause diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses. But the protein A2 does not. Many people report that they are "lactose intolerant" and cannot drink most cow milk, but Guernsey milk is OK.

What do I think of all this science and research? I don't know. I'm not a scientist or a health practitioner. You should do your own research. What I know is that Ross gave me Dicey as a gift expecting that her special milk would help heal my gut (from Crohn's disease) and restore my health. Today, I drink vast amounts of raw milk from all my Guernsey Girls and eat sunshine-in-a-stick at every opportunity. You be the judge.

You can find more details on the web: