Social distancing. A month ago many of us had never heard of this term and today it’s used across generations in daily conversations. It’s a phrase that is used to help all of society understand the importance of being away from each other for a specific period of time to help, in our case, decrease the health crisis that we’re all facing as a nation.
As I sit here in my office (don’t worry, I’m working from my home) I can’t help but think about how farmers practice social distancing on their farms. And I don’t mean practicing it themselves, but more so with their animals. Think about it. We are being asked to decrease the number of personal contacts we make in a day, week, and maybe more. Friends and family members that have weaker immune systems are more at risk during this pandemic. And as a society we’re trying everything we can to “flatten the curve.”
As farmers, one of the most common questions we get asked is “why do you separate the cow and calf shortly after birth?” Its SOCIAL DISTANCING – Farmer Style! It’s the same reason we are keeping our distance as people - to prevent or stop the spread of disease. Let’s break this down a little bit more. When calves are born, they are very susceptible to diseases because they do not have a fully functioning immune system. Shortly after birth they receive their mothers first milk called colostrum which is very rich in antibodies that will help to build their immunity. But this doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to build an immune system to fight off diseases.
During the first few weeks of life, calves are at the highest risk of getting sick which is why we practice “social distancing farmer style” by placing calves in individual pens. Did you know that calves can get sick from fecal contact? Yes, that’s right. Cow manure or another calf’s poop can make a newborn calf ill. This is why it’s very critical to get a newborn calf into its own clean, safe, healthy environment so we can provide individualized care as their immune system builds. Calves are eventually placed in small group pens (sizes vary on each farm) after a certain period of time when the chance of spreading diseases has decreased and their immune systems have grown.
So as we’re all understanding the importance of practicing our social distancing in our own realities, we want you to know that it’s one of the ways we care for our calves on the farm. Farmers can’t afford to face the reality of having to “flatten the curve” in their herd because the calves that are being born are the next generation of their herd so farmers don’t even want to see a “curve” begin on their farm.
Farmers understand the importance of social distancing and are continuing to work through these troubled and uncertain times to ensure their herd is taken care of including their newborn calves and their mature cows that are producing milk for the grocery store shelves. And even though we’re keeping our distance from everyone, that doesn’t mean you can’t connect with us. If you don’t already know or follow any farms on social media, ask us at NYAAC. We’d be happy to connect you and when social distancing is over for us as a society, I’m sure some of your neighboring farms would be happy to welcome you over to see what social distancing is all about – farmer style.
Photo above: Lamb Farms, Oakfield, NY