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A happy cow aging gracefully

October 28, 2010 | 10:29 am


No good deed goes unpunished. When cheese-maker Karen Bianchi-Moreda and her father dairyman Paul Bianchi posed for a picture with their favorite old heifer for a story in last week's Food section on multi-generation dairy farms that are turning to cheese-making to stay in business, the last thing they expected was a visit from the Humane Society. But sharp-eyed Los Angeles Times readers, spotting the animal's protruding hips and ribs, thought they had spied an abused animal. This didn't look like the happy cows in the television ads.

The Bianchi-Moredas, who make a terrific cheese called Estero Gold, passed the inspection with flying colors, as they have so many others (they're former Sonoma County Dairy Farmers of the Year). Lady, it turns out, may look a little thin, but considering her advanced age and workload, she's actually doing splendidly.

Reporter Kirstin Jackson writes:

"Lady is 10 years old in industry where an average dairy cow in America doesn’t pass age six. She just birthed her seventh calf this year, consistently wins awards in dairy cow competitions, and is one of the Bianchi-Moreda’s favorites of their 400-cow herd. 

"Lady is a Jersey. Jerseys are a very small breed. While black and- white dairy Holstein males easily reach 2,000 pounds, male Jerseys rarely top over 1,500 pounds, and females weigh around 900 pounds. Most the Bianchi-Moreda’s female Jerseys weigh between 900 and 1,000.

"Unlike many animals bred for slaughter that are fattened to develop meat flavor, Jerseys are a small dairy breed that are allowed to keep their naturally slim and angular build.

"Although Jerseys are already angular, you are right to notice that Lady looks especially so in the picture. As mentioned earlier, Lady is an older Jersey. Like people, cows get frail as they age, and their bones protrude more than younger animals. Older cows like Lady are not often shown in photos and in competitions, but her size or body structure is not abnormal for a Jersey of her age.

"The Bianchi-Moredas are known among Sonoma dairies for the excellent care they give their cows. The Humane Farm Animal Care organization has certified them and their cheese as Certified Humane and the Sonoma County-Board of Supervisors awarded them Dairy of the Year. As a bonus, they have pledged to the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space that they will keep their land as a farm so future generations can enjoy its beauty. They consider agricultural education crucial to a healthy society and also give tours to local elementary school children so they can learn more about farm animals and dairies."

-- Russ Parsons

Photo: Rose Halady