Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Not All Dairy Farmers are Like This

You may have seen a television commercial, touting one of the animal-cruelty outfits, that shows a cow being tipped by a bulldozer. I'm sure it's quite a moving image, for city folks.

It moves folks around, here, too: but not quite the same way. 'Nobody'd treat a cow that way' is a pretty good paraphrase of most of the comments I've heard.

I see their point. Dairy farming is an important part of the economy here in Central Minnesota, and nearly everyone who's lasted through the last few slumps is very, very careful with their cattle.

Dairy farmers are no more likely to abuse their cows, than the owner of a factory is likely to throw a crowbar into the machinery on his assembly line.

But strange things do happen.
"Sauk Centre Farmer Loses Sick, Malnourished Cattle to the Law"
KSAX (October 28, 2009)

"Despite several warnings from local law enforcement, 69 year-old [redacted] of Sauk Centre was escorted from his farm by Stearns County Sheriff's Deputies yesterday.

"An ongoing investigation conducted by the Animal Humane Society of Golden Valley revealed that [redacted]'s 47 dairy cattle had been willfully neglected since April.

"KSAX Eyewitness News recently aired photos of the cows released by the Animal Human Society of Golden Valley. These photos show stick-thin cows with ribs jutting out of their skin. Some stand in manure knee deep, others look obviously diseased...."
One of his neighbors said that he and other neighbors had tried to help - but that their offers had been turned down. The neighbor also that, in the neighbor's opinion, the farmer tried, but wasn't able to do the job.

Plausible enough. There's a sort of stern self-reliance that's part of the culture around here. As a rule, I think it's a virtue - but like other human traits, it can keep someone from applying common sense.

Back to that commercial with the mechanized cow-tipping: City folks, I think, generally don't think all that much about what goes on outside the suburbs.

Which means that commercials like that animal cruelty one (the organization is against it, by the way), and news articles about the fellow with the 47 sick and starving cattle, is just about all they know about people who make their living raising livestock.

I'm not faulting KSAX and other news outlets for running that story: It's 'news' - and a reminder of what can go wrong. But - and this is important - those sick cows are news because they're rare. Most farmers are sharp enough to keep their sources of income in good health.

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