RAY COUNTY — The recent scandal at Fair Oaks Farms, one of the largest dairy operations in the country, has many dairy producers uncertain about the future of the industry.
However, a farm in Excelsior Springs, a sustainable farm in Excelsior Springs, wants the public to know that not all dairy farms conduct themselves in this manner.
KMZU’s Dan Watson spoke with the co-owner of Be Whole Again Farm, Rachel Moser, regarding the Fair Oaks Farms video and their reaction as well as their policies on the treatment of animals at the farm.
Click below to listen to their conversation, which aired Thursday on KMZU.
Each of the animals at Be Whole Again Farm are considered by Moser to be like her children.
“These animals are part of my family,” Moser said,”and those babies, I know I call them babies and I say like ‘Mama’s here!’ you know and I’m there momma just as much as their own cow mom is their momma and so I don’t tolerate any mistreatment at all of my animals.”
Animals do not always comply with their handler, making patience a critical attribute. Anyone at the farm that becomes frustrated with an animal is removed form the situation immediately. Moser explains that at her operation, there is zero tolerance for the mistreatment of any animal.
“The things is when you’re dealing with calves, they don’t always do what you want them to do and so there’s times where you can get frustrated and you know short tempered and impatient with them. But there’s been times where if my husband was getting short-tempered, I would just tell him to leave. its just not acceptable.”
The video that was recorded at Fair Oaks shows calves being separated from their mothers and brought to a second facility where they were beaten and branded. Moser explained that while the video was heartbreaking, it fortified that notion that every animals at Be Whole Again Farm will be provided with the best care possible.
I was just appalled. My favorite part of the day is to go out and watch my mommas and calves nursing in the field, so to see the animals being treated that way and you know, the calves in tiny hutches. Our calves have access to a clean barn, were they hang out with all of the other calves. There’s usually at least nine calves, nine to ten calves hanging out together in the evening, in a group setting and in the pasture together when they’re not with their moms. So its just heartbreaking to see these little babies being thrown around and beaten the way that they were in that video.
While cows and calves are separated a large-scale dairies like Fair Oaks, the animals at Be Whole Again Farm spend most of the day together, which is beneficial for the bond between a mother and her calf as well as the overall health of the animals.
“Whats’ unique about our property and our dairy is that our calves get to nurse their moms,” Moser explained, “we milk once a day in the morning and then the calf actually comes into the milk parlor and stands next to its mom while we’re milking her. Which triggers full natural let down because the mom will hold back her cream for her baby if the baby doesn’t come in. So then they leave the parlor together, they graze all day together and then about 12 hours later get separated.”
Each head of cattle has a purpose at Be Whole Again, maximizing productivity while striving to produce the best possible products.
“We have all of their babies, we raise our bull calves for beef,” Moser stated, “and raise all of our heifers for replacement heifers, so we’re a fairly small operation. We get about three gallons a day off of most of our cows, three to four at their peak production. We get about 15,000 gallons a year. We’re not a big, huge farm, but we still fill a need.”
Kevin McCloskey, the owner of Fair Oaks Farms released a statement indicating that the employees from the video have been terminated and that plans are in place to install security cameras in locations where animals and employees interact. McCloskey has claimed full responsibility for the situation and says that his operation will be subject to regular audits by an animal welfare organization.
The Newton County Sheriff’s office has launched an investigation and has identified three men from the video, but no arrests have been made. All three have been charged with animal cruelty.
Due to the graphic nature of the video, viewer discretion is advised.