Dairy Talk



Cheese makes you chubby! scream all the headlines and popular talk shows in the past week. This newest scare does not come from any detailed study by respectable nutritionists, or even from a government agency. It all started with a number of billboards placed in the Albany, New York area by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Dr. Neal Barnard, President of PCRM, says “typical cheeses are 70 percent fat,” and that Americans eat about 33 pounds of cheese per year.

To set the record straight, let’s take a slice of American cheese, the most popular kind. One slice (1 oz.) contains 5 grams of fat (18% of the total weight) which represents 8% of one’s Recommended Daily Allowance of fat. The slice of cheese has 70 calories, which is 3.5% of a 2000 calorie per day diet. The amount of calories in the slice from the fat content is 64.3% of the total, the rest of the calories coming from carbohydrates in the cheese.

The 33 pounds of cheese the average American eats in a year boils down to about 101 calories per day (out of a 2000 calorie per day diet), so it is a minimal addition to one’s caloric intake; hardly the amount that would make the average person become overweight, or lose a substantial amount if he/she were to stop eating cheese.

The FDA recommends in their Food Pyramid that one eats 2-3 servings of dairy per day. That translates to 1 ½ to 2 ounces of cheese, and 8 ounces of yogurt or milk. This recommended daily intake of dairy provides 254 calories, or 12.7% of the daily diet. Again, hardly the stuff that makes one obese.

So why the push by the PCRM to eliminate cheese from the American diet with a scare tactic? Well, the PCRM’s founder, Dr. Barnard (a psychiatrist, not a nutritionist), is a vegan (someone who does not eat meat or animal products whatsoever), has served on the board of PETA, and according to the organization’s 501(c)3 IRS return, the primary mission of the PCRM is to promote a vegan diet through public advertising and lobbying on Capitol Hill (they spent $649,903 on lobbying in 2009). It is no surprise then that the PCRM is conducting a campaign to dissuade people from eating dairy products; their central theme is that no one should eat animal products of any kind.

We leave it then to the intelligent, informed consumer to make dietary choices based on the facts, not extremist views that have no place in the marketplace of ideas.

by Dr. Bill Croushore

The old adage says that time is money. I think that it may be the other way around: Money is time. Or maybe it’s better said that money (or wealth) is the result of time spent being productive. Let me share with you why I feel this way.

Wealth is generally created either from productive time or from raw materials. There are exceptions, like lottery winners and Hollywood entertainers. But generally, wealth comes from making or doing something somebody else wants. The value of the car you drive represents the steel that framed it, the sand that makes up the glass, the petroleum that makes the plastic and the time it took to design and assemble it. The same can be said of the house you live in and the food you eat.

I have always maintained that one of the reasons for our high standard of living in America is the productivity of our farmers. It’s not the only reason, but it certainly is a contributor. The average American family spends only about 10 percent of its income on food and about half of that is in restaurants and snack food.

American farmers create wealth by their productivity and the consumer is the primary beneficiary of this wealth. I am more familiar with dairy farms than any other type of farm, so I’ll use this example. Typically, a gallon of milk costs about $3.50 to $4 retail. What is it really worth?

If money is time, what is your time worth? The median household income is about $50,000 per year in the United States. I’ll be conservative and assume one wage earner per household. That works out to about $24.80 per hour assuming a 40-hour work week. A $4 gallon of milk is worth, on average, about 10 minutes of time. Trust me, I did the math twice.

Who reading this thinks they can even collect a gallon of milk from a cow in 10 minutes, let alone feed the cow, house the cow, bed the cow and help deliver her calf? I couldn’t. And then you have to raise the feed she eats, harvest the feed and store it. And you probably can’t even raise all the feed she needs. There are grains and minerals that need to be purchased.

Then, if she gets sick, you have to pay a veterinarian to fix her (hopefully) and when she gets a sore foot, a hoof trimmer has to trim her hooves. And when it’s time for her to get pregnant again, the inseminator has to breed her.

Hopefully, you are beginning to see my point that there is a lot of value in the food we buy. Milk is just one example of many. Meat, grains and vegetables also take time (money) to produce.

There has been a lot of talk about impending inflation because of our economic circumstances. It is already being seen in the commodity markets such as cereal grains. The wholesale milk markets are also experiencing a dramatic upswing in prices. [Editor’s note: the wholesale price of milk has dropped considerably, but has started to rise again since this article was written – this only serves to emphasize the unpredictability the farmer faces.] Soon, I’m sure, that upswing will be reflected in the retail price of milk. While the cost may be going up, it is still a small price to pay if you consider the time and expertise required to grow it.

In case you’re wondering, of the $3.50 to $4 per gallon of milk, the farmer gets about $1.50 of it before any expenses.

Dr. Croushore is a veterinarian with White Oak Veterinary Clinic in Berlin, and services farms in Somerset, Bedford, Westmoreland and Fayette counties. If you have a question for the veterinarian, send it to whiteoakvetclinic@gmail.com

Cheese Labeling

Errico Auricchio produced cheese with his family in Italy until he brought his trade to the United States more than 30 years ago. Now, the European Union is saying his cheese isn’t authentic enough to carry a European name.

As part of trade talks, the EU wants to ban the use of names like Parmesan, feta and Gorgonzola on cheese made in the United States. The argument is that the American-made cheeses are shadows of the original European varieties and cut into sales and identity of the European cheeses.

Auricchio, president of Wisconsin-based BelGioioso Cheese Inc., says he has no idea what he would call his Parmesan if he had to find a new name. “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Parmesan,” he jokes.



by Dr. Bill Croushore

A client mentioned to me a few weeks ago that farming isn’t what it used to be. You see, he was at the equipment dealer that morning and overheard a conversation between two other farmers. It went something like this, “Hey Joe, How’s your gas well doing?”

“Don’t know, Sam, they won’t tell me. How’s your well?”

The farmer then told me that in the good old days, farmers would have the same conversation about the how well the crops are doing or how much milk the cows are making. It looks like agriculture is changing.

So, I got to thinking. Agriculture is indeed changing and it’s changing rapidly right before our eyes. And the Marcellus Shale isn’t the only reason for the change.

In the good old days, farmers would keep their livestock records on paper. There were even these neat little calf record books that could be stashed in a front pocket for recording calves born in the field. Today, many of the records are kept on computers.

I was really taken aback recently when I asked a client when a particular cow was due to deliver her calf. He pulled out his smart phone and promptly said, “April 4th.” Yikes- they’ve even got an app for that.

In the good old days, when a client needed a vet, he would call the office and schedule an appointment. The receptionist would then radio us over the two-way to update us about any changes to the schedule.

We gave up the old two way radio a few years ago. It was big and bulky and the signal was about as inconsistent as cell service in the county. Today, all communication with the office is done by cellphone.

I got back into my truck after a call a month ago and saw that I had a new text message on my phone. “Doc- can u put embryo in for me on Friday?” That wasn’t the first time I got a text message from a client, but it was the first time one made an appointment by text. I texted him back that I could do it and called the office to put it on the schedule.

In the good old days, livestock auctions were held at a sale barn. Farmers would load their critters on a truck and haul them to the place where the sale was to take place. Today, there are virtual livestock auctions. Well, there is really nothing virtual about it; the sale is for real. But, the venue is a virtual sale ring.

The Internet age certainly has not excluded farmers. Livestock auctions happen online with regularity today with video conferencing software. Many farmers also take advantage of the Internet to market their products including genetically valuable animals. I don’t know why this surprises me, but there are several dairy farms in the area with Facebook pages. Nothing should surprise me anymore.

Farming is still hard work; that will never change. But change will continue to affect everybody, including farmers. And one day, we’ll look back fondly on today as the good old days.

Dr. Bill Croushore is a veterinarian with White Oak Veterinary Clinic in Berlin, and services farms in Somerset, Bedford, Westmoreland and Fayette counties. If you have a question for the veterinarian, send it to whiteoakvetclinic@gmail.com


by Dr. Bill Croushore


A friend and colleague sent me an article recently debunking the urban legend known as “cow tipping.” Cow tipping, I believe, ranks right up there with other myths like snipe hunting and organic foods are healthier.

As the legend goes, since cows sleep standing up, a stealthy person can sneak up on an unsuspecting snoozing cow and push her over. By the time the tipped cow regains her wits, Jack the tipper can make his escape. In reality, trying to tip a cow would be about as smart as running a 10K race the morning after judging a chili cook off.

Until I read this article that my friend had forwarded me, I had never seen a report testifying to the fact that cow tipping is a myth. Indeed, cow tipping sounds quite plausible. That is unless you have ever tried to make a vertical bovine horizontal.

Even if a cow is restrained, it is extremely difficult to get her off her feet. She weighs over half a ton and will lock her legs so that her center of gravity is low. I doubt that even a nose tackle could budge a standing cow. It can be hard just to get her to simply take a half step to her side let alone fall to the ground. It is possible to put her on the ground, but there’s much more involved than just “tipping” her.

But the implausibility of cow tipping becomes even stronger when you consider that it is impossible to sneak up on a cow. If you don’t believe me, try it — just be careful of the electric fence and maybe the bull. Cows are prey animals and feel seriously threatened by anything they perceive might eat them. If you have hamburger on your breath, you won’t get to within 100 feet of a cow.

But the myth states that the cows are asleep when the stealthy tipper makes his move, you say? Well, that’s what the myth claims, but again, it isn’t based in reality. Cows don’t sleep standing up. Horses may nap in the upright position, but cows surely don’t. Cows do sleep; I’ve seen it. She will curl herself up in a ball, put her head in her flank and saw logs. Cows don’t sleep much, maybe less than an hour a day, but they can snooze pretty soundly. They sleep so soundly that they can be difficult to arouse. But since they are already lying down, tipping is out of the question.

The sleeping cow is truly a sight to behold and I’m always in awe when I see one sound asleep. The first time I saw a cow sleep, I literally thought she was dead. But she eventually started to twitch involuntarily, presumably because she was dreaming. I wonder if she was dreaming that a crazy cow-tipper was chasing her through the meadow? We’ll never know.

Yes, there are times when we want to force a mature cow down to the ground to perform certain procedures. A skilled operator in possession of a 30-foot rope can cause even the most obstinate cow to lie down by “casting” her. There is more than one way to cast a cow, but my favorite is the half-hitch method.

First, a rope is placed around the cow’s neck and secured with a bowline knot. We like a bowline knot because its loop won’t tighten. The cow won’t strangle herself with a bowline knot and lose consciousness — that would be cheating.

Once the rope is in place around her neck, two half hitches are placed around the cow’s trunk with the long rope. One is immediately behind the elbows and the other immediately in front of the udder. The rope is continued beyond the rear of the cow where a single person, by pulling on the rope and causing it to tighten, forces the cow to lie down. I don’t know why it works, but I have yet to see it fail. The cow will usually fall to whatever side the half hitches are placed. With practice, a person can pick a spot and drop the cow.

If you want to put a cow on the ground, she must be cast, not tipped. And don’t even think of sneaking up on her. But if you ever want to tip a cow, tell her to avoid the guy with the 30-foot rope and hamburger on his breath.

Dr. Bill Croushore is a veterinarian with White Oak Veterinary Clinic in Berlin, and services farms in Somerset, Bedford, Westmoreland and Fayette counties. If you have a question for the veterinarian, send it to whiteoakvetclinic@gmail.com


by Dr. Bill Croushore

The dictionary defines “diva” as a distinguished female singer, or a prima donna. Well, dairy cows might not be adept at singing, but compared to beef cows, they are still divas nonetheless. Here’s what I mean.

First, the dairy cow expects that her meals are prepared and delivered to her in the barn and on time. In fact, everything must be in the proper proportion or the dairy cow won’t perform (make milk). She usually wants about two parts corn silage, one part hay silage and one part grain. If the mix isn’t done right, she isn’t happy. Unhappy cows don’t produce much milk. Beef cows get dry hay and if they are lucky, maybe some fresh pasture.

The dairy cow has to get the fancy feed or she just won’t be able to produce the amount of milk that is expected of her. And she has to get a lot of it. It is not unusual for a high-producing dairy cow to consume upward of 120 pounds of feed in a day. You would think that much food would be bad for her diva figure, but in reality the vast majority of the calories she eats get burnt up in the process of producing milk.

The dairy cow lives in elaborate structures usually with individual stalls. Water and feed are just a few feet away from the stall in which she will lounge and ruminate. Her bedding must be kept clean and dry by the farmer or she will get dirty — she really doesn’t like to be dirty. If she is, the dairy cow makes sure that she gives the farmer a good whack with her sloppy tail. Conversely, the beef cow can usually be seen roughing it outside.

The dairy cow, when she was a calf, was attended to at least twice a day by the farmer and given her own home to live in for her first couple months of life. If she isn’t given her own space, she would be more likely to get an infection from another calf. Once the calf turns 2 months old, it’s usually time to wean her and introduce her to her new pen mates. The beef calf, on the other hand, stays with mama until she is weaned at about 6 months of age.

The dairy cow is seen at least twice a day by the farmer to be milked. If the dairy cow doesn’t get milked at least twice a day, pressure will build up in her udder and bad things can happen when she is under pressure. It’s just tough being under that much pressure. Since the calf will accommodate the lactating beef cow, she may not see people for days. In the West, beef cows grazing federal lands may not see people for months at a time.

The dairy cow has regular appointments with the hoof trimmer to get her pedicure. If her hooves, analogous to a person’s fingernails, get too long, she might get a sore foot and limp around the barn. Since the dairy cow doesn’t have to walk around much, her hooves don’t wear quite as fast as they grow. The beef cow’s feet, because she has to walk a lot more, will wear down about as fast as they grow.

In all seriousness, lameness is a serious concern in dairy cows. Proper hoof health is so important that there are people who make a living traveling from farm to farm doing nothing but trimming cows’ feet. They haul a hydraulic chute either on or behind their truck on which they can properly restrain a cow to trim her hooves. In Somerset County alone there are several professional hoof trimmers.

Dairy cows are the epitome of a high-maintenance diva. Beef cows and dairy cows may seem like they are different species, but they are really just like two different siblings. In fact, the dairy cow ultimately ends up as a beef cow at the end of her life. But the journey to the beef profession was much different for the dairy cow than the beef cow. The dairy cow might not be a distinguished singer, but she is still a diva.

Dr. Bill Croushore is a veterinarian with White Oak Veterinary Clinic in Berlin, and services farms in Somerset, Bedford, Westmoreland and Fayette counties. If you have a question for the veterinarian, send it to whiteoakvetclinic@gmail.com


by Dr. Bill Croushore

An immediate position is available for a self-motivated individual or individuals in the raw materials food industry. Interested parties must possess the following qualifications.

Interested applicants must be willing to work long hours. Double shifts are the rule, not the exception. Typical shifts last about 12-16 hours a day. On a good day, you might get an hour for supper. No lunch break will be provided; plan on eating on the job.

Days off will not be part of the job, except under certain conditions. If the applicant can find his or her replacement, then a day off may be acceptable. Plan on reporting for work every day 365 days a year and 366 on a leap year.

The applicant must be willing to tolerate extremes of temperatures both in summer and winter without compromising productivity. Summer temperatures can easily reach 120 degrees in the hay mow when there is hay to unload. Temperatures in the winter can reach 30 below zero on some mornings. There will be no days off in the event of inclement weather.

The applicant will be required to be proficient in agronomy, animal science, personnel management, veterinary science, meteorology, diesel engine repair, equipment maintenance, and accounting. Continuing education for pesticide license will be the responsibility of the applicant.

Applicants should be physically fit to meet the rigors of the job. Although discrimination against the disabled is forbidden, if an applicant cannot handle the physical aspects of the job, he or she should not bother applying.

Interested applicants should demonstrate proficiency in animal handling. A basic understanding of ruminant nutrition is a must; an advanced knowledge of ruminant nutrition is a plus.

All applicants must be familiar with and be willing to follow regulations set forth by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Labor, Department of Transportation, Fish and Wildlife Service and Internal Revenue Service. In addition, the applicant must follow all redundant applicable state regulations. Legal fees will be the responsibility of the applicant.

Willing applicants must have adequate collateral, and or capital before consideration for the position will be given. The successful applicant will be compensated based on a complex formula taking into account both input costs and productivity. Some paychecks will be enough to cover expenses, but some will not.

Benefits include knowing that you are growing safe, wholesome food for an ever expanding, hungry population. If you possess these qualifications, you might want to consider buying a farm.

Okay, that may be a little melodramatic, but it really isn’t that far from reality. Every day, early in the morning, countless farmers go to work and their job description is pretty close to what I just described. There must be something special about this job that continues to motivate farmers to get up before dawn, go work and risk everything every day.

I don’t know why they do it, but I’m pretty grateful that they do.

Dr. Bill Croushore is a veterinarian with White Oak Veterinary Clinic in Berlin, and services farms in Somerset, Bedford, Westmoreland and Fayette counties. If you have a question for the veterinarian, send it to whiteoakvetclinic@gmail.com

How To Milk A Cow