Friday, May 21, 2010

Cows are Just Cows

This morning I was leaving for work early (which happens very rarely) when I came across two cows munching happily along the side of the road. This suddenly made me grumpy. One, yes, I was going to be late. However, more importantly, I had just rotated the cows onto fresh grass and they had un-rotated themselves back onto the grass that had been grazed.

At first this made no sense to me because it seemed only logical that the cows should be happy with their new grass. Then I realized, it seemed logical to me because I operate with human logic. You see cows are animals (what a revelation, but stay with me) and they act upon instinct, not logic. That is a very big distinction and one that is hard to make if you have not been around farm animals and watch a lot of Disney movies.

Movies such as Babe, Charlotte's Web, Bambi or any of the other myriad of movies that give animals human emotions and logic have blurred our understanding of animal behavior. It is easy for us to project human thought and logic onto our pets. Then it is another short leap to project those ideas onto farm animals. Folks, I have spent my entire life around animals and I think I have a pretty good grip on their behaviors and they are all driven by instinct.

Animals are driven by the instinct to eat, reproduce and stay safe, period. They do not look to us as friends or family, but simply as the source of their food and the keeper of their shelter. They are not happy to see us (the feed bucket maybe, but not us personally) and they do not love us. I am sorry if this bursts your image of your pet but they simply are animals who act on instinct. We, humans, are the ones who give them our human emotions.

Having said this, it does not mean that I treat my animals with any less dignity. I understand through my study of animal behavior how to use those very behaviors to cause them less stress. I know that they need a balanced diet and work to provide them with the right amount of feed, mixed to provide them proper nutrition. When I inter-act with them, I understand their stresses and try to minimize those stresses. However, I also understand that they are animals and may react instinctively without regard to my health, safety or convienence. I also understand that my animals have a purpose and that purpose is to be food for my family and my neighbors.

The bottom line in all of this is that farmers and ranchers understand that their animals are just that, animals, devoid of human emotion and logic. We understand their behaviors, instincts and tendencies and utilize them to provide for their needs and reduce their stress. I would invite you to spend time with a farmer or rancher and get an understanding of animal behavior and dispel the myths of Disney.