Happy Cows Live in Normandy


A Day at the Farm Proves a California Commercial Wrong

Most Californians have seen the commercials that say "great cheese comes from happy cows. Happy cows come from California." I'm sorry commercial, but I am going to have to disagree. Happy cows come from Normandy where the grass is always green, they are not packed into feedlots, and laws are there to protect them. Last week I spent a day with my cousin and she showed me around her farm. This wasn't my first time, but I have to say that I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time. They have plenty of grass, healthy food, and gentle attention. It is the picture that California attempts to paint.

Chateau de Champs de Bataille
The visit started out with my cousin asking me if I was afraid of cows. I said no because I'm not afraid of them, just clueless on how to handle them. Suddenly were at the entrance of a field that gives into a street. I was told that the cows are moved from one field, across the street, into another field on a regular basis. I watched as her husband and two others appear in a tractor. Then a heard of cows come running, knowing the process about to happen. The people in the field hold a rope and walk around the heard to push them into the opening. My cousin and I stand in the street when the cattle leave the field. I am told to hold my hands out to make me look like a fence to encourage the cows to cross the street rather than walk along it. The cars in the street wait less than two minutes before they can continue on their way. Toto, I guess we're not in the big city anymore. Stopping for cows to cross the street is news to me! For a city girl, that was pretty interesting.

The rest of the afternoon was having lunch and going to a castle. On our way back she explained to me that she is going to show me the farm, which to me is something that I've always enjoyed. She gave me a pair of her shoes for the mud and poop. We cross the field from her house to where the barn is. She first shows me the new building for all the cows and explains that each cow gets a collar that a machine automatically scans to know how much food should be given to that specific cow. That's cool. A lot better than the feedlots that just dump a pile of slop and expect that all the cows get enough.

She then takes me to the barn where the cows are milked. The cows were clearly used to the process, which happens twice a day, as they lined up one by one waiting to be milked. Each cow was milked by a machine that automatically unhooked from them. All they had to do was heard in the cows and attach the machine, and watch out for poop and pee. I wasn't so lucky as I got a light backsplash of cow pee. I quickly moved away form the target area. She explained that they will soon have a robot that uses their scanner ID to automatically hook up to the cow and pump the required amount of milk, which varies from cow to cow. Once finished being milked, the cows went out into the field to enjoy the green grass available even in the middle of summer.

My cousin then took me to a litter of two month old puppies. We walk up to a stall and inside are eight puppies and their parents. We open the door and puppies just keep pouring out and running around the farm. They run up to us with a bunch of energy but we had to be careful of their puppy claws. Eventually they are rounded up, given fresh food and water, and put back in their stall.

We move onto the rabbits to give them fresh food and water. The cute bunnies are meant to be eaten but live a happy life. The farm is a place for the circle of life. Across from the bunnies were my favorite, the baby cows. The baby cows were still being fed milk and kept in a different stall to monitor their food intake. They sucked on each other's ears while waiting for their milk. The special treat was getting to pet a baby just born that morning.

We finished off the farm visit with a trip to the horses. She asked if I remember how to out a halter on a horse. Of course! We then brought in the beautiful animals to the stalls from the field that they were in for the night. The whole walk back to the stalls I pet the pretty boy and knew that I had a good day.

So why do happy cows come from Normandy? The crazy Normandy weather means that the fields are green year around, meaning that the cows get to enjoy the grass as much as they want. They are also fed a corn based diet. They are also treated well. No violence, no extreme fear. The cows know their routine and are given light prods to fall into place. No zappers, no abuse. The cows are protected by the government. The production of milk and cheese is closely monitored to make sure that only the best products are sold. Overall, the cows have it good.

But this isn't to say that all Americans mistreat the cows. I come from an area where everyone treats them well. I come from a town that prides itself on its milk. And it has good reason too. What I am saying is that the majority of our products come from the unhappy cows whereas in France the majority of the products come from happy cows. 

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