When my husband and I were anxiously awaiting the birth of our eldest, we did what many in our situation do. We took a basic parenting class at our hospital. There we learned and relearned the basics of newborn care. Between overwhelming looks and nervous laughter we were shown umbilical cord care, basic needs and basic first aid. We ended the class with a tour of the facilities that left us with wide eyes and an understanding that we were really doing this. Parenthood.
Parenthood has great meaning to us as humans but can sometimes be different when it comes to the animals on our farms. To us it means constant love, attention and care. We have a strong desire to see our children grow up healthy and nourished. As we raise our children from infants, we make sure they get the medical attention they need when they need it.
With farm animals, and in our case cattle, this can sometimes be difficult. You see, cows don’t take parenting classes. They don’t have lactation specialists they can turn to when their calves won’t nurse. They don’t go to high tech medical facilities to deliver their babies. It is our job as caregivers to make sure everything goes as planned.
Farmers and ranchers will check on their cattle on a daily, twice daily and sometimes even more frequent basis to make sure that they are okay. When a cow has recently had a calf, it is reassuring to see them be protective of their baby, nuzzle and smell them. Sometimes, however, things don’t work out right. A cow may not be giving enough milk for her calf, and we have to supplement with a bottle. A calf may be sick, and we have to bring it in to give it the medicine it needs to survive. It is our job to give the calves the vaccines and boosters they need to remain healthy.
Cows don’t take their calves in for two-month check ups, so we as farmers and ranchers have to make sure that everything is okay. This is part of our job, part of who we are and what we do. We take it very seriously and can be very upset, hurt and defensive when it has been suggested that we don’t put our animal’s welfare before our own. (If you don’t believe me, ask my son. The cows get checked and fed before Christmas presents are opened at our house!) Animal husbandry and welfare are extremely important to those of us whose life and family are built around the raising and care of animals.
While perusing the Internet the other day, I came across a great quote from Abraham Lincoln – “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.” Of course, the irony is that there were obviously no computers – and furthermore no Internet – in Abe’s day, but it made a great point. With the advent of the Internet, we (as a society) have gotten lazy and careless about what we post and what we believe. The same day, a friend of mine posted a photo on Facebook that claimed Monsanto refuses to serve GM (genetically modified) foods in their own company cafeterias. There was nothing to reveal the source of this information. There was no evidence or proof to back up the claim. And yet, there was a feeding frenzy in the way people ate this up and forwarded it on as fact.
I took the time to do some of my own research on this subject and confirmed that it is, indeed, false (metabunk.org, monsantoblog.com). It all stemmed from a story about ONE particular Monsanto location (out of hundreds), and the claim was made by Sutcliffe Catering Group, NOT Monsanto employees. Then Greenpeace (an organization with an anti-GMO agenda) jumped on board and ran with the story to the point that every time it was told, more exaggerations were added to the story until the final product is a simple photo of a cafeteria brimming with tasty looking foods and one line about how Monsanto won’t even serve its own GM foods in its own cafeterias. Without fail, people seemed to pass this false image on with the click of a button, believing it to be true.
People have always feared new technologies and things they do not understand. That’s nothing new. Isaac Asimov capitalized upon this to sell millions of books about robots conquering the human race. What’s new is the accessibility of the Internet to promote this fear mongering with the click of a button. People have a tendency to believe what they read without ever questioning it or researching its authenticity. I admit, I have fallen into this realm at times, usually forwarding a political post that is maybe a half truth. That’s the other thing to be aware of: it’s easy to make something look or sound bad when it is taken out of context. I am much more keenly aware now and scrutinize heavily whatever I may choose to pass on. I call out friends when their posts are inaccurate. It truly is a challenge to sort out fact from fiction and definitely easier to just click that “forward” button. However, it is our responsibility to make sure what we are posting is accurate.
Aside from checking with experts in the industry to confirm or deny the truthfulness of statements, make sure you check those posts against “fact-checking sites,” which do the research for you. You’ll be surprised at how much you read that is “sort of true.” That is to say, maybe they got the headline right but most of the story is wrong. Check your friends’ posts and people who leave comments on stories. Don’t be afraid to call them out when they are wrong…just make sure you have the evidence to back it! Here are some fact-checking sites to help in your endeavor: Snopes, Fact Check, Truth or Fiction and About.com Urban Legends.
From the heat of summer to the cold of winter, farmers and ranchers do everything in their power to keep their animals as comfortable as possible.
We have been busy at the ranch installing more windbreaks for the cows to enjoy protection from the wind. In addition, our cows also enjoy wind protection from trees and other natural sources. We have been building man-made windbreaks close to the water tanks so the cows can enjoy some protection without having to go too far for water. Checking the water tanks to ensure all the cows have fresh, cool water to drink is always a daily task and another way we keep them comfortable. Our cows’ health is a major concern for us. We want to do everything we can to keep them as comfortable and healthy as possible.
A professor at the University of Missouri also noticed the need to be able to monitor cattle more effectively, so he created an app to do just that. According to the DairyHerd Network, the ThermalAid app tracks humidity and temperature through a GPS function, and the farmer or rancher uses the app to submit a cow’s respiration rate and other determining factors. By using this app, farmers and ranchers can tell exactly how their cows are handling the weather conditions and intervene as necessary.
According to Don Spiers, ThermalAid’s developer, “Each summer, the dairy industry loses $900 million nationally in productivity and the beef industry $400 million. And that’s data from 2003 when the industry was smaller and summers less intense.” Think about how big those losses are to the dairy and beef industries, especially when you realize the weather is out of a farmer’s control.
From windbreaks to high-tech apps, it’s good to know that farmers and ranchers are always trying to prevent heat stress and keep their cows comfortable.