Do you remember those milk commercials with talking cows in them? “The happiest cows come from California,” the ads would boast. They highlighted the sunny California weather and relaxed vibe of the West Coast. This may have been true in the late 90’s but today its a different story. Over in the heartland of the USA, the cows at Radiance Dairy are putting these ads to rest.
Located in the small town of Fairfield, Radiance Dairy is home to around 65 extremely happy bovines. Filled with energy and an outstandingly playful nature, farm owner Francis Thicke’s cows are among the happiest I have ever seen. And with regards to how he keeps them, there is no doubting why.
Thicke’s farm is based on principles of sustainability, both in agriculture and in spirit. Managed through a system of paddocks, Thicke’s cows are treated to a twice, fresh daily grass fed diet. He intently rotates their grazing patterns to avoid over-using the land. He also dedicates all of his 459 acres to solely growing grass, which are then fertilized from the waste from his Jersey ladies.This is not only sustainable for the land, but also for the cow.
Cows are ruminants and as Michael Pollan most popularly pointed out, ruminants need to ruminate. More specifically, they need to ruminate on grass and not corn—the major feed used on industrial lots. Cows that eat corn or other foreign feed have serious health problems within their rumen, or special stomach used to break down fibrous material. When fed a corn diet, the rumen become over acidic and chemical pharmaceuticals are needed to balance this irregularity. This not only hurts the cow, but it creates an environment of stress.
In an attempt to further decrease the amount of stress among his cattle, Thicke has found that keeping the young calves with their mothers has reduced health issues that surround newborn cows. By creating a comforting environment, Thicke has provided optimal circumstances for growth.
A calf grazing with its mama.
At Radiance Dairy, the cows also receive extra attention in the form of spirituality. Fairfield, Iowa is home to the center for Transcendental Meditation – made popular in the late 60’s from the Beatles and other pop culture figures. Transcendental Meditation, or TM, culture is based around ancient Vedic principles. One of these principles the cows enjoy is the benefit of sound currents.
A sound current is the vibration sent through any type of noise. In Vedantic thought (and many other schools of thought), certain sound currents can be utilized to create specific effects. In the Vedic tradition, an entire genre of music serves just this purpose. It is called Gandhara Veda.
Essentially, this music resonates the natural frequencies of the universe and allows those who experience its harmonies to align with its uplifting vibrations. With this knowledge, Thicke has applied this concept to his farm by playing a melody of Vedic harmonies. The cows are bathed in Gandhara Veda, with the idea that their vibrational energy will be increased so that they may enjoy a better life.
Whether you believe in this or not, the important idea behind his practices is that he makes them from a position of love. He is truly taking care of his cattle. Thicke even gives his older cows the lush life of retirement, selling his aged cows to wanting families. The amount of care put into his work is the true ingredient that keeps his cows happy.
Even though I am a vegan and choose to no longer enjoy Thicke’s wonderful products (including a DELICIOUS mango ice cream), I recognize and applaud the thoughtfulness and love put into his operation.
Check out this video made when Thicke ran for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, but beware of the music!