A dairy cow’s fall in the back of a truck in the Overberg last week, puts focus yet again on the dire need in South Africa for traceability from farm to fork.
Marina, an export fruit farmer from Grabouw said that her journey along the N2 on Wednesday last week developed into a distressing effort to help a cow that had fallen in the truck travelling in front of her.
“I was driving behind a truck carrying cows when suddenly there was a commotion in the truck and I saw two cows had fallen while the others were scrambling over them trying to regain balance.
“I indicated to the driver to pull over – which he did – and I asked what he was going to do about the cows that had fallen in the back of his truck. He told me he was on his way to the abattoir in Grabouw.
Trying to find a place to stand
“At that moment I saw one of the cows was being trampled by four or five other cows as they tried to find a place to stand. They stepped on her jaw and on her throat. They stepped on her udder, her stomach and there were wounds on her. I know cows, and what I saw was that they were extremely stressed. The cow that had fallen had her eyes rolling back and the other cows were foaming at the mouth and the whites of their eyes were showing – both are signs of stress and fear.”
Marina struggled with the truck driver and his assistant for about 30 minutes to help the fallen cow to her feet.
“But it was no use. She was too weak, exhausted and injured. There was no way we could get her up. Finally the driver went on his way to the abattoir.”
Marina said she found out from the truck driver that the cow came from a farm in the Genadendal Valley, in the Overberg. “I phoned the farmer concerned to tell him about the plight of his cows and the conditions in which they were being transported. After that, I phoned the abattoir to alert the manager there that there was a downed cow en route. I said I wanted to know what injuries and bruising she had sustained but he said he would not be able to give me this information.”
Marina added: “We fruit farmers who sell to Europe are forced to adhere to the strictest of protocols and regulations. When somebody in Europe buys an apple from our farm, regulations enforce that it is traceable right back to where it was grown, how it was grown, even to which orchard it came from and on which day it was picked.
“If we are forced to comply with these kind of strict, unbendable regulations for fruit, how come there is no traceability when it comes to sentient beings? Each and every kilogram of meat should be traceable back to the farm from which it originated, how the animal lived, how the animal was transported, in what condition the animal arrived at the abattoir, and so on. In the case of this cow, her meat would have been massively bruised.”
Waiting for compassion
Animal Voice has sent the above information to Acting Consumer Commissioner Mr Ebrahim Mohamed, as well as to Dr Rob Davies, Minister of Trade and Industry, as part of their ongoing appeal for labels that supply traceability from farm to fork. Such labelling would, of necessity, include acceptable methods of transport of animals to abattoirs. Their replies are eagerly awaited.
In the meantime, this is as much as we know about the cow in Marina’s video clip:
- As a Jersey cow, she was light brown and her milk had a high butterfat content favoured for making cheese.
- She belonged to a fruit/dairy farm in the Genadendal Valley, Greyton
- From her second year onwards, she gave birth to a calf every year. Like humans, cows come into milk (lactate) in order to feed their calves. Like humans, they are pregnant for nine months.
- Although deeply maternal, her calves were all removed from her soon after birth so that her milk could be used for human consumption.
- Her boy calves were probably killed at birth
- She was probably about six years old and had given at least 22 litres of milk a day ever since her first lactation at the age of 2. Cows can live for 20 years but very often milk production declines at 4 – 6 years old.