As a former Minnesotan, I have a confession: I love cows! As children, even though we lived in the city, we rejoiced yearly at the Minnesota State Fair—or as our grandchildren later called it, the State Ferd (“horse” in Yiddish). There, in the vast Hippodrome Building, we would come and kvell(enjoy) at all the varieties of cows and calves. The Guernsey, with its caramel-colored hide and huge brown eyes, was my favorite. If we were lucky, we might witness the birth of a calf, or see one just starting to walk.
Now we live in Israel, where farms abound. Little did I know that the cows in Israel are different, just as Israel is different from the rest of the world. Thanks to Dr. Lisa Tager, an animal nutritionist from Boston, the record is set straight.
As a kid, Lisa wanted to be a fashion designer. During high school, she “shadowed” a veterinarian and did a summer internship in a Bermuda zoo. When she “hand-fed a lemur,” her life’s plan was altered forever. Later, in Tennessee, she helped out in a rescue shelter for elephants, feeling the “tremendous energy that elephants give off.” She graduated college and received a master’s degree in wildlife conservation and a doctorate in animal nutrition. Lisa did research in dairy cow nutrition that allowed her to work with both domesticated and zoo animals. She traveled to Israel for an American company, which is where I met her.
According to Dr. Lisa, a typical cow produces 70–80 pounds of milk daily, while the Israeli cow makes 100 pounds! Israel is considered the gold standard for milk production. “Israel is coveted for getting so much milk out of animals,” Lisa says. Yet if a farmer pushes too hard for production, the animal will get skinny or sick.
What makes Israel excel in the dairy field? No pun intended. One reason is related to technology, and the second to the Torah. Israel invests a great deal more than most other countries in its dairy production. One amazing example of this is at Carmel Maon Dairy Farm, south of Hebron.
First, it’s important to understand that cows both need and want to be milked. On this farm, the cows walk by themselves up a ramp to a “merry-go-round” milking area. Think of a large wheel with stalls, with a pit underneath. Once the cows walk up the ramp, the farmer puts a transmitter on the leg of the cow. The transmitter recognizes each cow, and measures both the quantity and the fat content of the milk. The cows go around very slowly on the “ride,” while a farmer in the pit below supervises the whole milking process. At the end of the mechanized ride, the worker releases the transmitter, the cow exits by itself, and the circle continues. Song title: “The Circle of Milk!”
The Torah’s attitude towards animals is straightforward: Avoid animal cruelty. Cows must be milked, or they experience pain. So, to avoid their pain, the farmers had to engineer a plan to milk their cows on Shabbat and holidays.
On Shabbat, a laser guides the cow, with no one touching it. The cows wait in line on Shabbat, and a non-Jewish worker with a Jewish supervisor watches as the process is done automatically. According to Jewish law, this process is allowed on Shabbat.
Last week, hiking in my backcountry. A lot of cows ran seeing what we did :) I don’t know what happened with this 3 frames, but they are pretty good :). Thank you to all the people who wrote something to me this week end ( stephiramona and marioons, thank you so much for your comforting, I really appreciated them 😬)
Thousands gather every April to see ecstatic cows return to fields on organic farms around Denmark. The idea of turning this age-old “dancing cow” phenomenon into a spectator sport arose about a decade ago when the folks at Organic Denmark were searching for a way to make the concept of organic more visual.