Heat wave kills calves; PETA urges criminal investigation

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Earlier this month, hundreds of dairy calves reportedly died as the result of a brutal heat wave in the Midwest. Now, the animal-rights organization PETA is demanding answers, urging state officials to further investigate the incidents and criminally charge the responsible dairy farmers if appropriate.

The deaths involved dairy calves between two to seven days of age that had been housed in outdoor calf hutches with no shade. Read more about the deaths here.

On Thursday, PETA sent a letter to Edward F. Wall of the Wisconsin Department of Justice, asking that the deaths be investigated as possible violations of W.S.A. § 951.02, “which prohibits one from treating any animal in a ‘cruel manner.’”

Dairy Herd Network readers also were shocked to hear about the deaths. 

“This is beyond senseless. Beyond the loss of the calves, how can someone just leave the little calves out in the sun? Have some common sense people!! Think how this looks beyond the dairy circles. Another bad publication for our industry,” one reader commented.

For more tips on handling heat stress in calves, click here.

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Brock White    
Wisconsin  |  July, 26, 2012 at 04:25 PM

My thought here is people from PETA think it's cruel to have cows in free-stall barns, that we are supposedly "imprisoning" them to a life to confinement. Now if I understand right, buffalo calves in Africa that are stuck in the blazing sun don't make it and I dont see a single people fighting over that. The dairy calves had shade and were provided food. Not every calf makes it, the rules of life.

Joe Dairyman    
US  |  July, 26, 2012 at 07:08 PM

I'm am so sick and tired of these stupid ignorant animal rights groups PETA, mercury for animals, HSUS, and all the rest of these ani " factory Farm" people out their! Farmers having to continue put upnwithbcrap is in sane! Our food system is envy of world. Its time America wakes up and puts these people in their place. We have the biggest drought this year. We are gonna import corn from Brazil for the first time in History. The world is nervous about their food supply and we Americans that have never been hungrybarebgonna contiue to let's these people push farm around. Between Ethanol & drought food prices are going up! Wake up people!

Joe Dairyman    
US  |  July, 26, 2012 at 07:21 PM

Oh ya the farm bill? 22 billion for ag programs. And a Whopping 220 billion for food & feeding programs. I wonder just how many of theses recipients contribute to shese activist groups. People don't get this farmers do.

CNY  |  July, 27, 2012 at 10:21 AM

I don't like to judge as I have learned many things the hard way but lose of calves on such a scale does seem unneccessary. This is handing PETA fodder on a silver platter.

Susie Nash    
Harford County Maryland  |  July, 27, 2012 at 01:03 PM

I feel bad for the calves that died. The government said we need $23.00 to pruduce 100lbs of milk. The price we are getting paid is around 17.00 . We are running 25 fans on cows and calves which is driving up our electric bill. The federal government hardly allows us enough money to hang on. They keep the price of milk rock bottom while fuel and feed prices are out of control. Its very hard to operate with no money. Now the state of Maryland is saying cows will not be allowed to keep cool after 2014. We must fence off all our streams and force them to die in the heat. Peta should be helping the farmers get paid more so they can take better care of their animals. The government does not care if the farms all go out of business as long as we have corn gas in our cars, drive boats dumping gas and oil in the bay not to mention all the raw sewage from sewage treatment plants and Aberdeen Proving groung. Soon we will all be drinking China`s milk shipped here from New Zeland. Tell peta they can best help the animals by backing farmers and help them get more money. Everyone wants their cattle to have water matresses, tunnel fans, and 6 inches of sawdust but it takes money.

Southern Farmer    
Olar, SC  |  July, 27, 2012 at 02:15 PM

We in the south try to avoid calving during the summer, because of this very issue. These folks in WI are used to calving in the summer, to avoid cold stress on their calves. This year, Mother Nature played a cruel joke on them. Give them a break. How are you going to instantly build shelter to cool that many calves? Especially with the current feed/milk/crop situation? They are punished enough by loosing their heifer crop for this year.

Mary Finelli    
Maryland  |  July, 27, 2012 at 09:25 PM

The calves were left to die in the blazing sun WITHOUT SHADE. Can you imagine leaving dogs like that? Why would it be considered any less horrendous to leave baby calves that way? If dogs were left to die like that the person(s) who left them would be subject to prosecution, very deservedly so. The same should happen to anyone who leaves any animal to die in such a cruel and irresponsible way. I've worked in the nursery trade and even plants are given better care than that. Shade cloth and other means can be employed to mitigate heat. If someone can't or won't provide even such extremely minimal care for an animal THEY SHOULD NOT HAVE THEM. There is no excuse whatsoever for such horrendous suffering. Stop trying to making excuses for such heartless and irresponsible behavior. It's plainly wrong and needs to be punished.

pennsylvania  |  July, 29, 2012 at 08:14 AM

for mary finelli.All calf hutches supply some degree of shade.I imagine those farmers were very emotionally stressed,I know I would have been worried sick,barely sleeping and borderline clinically depressed going through that.You weren't there,you don't know what kind of care,what all factors were involved.We wouldn't know about this if they wouldn't have been moved to consult their state co-operative extension agent or veterinarian about their woes.If we knew "the rest of the story" I'm sure we would be more understanding.If they consider it merely a financial loss,they should be put out of business(and maybe tortured a little).

pennsylvania  |  July, 29, 2012 at 07:40 AM

How can it be said that there was no shade when they were in a hutch?I agree with the "cruel joke of nature "comment.Wisconsin is not used to dealing with heat.I would guess the farmers were barely managing their own heat stroke and didn't have a whole lot left in the tank for what I would call a natural disaster.

EU  |  August, 22, 2012 at 08:15 AM

I agree. The climate situation was definitely not predictable, and the areas hit by the heat and drought are areas where summers are never that hot and dry. It is not easy to change housing conditions when everything happens unexpected, when your cows are producing less milk, when your future forage is dying and when prices are always high for feed and low for milk. Plus, 2-7 days of age are the time where the highest calf mortality usually occurs, so the data can be a bit biased. That said, we should start realizing that Global warming is a fact, and no one is exempt.


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