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Osborne Farms closes: Embattled dairy sells off livestock

Osborne Farms is no longer in the dairy business, according to Joe Reardon, assistant commissioner for consumer protection in the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The farm has sold its herd of roughly 30 dairy cows, and but for a few calves the farm is now empty of bovines.

“We are aware that the milking herd is no longer at the farm,” Reardon said. “The animals can be sold to another dairy or could be sold for slaughter.”

Osborne Farms, a family dairy farm in Clyde, had been the subject of criticism and media attention after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, released a video in early August depicting the dairy cows trudging through a knee-deep sludge of waste to reach their milking, feeding and bedding areas. The animals also slept in their own waste, PETA asserted, and contact with the feces was causing wounds and lameness. 

Criticism of the video broke out online, with some questioning its validity and postulating that some of the abysmal conditions shown on-camera were framed. But Gna Wyatt, a former milker for Osborne Farms who contacted PETA about the conditions this summer, maintained that “It was really like that. It is really like that.”

In the meantime, Tom Osborne, who owns the farm while also working fulltime for Evergreen Packaging, apparently began to think about selling the cows. Though there’s a good chance the animals went to a slaughterhouse, PETA calls the development a good one. 

“This is good news,” said Dan Paden, evidence analysis manager for PETA. “However, because all dairy cows eventually wind up in the slaughterhouse, which is where these animals may have gone, we’re left to imagine those poor souls — the lame and bone-thin cows — now as hamburger meat or perhaps soup stock. Our hope is that bovine suffering at this farm is over with for good.”

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It’s also possible that the animals were sold to another dairy. But most dairy cows eventually wind up at a slaughterhouse anyway, Paden said, often far enough past their milk production prime within five years of arrival at a dairy farm to be sent away for slaughter. 

Paden said that PETA had offered to buy the cows from Osborne and send them to a sanctuary, but the offer was declined. 

Reardon said he’s upset to see another North Carolina dairy farm go under. 

“It’s regrettable that we would lose another dairy in the state of North Carolina,” he said. “Over the years, we’ve seen the number of dairies continue to go down in North Carolina.” 

Currently, the state is home to 241 dairy farms, with several leaving the ranks each year. Often, that’s due to the current operators aging out without anyone around to step up and take over the business. 

“It’s that whole business continuity. A lot of dairies are family dairies,” Reardon explained. “There’s the question of whether they can continue to be passed down from one generation to another, and in some cases that doesn’t happen.”

Paden, meanwhile, maintains that many dairy farms qualify as “cruel” when it comes to their treatment of the animals and that, for that reason, people should stay away from dairy altogether. 

“That’s why we remind everyone to stay away from dairy milk and cheese and ice cream,” he said. 

The Osborne family declined a chance to comment.  

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