Thursday, September 27, 2012

Feed raw milk to babies?

Tim and Liz Young, over at naturesharmonyfarm.com, have a particular farming style that, frankly, fascinates me.  They're pretty dedicated to promoting it, which is interesting, too.   

As near as I can summarize it, it's "buy a bunch of animals,  turn them out, and whatever survives must be the best of the lot". 

I'm fascinated because it's, well, amazing to me.  I can't think of anyone else who does that sort of farming.    "Survival farm"?  I'm still looking for a good term for this farming approach.  One of the reviewers of his book on Amazon likened it to abandoning animals.  "abandonment farm"? 

I don't know where they got this idea; while they talk a lot about Joel Salatin and other farmers, no one else does this with their animals and property.  It seems to be a Tim and Liz thing, and from that respect, it's interesting to me because it's novel.  Sort of like a figure-8 race; you watch it for the crashes.  Figure 8 racing, farming style. 

I tried "darwin farm" for a while, but it really doesn't have anything to do with evolution.

I do have to give them every credit though -- they apply this philosophy everywhere.  Turkeys eyes popping out and dying in bunches?  too bad.  Dairy cows croaking?  Sorry.  Sheep dying from parasites?  So sad.   Want to have some fruit trees?  They plant lots of extras so that when they die they'll have some left.  Absolutely consistent.  Buy lots and hope that some survive to be used.  I guess if you have money to burn you can do that stuff; near as I can tell they've spent the better part of a million bucks chasing their farming fantasy...  err...  dream. 

So Tim's writing this fictional account of some sort of illegal farming practice with Indian graveyards and stuff, and he starts a blog about that, in in that blog and he says this

"Heck, we had to search for a bit to find a pediatrician who didn't spin her head when we confessed (hushing our voices in embarrassment) that we would likely feed a raw-milk formula to our baby"

  Apparently they talked to many doctors who did not support this at all.

 Now why would doctors not support feeding raw milk to infants?  Well...  how about kidney failure and lifelong dialysis?  Or just plain old death?  What chance of death is acceptable for your child? 

Ok, maybe I'm being dramatic.  Lets see what a recent article at motherjones.com written by someone who drank a lot of raw milk says: 

"...Chris picked up E. coli from a tainted batch, a state investigation concluded. His kidneys failed, landing him in the hospital for two months. Now 13, he is off dialysis, but doctors aren't sure whether Chris' kidneys will hold out. "It was the shock of a lifetime," his mother told me. "If not for modern medicine, he would have died."

The milk in that case came from a large dairy, but it happens to small dairies as well.  In an outbreak earlier this year in Oregon at Foundation Farms, 15 children were involved, including 4 of the farmers own children.   Germs don't know whether the farm is small or large, and I'm sure that the farmer at Foundation Farms took every sanitary precaution, as I am sure Tim and Liz will.

Liz said it best, I think,  talking about planting lots of fruit trees figuring that some or most would die:   "It's the same approach we take for everything.  the things that are meant to grow and do well here will..." 

So I said they were consistent, right?  Cows, sheep, turkeys, trees...  infants.   





6 comments:

Paul said...

I'm not going to touch the topic of Tim and Liz Young's methods of raising animals. I'm not going to stick my neck in the middle of the feud. But I have am going to take exception to your depiction of anyone who feeds their babies raw milk formula as uncaring and irresponsible. Researching raw milk and understanding the risks and then choosing to consume it or feed it to a baby is not "abandonment" parenting, especially if you source the milk from your own cow and know exactly the care it has been handled with. Unfortunately, the myth that raw milk sickens or kills many more people than pasteurized milk does is trumpeted by the FDA with the full support of large industrial dairy's who don't want to lose market share. See a rebuttal below:

http://www.westonaprice.org/press/press-release-2003apr11

Sure, raw milk does sicken and kill some people. But so does pasteurized milk, infant formula powder, meat, eggs, cantaloup, peanut butter, etc. Should we stop eating all of those as well? A parent must accept the risk that store bought formula powder might sicken or kill their child and nobody thinks anything of it. Why isn't it the same when a parent chooses raw milk formula for their child?

I appreciate your views and willingness to lay out the facts and hard numbers, but in this case I think you are out of line in this case without any good evidence to back up your claim.

Paul said...

I'm not going to touch the topic of Tim and Liz Young's methods of raising animals. I'm not going to stick my neck in the middle of the feud. But I have am going to take exception to your depiction of anyone who feeds their babies raw milk formula as uncaring and irresponsible. Researching raw milk and understanding the risks and then choosing to consume it or feed it to a baby is not "abandonment" parenting, especially if you source the milk from your own cow and know exactly the care it has been handled with. Unfortunately, the myth that raw milk sickens or kills many more people than pasteurized milk does is trumpeted by the FDA with the full support of large industrial dairy's who don't want to lose market share. See a rebuttal below:

http://www.westonaprice.org/press/press-release-2003apr11

Sure, raw milk does sicken and kill some people. But so does pasteurized milk, infant formula powder, meat, eggs, cantaloup, peanut butter, etc. Should we stop eating all of those as well? A parent must accept the risk that store bought formula powder might sicken or kill their child and nobody thinks anything of it. Why isn't it the same when a parent chooses raw milk formula for their child?

I appreciate your views and willingness to lay out the facts and hard numbers, but in this case I think you are out of line in this case without any good evidence to back up your claim.

Bruce King said...

Paul, couple of things. What I'm talking about here is the practices of this couple, not them as people. They can be fine, friendly, gregarious folks and still do something that I disagree with. That's what I'm doing here. I disagree with the basic husbandry that they go out of their way to promote.

That said, there's a hundred million people in the US that drink fluid milk. The vast majority of that fluid milk is pasturized, and the vast majority is produced by large dairies. Can we agree on that?

Ok, but when you look at folks who go to the hospital and it ends up being traced dairy products, the vast majority of those folks, who get sick enough that they have to be hospitalized, are from raw milk exposure.

Yep, other stuff can infect you and it does, but I'm looking at dairy.

Now for most adults, with fully-formed immune systems, raw milk illness is not a big deal. One raw milk drinker that I know says "yea, every year we'd get somehing for a week,a nd then we'd be over it". They accepted a small amount of discomfort that they attributed to the raw milk and just lived with it.

But kids, especially infants, are especially susceptable to the pathogens that a very small amount of raw milk can contain. so that same family would pasturize their own milk before they fed it to their kids, just to be safe.

Raw milk is unlike raw meat -- meat cooked to the reccomended temperatures kills any pathogens present. But raw milk is a perfect medium for growing germs, and it's consumed directly, with no further processing.

So the risk, in my mind, of raw milk isn't worth it for little kids. Adults, who know what they're doing, by all means. Drink all you want. I plan to, actually. That's what my dairy cow project is about, and cheese, but I do not plan to feed any raw milk to kids for the reasons listed.



off grid mama said...

Hmm I should be dead then. Shame on my parents for feeding all 15 of us kids raw milk when we were kids. How ever did we survive?

You realize that it's headed the same way with vegetables don't you? Sterile growing environments mean no outbreaks of E. Coli etc etc one day my grandchildren will ask me how ever did I survive eating vegetables I raised in the dirt!?! It carries all that awful bacteria in it that gets you sick! Oh Grandma.. how awful and dangerous!

Too dramatic?

ajohnmeyer said...

I have found that Greg Judy has quite a radically-hands-off approach to his flock of hair sheep. It was kind of alarming to hear him talk about how many he lost in the early years of his sheep business. He lost most of them to parasites, and more than a few to predators (those that wouldn't stay inside the single-wire fence with the LGDs.
It's a bit unnerving to hear of that approach, and I don't know if I could do it, but Greg seems to have reached the point where he's having some success with it.

Bill Gauch said...

It is unconscionable that anyone would feed raw milk to an infant and use a public forum to promote that practice.

First, if you want to support a natural approach, the mother should be breastfeeding human milk. Every even remotely competent pediatrician will tell you not to feed milk (yogurt & cheese are OK) to children under 1 year of age.

Beyond that, farms are, by nature, dirty. When talking about fresh fruits and vegetables eaten direct from the plant, there is a whole balance of microorganisms to keep the number of colony-forming-units of any one thing low. There is also nature's sterilizer (UV radiation, aka the sun). A cow is a closed system. It either has an active e-coli infection or it doesn't. If the milk carries the bacteria in sufficient quantities, it will be harmful and/or deadly to a baby. It is the same reason you don't apply uncomposted manure to melons. They suck up things like e-coli and then no amount of washing will fix that.

Finally, there is the issue of basic sanitation. A family farmer with one cow can sanitize the udder and teets to ensure they are clean, milk the cow into a sterile container and consume it within a very short time. Equipment/cows must be sterilized between animals to prevent cross-contamination.

There are so many wrong things about feeding raw cow milk to a baby.