Lincoln resident Barbara Peskin has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for two permanent cattle shelters at Codman Community Farms—an effort that’s highlighted differing perceptions of animal welfare and the funding needs of the farm as a whole.
Peskin started thinking about the campaign after seeing CCF cows exposed to stormy weather last fall. She noted that the MSPCA had recommended a shelter for a field that didn’t have one, so Farm Manager Pete Lowy placed a livestock trailer in that field for the winter. Another cattle pasture already has permanent shelters.
“It honestly broke my heart that the cows were out there with no protection. I just felt a strong compassion for the cows. I have a strong compassion for all animals. I’ve learned from the MSPCA that while cows raised for beef have very little protection in Massachusetts, they are supposed to be given protection in severe weather,” Peskin said.
However, beef cattle are hardier than they may appear, and shelters can actually cause other problems, Lowy said.
“Beef cows don’t need shelter, just a windbreak,” he said. “As long as they have access to plenty of hay and water, they’re sturdy and fine. Even the cows on the hill rarely hang out in the shelters. Manure building up in the shelters becomes a health issue, which is why most farms with beef cows don’t have shelters.”
There are no cows on the Codman North field during the winter since it lacks permanent fencing. In the summer, they need shade but not protection from the rain, so they have a portable sun shade that can be moved along with the temporary electric fencing that the farmers shift every few days to rotate grazing areas.
Cattle shelters are not high on the funding priority list for CCF, but Lowy told Peskin to “go for it” if she wanted to raise money on her own and donate the shelters, which will cost a total of $7,240.
“We have a long list of projects for the farm for 2018 and 2019, and we’re focusing on improving the pastures through improved fencing and animal rotations rather than fixed shelters,” Lowy said.
Peskin’s GoFundMe page acknowledges that CCF “has many pressing issues that require funds” and shelters are not a high priority for Lowy or the CCF board. However, while the cows may not need shelter to survive, “surviving is not all there is to life… we can improve their well-being and comfort by providing them with shelter.”
In an email to the Lincoln Squirrel, Peskin added that, “they [the cows] are beings, and I think the shelters would set an example for Lincoln children and all our visitors that we have compassion for all animals. I would note that the Drumlin Farm cows do get these shelters and better (I know Drumlin has more money and volunteers). The shelters are a small but important gesture we can do for the Codman cows that will give them some protection from driving rain, driving snow, and high heat.”