This is dairy country, on both sides of the border. So when a local cow makes good, it’s news. As reported earlier this week, a 15-year-old Holstein named Smurf is being celebrated as the world’s best milk producer.
Smurf lives at La Ferme Gillette in Embrun, Ontario. Eric Patenaude, a 6th generation herdsman on the large family-run operation, recounted Smurf’s story for media consumption.
The record, which she is still adding to, is 216,000 litres. That’s more than enough to provide an eight-ounce glass of milk for every man, woman and child in Ottawa. The average milking cow yields about 35,000 lifetime litres, says Louis Patenaude, Eric’s uncle.
Smurf produces about 50 litres per day. That itself, while very good, is no record. The secret of Smurf’s success, which allowed her to take the record from a cow in Michigan, is consistency. In early May, she will deliver a calf and begin a lactation cycle for the 11th time. Like professional athletes, most cows wear out at some point and break down. They develop lactation trouble, fertility trouble, foot trouble. Not Smurf.
“She’s a trouble-free cow,” says Eric Patenaude.
Smurf now holds the Guinness World Record for milk production. (And let’s just admit that Guinness World Records are a social construct, a record of observations that isn’t complete or universal, and may not amount to a hill of beans in the bigger scheme of things.) Even so, the designation can reflect noteworthy or unusual results.
In the context of dairy farming, Smurf is loved and pampered. Enter People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA is no fan of dairy practices. Following Smurf’s burst of international fame, the Ottawa Citizen reports that PETA sent a letter to Patenaude arguing Smurf should be retired to an approved farmed-animal sanctuary. As PETA spokeswoman Alicia Woempner put it:
“Like all mammals, cows produce milk to feed their babies,” Woempner added, “and other cows, like Smurf, are repeatedly forcefully impregnated and then their deeply loved babies are taken from them within hours of birth.
“We think that after a lifetime of exploiting her for profit, it would be the right thing for Mr. Patenaude to allow Smurf to enjoy a happy retirement with her youngster.”
He said his immediate plans for Smurf aren’t all that dissimilar to what PETA is recommending: the calf that Smurf is currently carrying will stay with her following its birth. “That calf is staying here. I can 110 per cent guarantee the calf will stay with her. He’ll stay with Smurf, on the farm, for as long as he wants — for as long as he lives.
“We want what’s best for Smurf,” he added. “I think she’s reached 16 years because she’s in the right place. We’re the people who know what’s best for Smurf. They want to put her in an animal sanctuary, but I think at this point she is in an animal sanctuary.”
Do you know of an unusually productive cow? I am sure many farmers have soft spots and keep some animals for life.