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A polled dairy cattle breed?

By Staff | May 11, 2015

-Farm News photo by Jolene Stevens LEE MAASSEN stops to read the data immediately available on the milk production of individual cows in his Maurice-area herd and determine basic nutritional needs of his cows.


MAURICE – Lee Maassen is a member of the four-generation Maassen Dairy operation east of Maurice, whose recent capital improvements reflects optimism in the industry’s ability to deal with issues head-on.

A recent new issue is a call for additional polled U.S. dairy herds advocated by The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and some dairy breeders.

Associated Press coverage of the polled issue reports PETA and a Vermont dairy breeder, Mark Rodgers, are advocating for additional polled cattle numbers in the United States.

Rodgers, according to the AP, is among members of a 46-member association representing polled breeders in Canada, Australia, England and Germany, all with high polled dairy animal numbers in contrast to the 1 percent of herds in the U.S.

Rodgers said he sees the need for more polled numbers as herd efficiency and health issue to avoid the danger of dairy animals goring one another or humans, and avoid the perceived painful dehorning calves.

PETA generated spin-off media coverage indicating a growing demand by food companies, including General Mills, Nestles and Dunkin’ Brand, to ask their milk suppliers to make the change-over to polled dairy herds.

Lee Maassen challenges the allegation that dehorning is painful.

He said the industry worked hard to develop techniques to minimize or eliminate pain during the process.

In his own herd, Maassen said he relies on a medicated salve that stops horn growth at the roots.

Another technique is an electric dehorner that cauterizes horn nerve endings before horn removal.

Polled dairy

A member of the corporate board of the Midwest Dairy Association board, Maassen said, “There’s an expense to producers in generating new polled breeds.

“It takes many generations through genetic selection to have all milking lines in the industry polled.

“Milk production is lost not only from having limited herds available, but as a result of the polled animals being less milk productive.

“This can be is a major consideration in the dairy farmers’ reluctance to develop additional polled herds in that with falling production, it would be detrimental to current research into additional dairy products benefiting consumers with special health needs.”

He said the recent controversy once again underlines the dairy industry’s need to continue its “green energy footprint” to advance consumer understanding of dairy production and and to identify new nutritional values of dairy products.

“It’s just amazing the number of pretty exciting things are coming out of today’s research,” Maassen said, “as one example on the value of whole milk, a whole (natural) package dairy product from the potassium and calcium standpoint, plus 10 amino acids in the nutrient profile.

“There’s also the potential of having a milk product for those consumers lactose intolerant or for products with decreased sugar and increased protein product. Who knows what’s to be achieved in the next 20 years?”

Maassen said food chains must be open to an understanding of the industry’s desire to keep family farm to family table discussions on various topics open, to accept a sound science approach on reasoning and show a willingness to ask questions when something isn’t understood.

“We can’t let activists or a certain segment of our population create confusion on what we do as an industry,” Maassen said.

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