Available on Star K Website
Approximately 25 years ago, a serious revelation was brought to the fore that affected the entire dairy industry. It concerned a unique condition that occurs in certain dairy cows.
At times, due to poor diet, a cow’s stomach can produce gas causing it to twist and dislodge, which creates a blockage of the intestinal tract. If left alone and not rectified, the cow will die. This displacement condition is known as a ‘displaced abomasum’ (DA for short). What are the halachic implications of corrective surgery?
In order to understand the problems associated with corrective surgery, let’s take a short lesson in kosher anatomy.
The Torah clearly defines the kosher criteria for a cow. The cow must have a split cloven hoof – שסעת שסע and chew its cud – מעלת גרה. A species that chews its cud is known as a ruminant. We have been taught that a cow has four stomachs. The cow’s stomach is actually divided into four parts: the rumen – כרס, the reticulum – בית הכוסות, the omasum – המסס, and the abomasum – קיבה. The food enters the כרס (rumen) from the ושט (esophagus) and exits the קיבה (abomasum) into the small intestine – דקין. In the event that a cow develops a digestive blockage, the bloat can twist the abomasum and displace it. The cow will then require medical treatment to correct the displacement.
A veterinarian may employ different methods to correct the displaced abomasum; some invasive, and some non–invasive. All too often, the veterinarian will have to puncture the abomasum to release the gas build–up and to relieve the cow. This puncture results in what the Shulchan Aruch calls a נקב (puncture, or hole) in the abomasum. Even if the veterinarian untwists the abomasum manually, the abomasum is often sutured into place to anchor it so it will not become displaced again. Suturing the קיבה can potentially puncture it. The Shulchan Aruch lists the puncturing of the קיבה as a disqualification for a treifa.
Although the cow has been saved and recovers quite quickly, becoming a great milker, the הביקה תביקנ, albeit healed, is viewed by cholov yisroel certifiers as a s’fek treifa and the cow is disqualified for milk production.
If the DA cow remains in the herd, tracking it is a daunting task for the mashgiach. Systems have to be set up along with special tagging and separate milking to isolate these cows so that they do not mingle with the rest of the herd. Cholov yisroel productions supervise separate DA milking. Moreover, when a farm wants to qualify for cholov yisroel production, the mashgiach has to delve into the history of each cow to assure that no post–operative DA cow has been integrated into the herd. Other kosher certifications do not want to risk DA comingling. To that end, any cow that has been diagnosed with a DA (when milk production drops) is immediately sold and taken off the farm. It is STAR–K’s policy at Pride of the Farm to sell any cow diagnosed with a DA and to remove the cow from the herd, ensuring there is no inadvertent comingling at the chaliva. All cows in the Pride of the Farm herd have been birthed and raised on the premises, allowing for meticulous record keeping and assurance that no DA cow has been integrated into the herd.
Additional notes about DA
By: R’ Manes Blumenfrucht, מחבר ספר חָלב טריפה
The above-mentioned systems that are used to avoid the DA issue only pertains to cholov yisroel milk, since the mashgichim who visit the farms can remove DA cows.
However, for those who consume cholov stam products (relying on the ruling of Rav Moshe Feinstein z”l that government supervision suffices), the DA issue is seemingly still relevant- since those farms do not have mashgichim on premises removing DA cows. Nonetheless, it does not seem that one has to be concerned with the DA issue vis-a-vis cholov stam products. Recent research has shown that the issue of DA varies from farm to farm. Some farms have high incidence of DA, while others employ various methods to help prevent the disease altogether.
Additionally, many farms do not operate on those cows, opting instead to cull them. Since the milk is at most assur miderabanan (מין במינו בטל ברוב מן התורה), and one cannot trace milk products back to their source farm (and determine if the farm had high incidence of DA), there is a strong basis to permit the milk based on safek d’rabanan l’kulah and כל דפריש מרובא פריש.
For an in-depth analysis of how the DA issue pertains nowadays to cholov stam, see sefer Cholov Treifah סימן י"ט.