Cows Need Friends to Be Happy – The Atlantic

A cow is a beast bred for uniformity. Whether black-and-white Holsteins or ginger-colored Jerseys, the marvel of the herd is that such unvaried selfsameness has been coaxed, over time, out of bovine diversity. Identical cows lift up identical, dozy eyes. Jaws slide, muffled by fodder, chewing cud. A handful of breeds dominates the beef, dairy, and leather industries the world over. Cattle are “a human product like rayon,” Annie Dillard once wrote, encountering steers in Virginia. “They’re like a field of shoes.” People manufacture them. In the past 40 years alone, agricultural scientists seeking to increase milk production have altered at least 23 percent of the Holstein’s genome.

Those of us who readily mistake one cow for another may be surprised to learn that these animals not only recognize one another as individuals, but have friends they prefer. Indeed, it turns out that cows are especially interested in—and affectionate toward—particular other cows. A kind of sisterhood is thought to feature in their social lives.

What is friendship, in the case of a cow? For decades, behavioral studies of livestock have tended to focus on aggression, because fighting between animals can result in physical injuries and economic loss. Bovine companionship, a less conspicuous dynamic, long went underrecorded—at least as a subject of scientific inquiry. As herd sizes have increased and greater numbers of cows have been subjected to intensive stall-feeding, the incentives to understand cow stress, and cow resilience, have grown.

Cow friendship, researchers now believe, is expressed foremost in grazing and licking. A study of a commercial herd in the United Kingdom found that, put to pasture, more than half of the animals spent time eating and resting alongside a specific individual. Separated from the larger group, cows that were paired with their favored friend maintained lower heart rates and did not stamp, toss their heads, pace, or sway as much as cows paired with individuals they’d shown no partiality toward. In short, they seemed less agitated. A different study suggested that cows were able to recognize others they knew in real life from photographs, which they then ran toward. As for licking, cows seem to lick the heads, necks, and backs of other cows for a reason similar to why chimpanzees groom each other—to bond. One set of findings, published a few years ago, showed that among Austrian Simmental cows, licking reduced bovine heart rates—though only for the receivers of licks. In Kenya, Zebu cattle lick discerningly, but without reciprocity. A long-term observational study of a herd of 31 Zebu on the Athi Plains found that most of these animals preferred to seek a familiar friend to lick, and that in a given friendship, one cow was almost always the licker, and the other cow, the lickee. However, this hierarchy did not align with the social structure of the herd: The dominant Zebu were not the most popular Zebu to lick. Nor could the researchers identify what made a Zebu likely to be licked. Still, the cows appeared to maintain consistent allies for several years.

You might assume the affectionate attachments of cows to be a side effect of domestication, but there is evidence that wild bovines, too, form platonic partnerships. Older male buffalo, for example, sometimes establish dyads with other bulls. Among these and other hoofed, herbivorous animals that congregate in very large numbers, perhaps friendship proved adaptive across generations because individuals that remained clustered— and vigilant to predators—were more likely than others to survive.

Whether or not bovine friendship is an evolutionary legacy, the American commercial milking cow’s life affords little opportunity for other social contact. The majority of cows in the United States are artificially inseminated so as to bear the calves that bring on milk production (a single Holstein bull, born in 1974, was the progenitor of more than 80,000 young). And in most instances, calves are removed from their mothers soon after birth. Interactions with mates and offspring being impossible, might female friendship fill the void?

Sadly, few cows get the chance to find out. They tend to forget their friends quickly: After just two weeks apart, individuals who once preferred each other no longer display friendship’s behaviors or positive effects. This is significant, because large-scale dairy farms may regroup a herd four to 12 times a year. Considering that cows without friends show evidence of distress, thwarting cow friendship would seem to contribute to cow suffering.

Surprisingly, the camaraderie between cows and people also appears to affect bovine productivity, and perhaps contentment. A 2009 survey of more than 500 British dairy farmers revealed that cows that had been given names produced 258 more liters of milk than did cows that went unnamed and thus unrecognized as individuals.

This article appears in the November 2019 print edition with the headline “Bovine Friends Forever.”

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to

Rebecca Giggs is a writer from Perth, Australia. Her work has appeared in Granta and The New York Times Magazine.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Long-time MSU-Northern educator "Bessie the Cow" retires – KPAX-TV

Bessie the cow has been a resident of MSU Northern for over 50 years.

The school originally purchased her as a trainer for teaching agriculture students how to artificially inseminate cattle.

She’s spent her career in Brockmann Center 205 or the Ag Lab. Bessie arrived when Brockmann was brand new and she has observed a half-century of agricultural students over the years.

MSU Northern staff say that Bessie has been an easy keeper and a good docile bovine, which served her well when she ventured out on float rides in Havre Festival Days parades.

She has also been herded in the spring of the year to the Northern Agricultural Research Center where she unabashedly helped educate hundreds of seventh graders on ungulate reproductive physiology.

Bessie has been branded by the Professional Agricultural Student Club and her PAS brand is officially registered with the State of Montana. She’s retired as an agricultural educator and currently has a place of honor, high on the west wall of the Ag Lab.

Bessie spends her days chewing her cud, relaxing and startling freshman agriculture students by occasionally swishing her tail.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Cows painted like zebras can fend off flies better than their plain-coated counterparts – CNN

Black cows painted to look like zebras are significantly less likely to endure pesky horse fly bites — nearly 50% less, according to a new study published in PLOS One.
A team of Japanese researchers recruited six cows and gave them each black-and-white stripes, black stripes and no stripes. They took photos of the cow’s painted right side, counting the number of bites as they happened and watching how the cows reacted.
Make like a zebra to avoid insect bites, scientists sayMake like a zebra to avoid insect bites, scientists say
While unpainted cows and cows with black stripes endured upward of 110 bites in 30 minutes, the black-and-white cows suffered fewer than 60 in the same period, researchers found.
Zebras’ stripes have more than aesthetic value; they help fend off bloodsuckers. Past studies have proven flies are less likely to land on black-and-white surfaces — the polarization of light impairs their perception, so they can’t properly decelerate, researchers wrote.

Fly bites cost the cattle industry billions

When helpless cows are the victims of fly bites, it stings the humans who own them, too. Biting flies interfere with cows’ grazing, feeding and bedding, and they’re estimated to cost the cattle industry
in production loss.
Since they can’t swat flies away, cows exert significant energy to avoid them, researchers said. They’ll bunch, or group close together, to prevent fly attacks, which can increase their risk of heat stress and injury.

It’s an environmentally friendly, if tedious, solution

The water-based paint faded within a few days, so while it’s a less invasive solution than a pesticide-laced ear tag, it’s a short-term one. Ranchers would need to spray down thousands of cows multiple times a week for best results.
But fewer bites would improve the health of the cows, which would benefit the economy. Plus, subbing in paint for pesticides would benefit the environment and human health, too, researchers said. It seems the weekly art project might just be worth it.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

From the farm: Cuddle a cow – Concord Monitor

<br /> From the farm: Cuddle a cow<br />

  • Pet a goat, donkey, sheep, pigs and cows at the “Cuddle a Cow” event to be held at Miles Smith Farm in Loudon on Oct. 12 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Carole Soule / For the Monitor

  • Not only can you cuddle a cow at Miles Smith Farm on Oct. 12, if you are under 100 pounds you can sit on Curious Bleau, a riding Scottish Highlander steer. Carole Soule / For the Monitor

For the Monitor

Published: 10/7/2019 1:08:57 PM

Have you ever had a desire to hug a goat, cuddle a cow or talk to a pig? If so, Oct. 12 is your lucky day. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. farm animals will be looking for your affection – and carrots – at Miles Smith Farm.

It’s hard to know what makes farm animals so adorable, but they are. My favorite huggable animals are cows, and here are some of my reasons for loving them:

■Grass-fed cows help sequester carbon.

■Cows convert barren soil into lush pasture.

■Cows produce calves; calves are cute.

Not everyone agrees that cows are good for the environment. One argument is that they drink a lot of water. Think about it. A cow nursing a calf can drink as much as 20 gallons of water a day. Does that water stay in her body, expanding it like a big water balloon? No, the water she drinks is converted into milk for her calf and into liquid fertilizer that she releases onto the soil to grow more grass for her to eat. A cow is a self-contained eating and fertilizing unit.

Despite claims that cows are endangering the planet, grass-fed cows offset the methane their digestion produces. Farmers preserve grassland, and their cattle fertilize the grass plants whose roots can extend as much as 4 feet into the earth. This root system sequesters carbon and fights against climate change. According to JSTOR Daily, “If managed grazing could be amped up worldwide, it could sequester over 16 gigatons of carbon by 2020.”

So, there is no need to stop eating meat. In fact, by choosing protein produced by smaller grass-fed New Hampshire farms, you will help save the planet.

Not only are cows good for the planet, but they are also good for your soul. It doesn’t take much to please a cow. A back scratch or shoulder rub is all it takes to make a cow happy. When I rub Missy, a pregnant Highlander cow, she’ll lower her head and close her eyes in contentment.

All it takes for a pig to stretch out on the ground and grunt with joy is a vigorous belly rub. Besides food, pigs love to be scratched. All of our pigs, from 800-pound, Charlotte, to 30-pound mini-pig Tazzy, love belly rubs.

The donkey, Eleanor, enjoys ear rubs, and her even her sheep sidekick Abby wanders around the barnyard looking for someone to pet her.

One cow that will be missing is Elspeth, a Highlander heifer who died unexpectedly last spring. But she will be remembered with Elspeth’s Place, a teaching barn where youth and adults can learn about handling livestock. It will also be home base for the Highland Riders 4-H Club.

Yes, our bovines and their friends are superheroes worthy of hugs and scratches. You can show your love by joining us to “Cuddle a Cow” on Oct. 12 where all proceeds, including the nominal admission donation, will go to help build Elspeth’s Place. Find out more online at

Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm (, where she raises and sells pastured pork, lamb, eggs and grass-fed beef. She can be reached at

<!– –>
<!– –>

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Why The Beef And Dairy Industries Are On A Cow Path to Oblivion – Forbes

© 2019 Bloomberg Finance LP

Cows and the industries that depend on them are on very rough terrain. The beef and dairy sectors need to start paying far more attention to the environmental and obesity impacts of their products and production processes. If they don’t, they will face declining fortunes and irrelevancy. Yet that’s a fate they can begin reversing now if they take the right steps.

The trends are ominous. Environmental activists have been pointing out the brontosaurus-sized carbon footprint of eating small amounts of beef, comparing it to the minuscule atmospheric impact of plant-based alternatives. Upstart companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have developed great-tasting and wildly popular burger substitutes.

The beef industry’s cousin – the dairy industry – is also suffering. Milk consumption continues to decline despite the industry’s marketers having convinced celebrities to wear milk mustaches for 21 years. And recently, a report from think tank RethinkX predicted the dairy and cattle industries will be defunct by 2030, as scientists develop new types of meat- and milk-type products that are tastier and easier on the environment at a lower cost.

If you work in these industries, these trends and predictions should be scary enough. But even scarier is that the sectors appear to have been too focused on cows and cow production to even notice. They risk even more decline unless they re-define why they are in business: to give consumers the types of meaty-tasting protein and healthier drinks they want now, even if it means turning away from cows. Industries that cling to the “cow model” must retool themselves before the non-cow-based industries poach more of their business.

Consumers are newly aware of the impact of cows on the environment and their own health. The United Nations says that livestock accounts for 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions, with beef and dairy production accounting for two-thirds of that amount. While beef is the worst offender, dairy production is also significant: producing cheese can generate greater greenhouse gas emissions by mass than even pork and poultry.

Deforestation to make room for the cattle industry is also a major reason why Amazon rainforests are burning, a threat to a region called the “lungs of the earth.” And early this year a report in The Lancet, a highly regarded medical journal, blamed cattle production for more than half the food industry’s greenhouse gas emissions. The report urged that meat consumption be reduced in half by 2050.

Meat consumption remains strong, but people are eating less beef. Per capita consumption is down about one-third since the peak in the 1970s. However, sales of plant-based “meats” have risen by 31% in grocery stores alone over the past two years. Impossible Burgers can be found in 17,000 restaurants, including the Impossible Whopper now offered at Burger King, and Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burgers at 53,000 restaurants. Just last week, restaurant behemoth McDonald’s announced it will test its new P.L.T. – plant, lettuce and tomato – “burger” in select Canadian restaurants.

The dairy industry has also missed the mark. It has been concentrating on increasing milk production per cow — up 13% from 2009 to 2018 – rather than on milk consumption, which has plunged from 30 to 18 gallons annually since the 1970s. In contrast, consumption of plant-based milk-like beverages has gone up by 9% from 2017 to 2018 alone. All told, dairy milk sales are projected to decline by 27% between 2013 and 2023 while sales of non-dairy alternatives are expected to rise by 108% over the same period.

Yet the beef and dairy industries don’t seem to be worrying, much less innovating. Other companies are reading the tea leaves of consumer sentiment, listening to the science and developing blockbuster plant-based alternatives. As reported by Nielsen, 21% of meat buyers are buying alternatives.

The problem is that the cow-based industries are focusing on cows, not consumers. The sectors are shying away from owning the public health and environmental problems they have helped create. Instead, they are wasting time trying to legislate/restrict how the word “meat” or “milk” is used in packaging and advertising. The U.S. Cattleman’s Association petitioned the US Department of Agriculture last year to stop vegan meat alternatives from using the word “meat,” even “plant-based meat,” in their labeling. Two years ago the dairy industry asked the USDA to do the same thing and ban the word “milk” from soy-based products.

Cow-based industries should stop yelping and learn from the cautionary tale of automakers, which let Tesla pioneer the clean-energy car alternative and have had to scramble to catch up. They can learn from Coca-Cola, which circled the wagons around its iconic red can and ignored trends towards healthier beverages for over a decade. They can take lessons from conservative and complacent Blackberry, which opened the door to iPhone and Android smartphone dominance.

If they don’t change, the meat and dairy industries risk becoming irrelevant. Awareness will continue to spread on the environment and health impacts of meat. And millennials – a quarter of whom say they are vegetarian or vegan – will become an even bigger consumer segment.

Here is what the beef and dairy industries should be doing:

  • Redefine their businesses from offering cow-based products to delivering “clean” protein. While the cost of alternative beef and dairy products is higher today, the RethinkX report predicts that the cost of plant proteins will be five times cheaper by 2030 and 10 times cheaper by 2035 than existing animal proteins. These industries need to anticipate this eventuality and aggressively move to identify and adopt innovative non-animal protein products and practices. Pursuing the current course is a losing proposition.
  • Lead – not fight — the change to “better-for-you” meat and dairy. Digging in on label specifications will not deter this tsunami of change. It would be much wiser to develop more plant-based alternatives instead of letting new companies run away with the business. These industries should note that despite the sluggish initial response to healthier beverages by the soft drink industry, that sector has come around – and today no longer looks like the industry of the 1980s in which companies like Coca-Cola sold primarily carbonated beverages. Today Coke and PepsiCo deliver a range of beverages to meet a wide continuum of consumer demands.
  • Think like consumer marketers, not like commodity product sellers. The “cow” industries never learned the lessons of the 1970s when soft drinks overtook milk consumption. Milk producers missed that consumers were shifting their preferences to more refreshment beverages. The milk industry’s attachment to cow-sourced products remains entrenched. But it must change to providing nutrition and protein solutions that consumers now need from dairy and meat.

While many consumers will still want their burgers and cow milk, it won’t be enough to save the cattle industry. I’m waiting for at least one beef or dairy producer to soon break away from the herd, show some leadership, and move in this new direction. Otherwise, the herd will be culled.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Want a profitable cow? It starts with a good heifer – Beef Magazine

In recent months, I have read a number of articles about heifer development. In all the reading I have found many ideas with which I agree and a fair number with which I disagree . It makes me wonder how many of those writers have developed heifers in a “real life” situation where good accounting was done. 

I would like to make a few bullet points from which we should be able to think through the issues that drive good decision making in the development and selection of replacement heifers:

  • We should not strive for maximum conception rate in yearling heifers. Open heifers should be a profitable part of an operation. If they are not, it is highly probable that all your costs are too high to have a profitable ranch.

Cow depreciation will surely be too high. Annual depreciation is the cost of a bred heifer when all lifetime costs are counted minus the sale value of the same animal divided by years of life in the cowherd. You influence that number by keeping cow costs and heifer development costs low (remember one year of cow cost belongs to the calf), improving the value of sale cows and having good longevity in the cows. 

Most people think cows last longer than they do. Yes, the truly good ones live a long time. However, if you think your average cows last longer than five or six years in the cow herd, you either have very fertile cows or you are not culling all the opens and dries. I have kept inventory records long enough and done enough arithmetic on cow retention and culling to know.

  • Heifers do not need to reach 65% of expected mature cow weight to have acceptable conception rates. Fifty-five percent is very acceptable and is easily achieved on winter pasture with minimal supplementation or with low-cost feedstuffs.
  • I like to work toward a very short breeding season for the heifers. The opens will make good feeders and those that get pregnant have passed the first test in becoming a good cow. 

Step number two is to rebreed as a two-year-old heifer with a calf at side. If you have a very short breeding season for the heifers, you will probably have a longer season for the cows, so the first-calf heifer will have more time in which to rebreed.

  • I also like to expose most of the heifer calves that are born. That enables us to get enough heifers bred in a very short season. The argument that I almost always hear is that you like to “select” the good heifers first and then use the short breeding season. To that I will counter that you can’t select the good ones. I was involved in quite a bit of work showing that we couldn’t. 

Nature and the bull do a far better job. The good ones get pregnant.  I will also add that if you do very much selection, you will not be able to get the desired number pregnant in a short season.

  • If you like to review and follow research that relates to above three bullets, check out Rick Funston and others at University of Nebraska and Andy Roberts at the USDA Livestock and Range Research Laboratory in Miles City, Mont.
  • Some will argue that the heritability of fertility is low. I know the estimates are low, but I contend that those estimates were derived from animals that were usually on a very good plane of nutrition. I think, when you remove the crutches by expecting both cows and heifers to get by on what nature provides with minimal supplementation, the heritability increases. 

I actually think it is quite high when we aren’t feeding animals for the express purpose of getting them pregnant. In most herds, high pregnancy rates are expensive. Good, naturally fertile cows will get pregnant without all the help—and at a lot lower cost.

If you take away the “crutches” quickly, you will have a high fall-out rate at first. If you reduce fed feed more slowly, the fall-out rate can be spread out and perhaps reduced a little over time. You should ask the question, “If some can do it, why can’t they all?” The good ones can. Let nature help you find the good ones.

  • Only a few calves born as a result of second cycle conception will sell for as much money as those born as a result of first cycle conception. Other genetic considerations for the cows in a herd are of far less economic consequence than early calving. Select for early calving and early breeding in your desired calving season. 

With bulls there are two major considerations: 1) Make very sure they don’t undo what you are trying to do with your cow and heifer culling. 2) Try to slowly correct genetic deficiencies in your cow herd—marbling, growth rate, health and hardiness, disposition, longevity, etc. I suggest making corrections slowly to make sure you don’t go too far and undo good herd fertility.

  • This leads me to say that, economically, you would far rather “cull” or sell a yearling heifer than a two-year-old. If there is a year in the life of a heifer or cow that you might spend a little extra money to ensure a little better conception, it would be from the time a yearling is diagnosed pregnant until she is again diagnosed pregnant as a two-year-old.  A little extra help at the right time in that year can help a few more of them get pregnant that will thereafter get pregnant right along with the mature cows.
  • All this is much more easily accomplished with good grazing management and by calving in sync with nature.Breeding in early to mid-spring to calve in early to mid-winter doesn’t really work very well for low-cost heifer development.
  • I know some people who develop their heifers somewhat like I have described that weigh their cows each year at preg-check time. It is surprising to me how light these cows are as 2’s and 3’s. They seem to reach their mature weight at 4 or 5 years. I’m guessing that mature weight is less than it would have been if the cow had been pampered most of its life.
  • If you are keeping and developing your own replacement heifers, “time value of money” tells you to keep those that are economically best right now—the ones that get pregnant and calve early and are naturally healthy. Use good bull selection to slowly improve other deficiencies.

Teichert, a consultant on strategic planning for ranches, retired in 2010 as vice president and general manager of AgReserves, Inc. He resides in Orem, Utah. Contact him at

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Police kill loose cow in downtown Des Moines – KCRG

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Police in Des Moines have shot a cow that officers tried to round up as it rambled across the downtown area and nearby neighborhoods.

Courtesy: KCCI

Police say the animal was found and killed Tuesday night.

The cow was first spotted around 10 p.m. Monday in the East Village area of downtown. Officers tried to catch it for nearly three hours before it vanished into a forested area along the Des Moines River, north of downtown near Birdland Marina.

A police Facebook post says: “We’re cops, not cowboys; it got away.”

Police say they don’t know how the cow got loose downtown.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link