Hurt me. Please!
Jul 23, 2008
By Steve Cornett
So, tell me again why I shouldn’t ship emaciated cows to the auction barn? Because he might get his picture on TV?
The HSUS spy cam pictures of the downer cattle from last month set off a storm of efforts in cattle production and marketing channels to “educate” producers, marketers and packers about how to handle nonambulatory cattle.
Do you think education will be enough?
I don’t. Do you remember the term “realizer?” That’s an animal I’ve given up on and put on the trailer to the sale barn or local packing company in hopes of “realizing” whatever I can.
If you don’t know the routine, you can bet your local dairy farmer does. You put those cattle on the truck because it’s zero risk. She might make it and bring a few bucks, and even if she dies enroute, it’s not your problem
Do you suppose you can “educate” me not to do that? Of course you can, but not by simply appealing to my better self. You need to charge me some scratch. Enough scratch to leave a scar, you know? You know guys like me: Give me a problem involving money vs. " doing the right thing" and my only question is "how much money are we talking about here?" I may be a minority in that, but it's a sizable minority.
I would point out here that it is not the producer who put the downer-to-be on the trucks that gets the black eye when a HSUS rat gets video of a cow being dragged around. We don’t know who sent those dairy cows to the Portales sale. All we know is how the Portales hired help handled a tough situation.
Livestock auctioning is a competitive business, and no sale barn wants to get crosswise with a seller-customer. But they should turn down potential downers and they should make sure the seller—me, the guy who put emaciated old Bossy on the truck hoping she would fetch me a couple hundred—pays the expense.
Part of the agreement between me, the seller, and he, the auction market, should be that I stand the expense—marked up as auction markets do so well with other expenses—of dealing with downer cows. There should be a downside to downers for sellers as well as buyers.
I would argue that the Livestock Marketing Association should codify the BQA advice of not shipping anything with a Body Condition Score of 1. LMA should set a standard that the barns will not accept cows like that. It should be an industry standard, and the shipper should know up front that if he ships such a cow he will be out a pretty penny. Not a petty penny, mind you. A pretty penny. Pretty enough to make him adjust his culling procedures.
All God’s cows got to die, we know. But they need to do it before they force some poor guy at the sale barn to make the sort of decisions we saw in those videos.
Education and exhortation are great. We can do better if we think about it. But we all learn better when we get slapped up side the head with a dollar bill.