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Shabbos on the Farmyard

Rochel Gross

Many Yidden, especially in Eretz Yisrael, work in places that cannot close down on Shabbos. How about farms? Cows need to be fed and milked daily. Is there a way to work on Shabbos without desecrating this holy day? I spoke to a farmer and the director of the Institute for Science and Halachah.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

farmTo find out about Shabbos on the farmyard, we spoke to Mr. Shammai Tzur, the dairy farm manager at the religious kibbutz Chafetz Chaim, in the center of Israel.

MJ: Mr. Tzur, can you describe a typical day in the life of a dairy farmer?

ST: My day starts early. I rise at 3:00 a.m. (!) and make my way to the cowsheds. We start to get things ready for the milking process, which begins at 4:00 a.m.. Our machines are equipped to milk twenty-eight cows at a time. It takes around three hours to milk the 300 cows on our farm.

MJ: How many times a day do you milk the cows?

ST: Three times a day. At four in the morning, twelve midday, and eight in the evening.

MJ: Wow, that means you spend nine hours a day milking cows. What do you do in between the milking shifts?

ST: Well, the milking machines have to be washed thoroughly between one milking and the next. The cows have to be fed, of course, and the cowsheds cleaned. Each cow is regularly examined and given the appropriate medical care.

MJ: Let’s talk about Shabbos. Are you allowed to milk the cows on Shabbos? Isn’t it a forbidden melachah?

ST: Cows suffer pain if they are not milked on time, so not to milk them for an entire Shabbos would be a transgression of tzaar baalei chayim(causing an animal pain). On the other hand, milking is indeed a forbidden melachah on Shabbos, so it is done through a Shabbos goy. A non-Jewish worker operates the machinery. A Jew observes the milking process, so the milk will be chalav Yisrael — milk produced under supervision of a Jew. The milk is muktzeh on Shabbos, but after Shabbos, it may be sold to Yidden for consumption.


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