By Steve Cornett
If we could watch ourselves working cattle through the eyes of a teenager from downtown Houston, what would we think?
We are, in these days of Facebook videos and spy phones, sitting ducks.
I want to think about that a little because of two videos that appeared on AgWeb this week. One was the dairy cow abuse video. The other was the probably-not-Emmy- nominated thing I shot at my own chute, showing how to use that new syringe.
Most of what you see in that dairy video is not only needlessly cruel, but stupid. Plain bad management. You don’t want your people beating on calves as an outlet for aggression. You don’t want guys poking your cows with pitchforks or beating them in the face with crowbars. I mean, duh. What’s a dairy cow worth these days?
But I have twisted a tail in my day. I have seen lots of guys take their fists and boots to cattle to get them to do one thing or another.
I don’t think I’ve ever spoken up. I’m not sure that’s part of our ethic, to be telling the neighbor-help not to club the cattle.
Two things bring it to mind. I bought some bred heifers from John Hall over at Hedley a couple years back. We had some help in running them for PI testing and I noticed that John DID speak up. “Just give her time,” he would say.
And the truth is that if you’ve got decent facilities and are willing to “give her time” you never need to abuse a cow. Too few of us are always willing, and conditioned, to give them time. If you watch the pros work a set of calves at a commercial feedyard—where they do have the right facilities and right training—you don’t see that sort of mistreatment anymore.
We owe a lot of credit to Temple Grandin’s empathy and outreach for that, but feedyards also have enough experience and numbers to know that proper cattle handling pays dividends.
And it’s a good thing. Because look at that video I shot. I am not what you call your technological elite, but I shot that with a hundred dollar camera. After it was posted, I learned it even had audio. How many feedyard employees, or neighborhood cowboys, would be willing to shoot video like that for a few dollars from some animal rights group or news organization?
Even watching my own video gives me the shudders. We were giving that cow a vaccine to protect her from disease, mind you.
Like your doctor checking your prostate, if you get my drift. It isn’t exactly voluntary, but it’s for your own good. And certainly not something a (normal) doctor does for the fun of it.
But that cow—which in five minutes would happily walk up and eat cake from your hand—looked in that video like she was being tortured with a stun gun--for all that Houston teenager knows.
Just something to think about next time you work cattle or decide that proper handling facilities are too expensive.
Steve Cornett is editor emeritus at Beef Today. You can reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.