Kelsey's Policy Paper

Factory Farming: Milk Cows Confinement Policy


All around the world, countries rely on factory farming as a means of food. Factory farming is the process of raising an excessive amount of animals in a confined area to focus on profit and minimize the costs. Antibiotics and pesticides are commonly used to deter and prevent diseases among the animals since diseases can spread quickly when animals are thriving in such small living quarters (3). CAFO’s or confined animal feeding operations are factory farms that maintain animals for at least 45 days in a 12-month period. Crops and vegetation are not sustained due to waste management, and the amount of pollution from so many animals (4).

Factory farming, designed to help reduce the reliance of imported food, holds mostly pigs, chickens, and cows in confined areas to produce as much food as possible at the lowest price possible (1). Antimicrobial agents, vitamin supplements, and growth hormones are used to maintain animal health and to improve overall production. In the case of milk cows, some factory farms are completely devoted to milking cows by having numerous cows confined in a small area (3). By having so many cows in such a small area, the need for antibiotics to prevent diseases in the animals is great. However, current laws outlaw the use of antibiotics for milk production, so therefore factory farming with milk cows is potentially at risk for infectious diseases (5).

Milk cows need large pastures filled with green grass in order to produce quality milk. Without the nutrients or space of large pastures, milk can become thick, yellow, and of poor quality. Factory farms increase the chances of disease such as mastitis, which can lead to bad milk that cannot be released to the public (2). Cows kept in factory farms are also subjected to small crate-like stalls with little room to turn around, stretch, or even lie down. In such tight confinements, cows are more susceptible to disease since there are more cows in a smaller area. All milk coming from dairy farms has to be tested, and since antibiotics are outlawed to prevent infectious diseases, if the milk shows signs of an antibiotic, it has to be dumped. If an outbreak of an infectious disease occurs at a factory farm, the milk from the cows will test positive for that disease, and will then be too poor of quality to be sold (1).


As the administrator of Morningside College for the food department, Morningside College will not purchase milk from dairy farms holding cows in tight confinement. In order to pass the requirements for purchase, a dairy farm must have adequate spacing and large pastures in order to house milk cows. A dairy farm must not have more than 300 head of milk cows per 10 acres of pasture. A first offense to this policy is a $50,000 fine. A second offense is punished by a fine of $100,000, and anything after the second offense is determined by a judge, not to exceed $500,000 in fines. The Iowa State Dairy Association will be funded by the government to perform yearly checks on all dairy farms to make sure the farms meet the minimum requirements for the housing space of milk cows.

By following this policy, an infected animal would have enough room to be treated and helped before its disease could spread to another animal. In this case, an infected animal could then be given antibiotics to treat the disease. Once the cow has fully recovered from the disease, the antibiotic will be completely stopped, and the cow can then proceed to milk again. It is important to reduce the number of antibiotics used in farming because if antibiotics become resistant, entire farms could be prone to disease. Factory farms not following the policy would be more susceptible to antibiotic resistance since diseases would spread more quickly from animal to animal. This would mean more infected animals, and also more antibiotics necessary to treat the animals. Since factory farms are large providers of both imported and exported food, a disease-crippled factory farm could create a shortage of food. In countries that rely strictly on farm processed foods, this could potentially cause a famine.


There is a great need to restrict the number of factory farms to both prevent famine and to protect the animals and people that thrive off of them. In the case of dairy farms, milk cows need to have adequate space and large pastures to ensure that they are getting enough nutrients. A farm of 300 cows should have at least 10 acres of pasture. Since antibiotics cannot be used to prevent disease in milk cows since the antibiotics will be found in the required tests that make the milk safe for the public, the only alternative is to make sure cows have enough room.

In a dairy farm with a sufficient amount of pasture, when an animal becomes infected with a disease, antibiotics can be used immediately to prevent the disease from spreading to other cows. The infected animal will not be used as a milk cow until the disease is taken care of and all of the antibiotics are flushed out of its system. Instead of infecting a whole farm with disease, sufficient space allows diseases to be minimized and controlled so that farming can continue at a progressive rate.

Potential arguments against this policy could be that factory farming overall produces more money than smaller dairy farms or that since factory farms take up less space they end up costing less to run. Although these arguments may be true, the overall cost of an infectious disease epidemic would greatly outweigh the cost of having a healthy, smaller dairy farm. Also, more space for a smaller dairy farm may cost more money than a larger factory farm, but the production of quality milk from a smaller farm is far greater than that of a factory farm because of the less likeliness of an infectious disease outbreak. Once a factory farm experiences an infectious disease epidemic, the entire farm can be overrun with the disease, which would completely halt all milk production and therefore result in the loss of money.


1. Breuer, K. “Behavioral response to humans and the productivity of commercial dairy cows.” Applied Animal Behavior Science. 4(66): (2003) 273 – 288.
2. Albright, J.L. “Dairy Animal Welfare: Current and Needed Research.” Journal of Dairy Science. 12(70): (2007) 2711-2731.
3. Centers for Disease Control. (2006). “Factory Farming: The Impact of Animal Feeding Operations on the Environment and Health of Local Communities.” Processed on Oct. 4, 2008.
4. DuPuis, Melanie. “Not in my body: rBGH and the rise of organic milk.” Agriculture and Human Values. 3(17): (2004) 285-295.
5. Stull, C., McDonough, S.P. “Multidisciplinary approach to evaluating welfare of veal calves in commercial facilities.” Journal of Animal Science. 9(72): (1994) 2518-2524.

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