Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Belgian Blue


In the fitness and selection topic of our course this semester we touched lightly on the Belgian blue and it’s lethal mutation of the gene that codes for myostatin (a protein that counteracts muscle growth). To sum it up this cow has no myostatin, which results in it building mass amounts of muscle and very little fat because the mutation also affects fat deposition.

If you’ve ever lived in Belgium it’s quite apparent that they love their cows. The meat is sold in the butcher section of the supermarkets, never laid out on display like ours, and the posters “Big, Blue, Belgian” are pretty much everywhere. I was actually quite shocked not to be able to find one on the Internet.

They just remind shoppers how good for you the meat is:

i.e.                   No hormones

Less fat

                        Better taste (although I disagree with this because when it comes to a good steak it’s all about the marbling which the Belgian Blue has 17% less of than our normal heifers)

 

Blues also yield 5- 7% more sellable meat than our normal cows at 80% and their carcass is bigger. For some reason they also produce a higher yield of milk. Anyhow, the list goes on and on for the many reasons why these cows are “better.”

 

Why are they not common here?

 

Ignoring most of the English sites on the Internet the truth is that roughly around 80% of these cows cannot give birth to their calves depending on their age. The calves are just too big for their mother’s birth canals. Also the older the mother; the more muscle mass she’s put on, thus she will need caesareans every time she has a calf after being a possible first time successful at a natural birth mom, if she had been that lucky.

 

In September 2001 I spent a year In Belgium on a Rotary youth exchange. I was lucky enough to have spent three months with a veterinarian. I had no idea at the time why he needed two pagers and a cell phone and thought he took his work far too seriously. He hardly ever made it through a full dinner without leaving unexpectedly and woke up multiple times throughout the nights, sometimes more than once.

About eight months into it I finally clued in and happened to be attending a function where he was when of course; he got a call. It took some begging and I had to chug the rest of the bottle of wine for his sheer amusement but he finally let me go with him. (Note: Belgian’s can drink more than you, despite what you may think. They still like to watch us suffer/ enjoy as much as they have)

 

Belgium, which is a tad smaller than Vancouver Island is set up a little differently than Canada. There are small towns everywhere, two big cities and the rest is all farmland. The Blues are EVERYWHERE; in the smaller towns they even sometimes get loose and just wander around the streets until found.

 

After a 10-minute drive at 160km/hr we walked directly into a farmers barn to find our cow. (They HAVE to be at a certain stage in labor before a caesarean can be performed safely.) Since he had been there earlier that morning to check the cow he went straight to work.  The cow wasn’t tied down nor did it even seem to care. He gave about 10 needles straight down its left side by its hind leg and waited 10min. He tested to see if she was numb by poking her with his scalpel and seeing that she was, sliced her open. She didn’t bleed as much as I thought she would. Next he opened the sac the baby was in and pulled it out. After taking the crap off its face so it could breathe he sewed up mommy. What’s scary was the calf was almost as big as me.  The mom just ate hay while I tried not to throw up; the whole procedure took about 20min. We were back at the function in no time and hardly missed anything, except more drinking.

 

This vet who shall remain nameless performs roughly one caesarean a day on average but more like none some days and up to four on others. He charges 50- 150 euros depending on the relationship with the farmers. And those calves are worth 500- 1000 euros each, so it’s worth it for the farmers.

 

Warning: the blood is just the amniotic fluid.

Here is a video of a Blue caesarean:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPY9sH_MU5w

When I watched it live it didn’t need two people: note the time. Also take into account the retarded people whose comments imply that this is cruelty. Cruelty is letter the mothers body kill the baby when she can’t give birth; then the dead baby killing the mother.

 

The Dairy site:

http://www.thedairysite.com/breeds/beef/8/belgian-blue/overview

 

Info. On the Blue:

http://www.kuleuven.be/cwte/viewpic.php?LAN=E&TABLE=DOCS&ID=17

 

1 comments:

OldCobra said...

Outstanding narrative. I, like most people I know, don't know a thing about Belgian Blues except that the meat is great and it is expensive. Now I know why.