Let's face it, there are at least three trains of thought when it comes to cattle. There is the romantic, with storybook memories of the lush green grass and peaceful cows at Grandpa's farm. There are the sciency-anti-cow folks, who swear cow farts are so volatile, they will cause the earth to spin off it's axis. Then, there is reality. Farmers and ranchers deal with reality everyday. Let's take a look at one situation and see where you fall on the reality scale.
One of my large, healthy cows just had twins. Is that a good thing? Does it mean that I got a 2-fer? Will a glut of twin calves cause the atmosphere to catch on fire and glow scarlet with methane? Actually, no. Twin calves often mean trouble for the mother and the cattle grower. With the stress of heat and drought this year, the problem is compounded.
I have had more than my fair share of twin calves and have been lucky that my cows have usually accepted both calves. Many times the cow will bond with the first calf that is born or nurses, leaving the other calf to fend for itself. This was almost the case with my latest set of twins. While the cow wanted to claim both of them, she was only letting the larger healthier calf nurse. Mama "mews" and "moos" at the little twin, but is just unwilling to share her milk with more than one sibling.
This is where reality (and the farmer) steps in. In many twin births, one of the calves is removed from the cow and bottle fed in an effort to save the calf's life. This was my mission this evening. It is often a lesson in reality that leaves romantics scrunching there noses, and the scientific minded claiming victory. Let me put it in a way that both may understand.
Calves do not naturally take to being bottle fed. You have to hold them still, get the plastic nipple in their mouth and coax them to suck. To sort cattle, they are often captured in smaller pens. Smaller pens mean closer proximity. Cow poop is heavier than air. Calves are shorter than cows. The gravitational pull of the earth often sends cow poop plummeting towards calves. Farmers must catch and wrestle poopy calves to get them started on a bottle fed regimen. Thus, we can deduce that cattle farmers sometimes smell like poop!
I have said it before... "Farming ain't always pretty." The reality is that animals often suffer or die in the wild, but farmers are experts in trying to save every animal they own. Owning "domesticated" animals places a responsibility on the owner that most cannot understand. The farmer relies on the livestock, and the livestock rely on the farmer. Land is nurtured by the farmer so it will provide valuable food. It is a symbiotic relationship. A relationship that is often simply referred to as Agriculture.