CAFO's in Wisconsin
What is a CAFO
A concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is an animal feeding operation (CAFO)—a farm in which animals are raised in confinement—that has over 1000 "animal units" confined for over 45 days a year.
CAFOs may cause health effects to their neighbors from pollution damage to the air, land and water. Over 168 gases are emitted from CAFO waste, including hazardous chemicals such as ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and methane.
Cows are natural ruminants, which means that they are able to digest the cellulose in grass because of their multi-chambered digestive tracts. Because ruminants' digestive systems are not designed for grain, cattle raised on grain can develop severe health problems, including liver abscesses, bloat, and sudden death syndrome. Studies have shown that the incidence of liver abscesses in cattle decreases significantly as more roughage, such as grass or hay, is added to their diets.
Because the rumen of grain-fed cows is acidic, while that of grass-fed cows is neutral due to different chemical processes, cows who are fed corn or soy based diets may be colonized with E.Coli strain O157:H7, a strain of e.coli that has developed to withstand the acidic stomachs of cows raised on grain. Consequently, this strain can withstand one of the human body’s main defenses against pathogens, the high acidity of the stomach, increasing the risk of serious infection in people who consume meat contaminated with acidity-resistant strains.
Raising cattle on pasture not only makes sense for their digestive health, but also because it is an efficient use of natural resources, turning something we can’t eat – grass – into something we can – meat and dairy products. Pasture-based cattle operations also decrease soil erosion and improve soil fertility and water quality by maintaining grasslands which protect soils from water and wind erosion. Unlike pasture raised animals, grain fed cattle are often raised on grass early in their lives, then moved to a feedlot where they are fed rations composed of 70 to 90 percent grain. From then until they reach market weight, anywhere from 90 to 300 days later, cattle consume about 6 pounds of feed for every one pound of weight gain.