‘We just got too much support’: Uxbridge cattle farmer turned organic grower
For more than 20 years Mike Lanigan has been raising cattle for the dinner table, but that all suddenly changed.
A premature calf born a few months ago spurred a change of heart for Lanigan. In that moment Lanigan decided no more; meaning his herd of 21 cows has been saved from the slaughterhouse.
“I'm trying to be so nice to this calf, trying to save its life. I was thinking it's going to be odd in a couple of years that I’m going to knock it on the head, chop it into bits and pieces and eat it.”
Lanigan is now focusing on organic vegetables, which he sells at a local farmer’s market and to wholesalers in Toronto.
The cows are still living on the farm and are actually serving a new purpose.
“As a biodynamic and organic farm, herbivores are absolutely essential. We compost the manure and utilize it in fertilizing our crops.
With organic produce now Lanigan’s primary source of income, he faces a new financial challenge.
When the cows were sent to the butcher, it paid for the farms bills. He must now make up that difference and also pay for the cows living expenses.
“Depending on the price of hay it’s between $16,000 and $20,000 per year.”
A cost he can't handle on his own. So he turned to one of his market employees for help.
Edith Barabash is now helping Lanigan set up a non-profit sanctuary for the cows. They’ve taken the cause to social media to show people these cows are more than a commodity.
"A big part of this is community involvement so we want people to come and connect with the animals, to learn more about them," she says.
Donations have started to pour in from across the country and Europe to keep these cows fed.
“I'm committed. We just got too much support to change our mind,” he says.
It’s a rare decision that will allow these cows to graze on this hundred acre Uxbridge farm for years to come.