Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez put cows in the political spotlight – Quartz

It might be the Year of the Pig in China, but cows are stealing the spotlight in the American political sphere.

This isn’t all good news for our bovine friends. No. They exist now with a target on their backs, thanks to a confluence of factors, including climate change, the rise of US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, her advocacy for a so-called “Green New Deal,” and a desire by conservatives to score cheap political points.

Let’s stop—only for a moment—and with intention aim our deepest condolences toward the humble and hardworking American cow, which became a focal point in several speeches given at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

“You know, with this Green New Deal, they’re trying to get rid of all the cows,” said Republican lawmaker Mark Meadows. “But I’ve got good news: Chick-fil-A stock will go way up because we are gonna be eating more chicken!”

Republican senator Ted Cruz joked that PETA would start supporting his party since Democrats want to “kill all the cows.” Sebastian Gorka, a former White House official, said Democrats want to “take away your hamburgers… this is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved.” And the hyper-conservative president of Liberty University, Jerry Falwell Jr., joked he was keeping an eye on Ocasio-Cortez. “You just let Alexandria Cortez show up at my house and try to take my cows away,” Falwell said.

So what gives? Why is this staple of American agriculture suddenly a political football?

A Democratic flub

When rolling out a relatively toothless plan for the so-called Green New Deal, freshman Democrat Ocasio-Cortez released to the public a fact sheet that said getting carbon emissions to net zero within a decade would be tough because “we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to full get rid of farting cows.”

It’s a smart point to make, but it was also one that could become political talking point for Republicans.

When considering how the food system impacts global climate change, the United Nations has estimated that the livestock sector contributes 14.5% of total manmade greenhouse gas emissions. Beef and milk production make up the majority of that—including from the methane that cows expel. So addressing cows is important. Talking so plainly about getting rid of them, though, was widely considered a flub.

Meat is already under siege

Outfits such as the World Health Organization—bolstered by a growing body of scientific evidence—have linked red and processed meats with certain types of cancer, as well as heart disease. That recognition has coincided with calls for people to reduce the amount of red meat they eat.

Warnings about the healthfulness of beef has already had some meat industry trade publications decrying what they consider a “war on meat.”

The bottom-line is that cows are taking fire from two different angles: health and environmental. A misstep by Democrats has turned them into a political talking point, and suddenly Americans are being asked to think a little bit more critically about the animals.

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5G RuralFirst Launches Me+Moo – the World's First 5G Enabled 'Connected Cow' App – KTIC

As part of its mission to explore the potential for 5G in rural locations, 5G RuralFirst has today released Me+Moo, a smartphone app that lets you choose your own connected cow and receive daily updates beamed from sensors present on the farm. Designed to showcase the latest technology that is powering the future of agriculture, the app is an educational tool suitable for everyone from cow enthusiasts to tech-heads and agricultural workers.

What does Me+Moo do?

The Me+Moo app offers participants the chance to choose their own connected cow from a 5G RuralFirst farm and learn about how 5G technology is being used in everyday life with animals. Once a cow has been selected, app users will receive regular updates on everything from how the cows are eating to how they are sleeping using the data collected by 5G technology. Each cow has been given their own profile – similar to that you may see on a dating app – with their name and a glimpse into their own specific personality.

Users are encouraged to select their favourite cow, invite their friends to do the same to build their own virtual herd and compete for the top spot on the herd leaderboard. Users are also provided with regular videos and animations talking about 5G and its application on the farm.

Through daily updates and videos, the app will showcase how the connected collars monitor the movements, health and milk production of the cows.

Who’s behind the app?

5G RuralFirst is a co-innovation project, part funded by UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS), led by Cisco alongside principal partner University of Strathclyde and a consortium of other partners from across business, government, and academia. Its first goal is to create rural test-beds and trials for 5G wireless and mobile connectivity across three main sites in the Orkney Islands, Shropshire, and Somerset. For more information about the trials and 5G RuralFirst, visit its website: 5Gruralfirst.org

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Cows need to earn their keep during calving season – Beef Magazine

Calving season continues to unfold on our ranch, and while the bitter cold and unrelenting winter hasn’t been the most fun to work in, this is still one of my favorite parts about being in the cow-calf business.

There’s something about walking to the barn to check for newborn calves — the crunch of your boots as they press into the snow, the peaceful silence of the cold winter air, the fog of your breath puffing in small clouds, the hum of the heater in the barn as you approach, the blast of warmth that hits you as you open the calving barn door and the calm of the barn as expecting cows gaze curiously at your entrance.

Of course, discovering a newborn calf lying in the straw is the best part of all. Even better, watching its mother tend to the new life, licking the calf from head to hoof and encouraging it to stand up and suck for the first time.

And when you see that calf finally take its first wobbly stance and make its way to the udder to drink that first serving of colostrum, you feel a sigh of relief. Everything has gone smoothly, and now if you can just peak to see if it’s a bull or a heifer, you can head back to the house to make a tag and let the new pair bond and do their thing.

But waxing poetic about calving doesn’t do complete justice to the reality. On the flip side, it can be an exhausting, emotionally-draining, never-ending season where things go wrong, the weather doesn’t cooperate and your faith in why you’re in the business is tested by the hour.

However, you know you’re in the right business where you’re just as excited about the 100th calf as you are about the first. It’s a season of long days and even longer nights (especially if you’re calving in the winter or spring in the northern states), but it’s also a season of new beginnings, new life and seeing your hard work and planning come to fruition.

Ultimately, it’s all made possible because of the females on the ranch. From the first-calf heifer to the old matriarch, we ask a lot of our herd. We need cows that are maternal, feminine, good milkers, docile and easy keeping, with longevity, breeding consistency and performance, as well.

This past month, we have celebrated these heifers and cows in a photo contest titled, “Next Generation Females.” Sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim (BI), this photo contest highlights the foundation females of the ranch and honors the work they do each year.

Our wonderful readers submitted a gorgeous collection of photographs, which we compiled into a gallery. View the photographs by clicking here.

From there, we narrowed down the entries to 15 finalists, and we asked all of you to help select the four best photographers in that group.

Voting will remain open until March 11, and you can vote daily for your favorite four images. The four photographers who receive the most votes will win $50 VISA gift cards. Plus, three lucky voters will be selected to win a BEEF cap. Winners will be announced on March 12.

VOTE HERE!

Good luck to our finalists! If you would like to help drum up votes for your favorite image, please share this blog post or the finalist photo gallery on social media and ask your friends to vote. Thanks for your participation!

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.

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The Spellbinding Swedish Song That Calls Cows Home – Atlas Obscura

<img class="article-image with-structured-caption image-outlined lazy" src="https://assets.atlasobscura.com/assets/blank-11b9c95a68e295dddd0ea924647536578ce285b2c8469a223c01df1ff3166af1.png" alt="Jonna Jinton learned the melodic practice of kulning.” width=”auto” data-kind=”article-image” id=”article-image-63438″ data-src=”https://assets.atlasobscura.com/article_images/63438/image.jpg”>
Jonna Jinton learned the melodic practice of kulning. Courtesy of Jonna Jinton

When Jonna Jinton was twelve, she heard a song that would change the course of her life. During a school field trip to a music museum in her home country of Sweden, Jinton and her classmates were instructed to clasp their hands over their ears. The tour guide then let out a cry—a haunting, high-pitched song that rattled the room. Some students might have clamped their hands over their pulsing ears even harder, but Jinton, taken by the sound, wanted to hear it.“I didn’t want to keep my hands over my ears,” she recalls. “It was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. It was so strong.”

Having now mastered this Scandinavian vocal technique known as kulning, Jinton performs and posts her own songs for hundreds of thousands of captivated YouTube subscribers and Instagram followers. For most viewers, her videos are an introduction to kulning. But the practice is far from new. Kulning is an ancient herding call that Swedish women have practiced for hundreds of years. But in recent decades, Jinton says, it’s been largely forgotten.

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Less than a century ago, Sweden’s remote forests and mountain pastures swelled with women’s voices each summer. As dusk approached, the haunting calls of kulning echoed through the trees in short, cascading, lyricless phrases. Though often quite melodic, these weren’t simply musical expressions. They were messages intended for a responsive audience: wayfaring cattle. Kulning was a surefire way to hurry the herds home at the end of the day.

According to Susanne Rosenberg, professor and head of the folk music department at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm and kulning expert, the vocal technique likely dates back to at least the medieval era. In the spring, farmers sent their livestock to a small fäbod, or remote, temporary settlement in the mountains, so cows and goats could graze freely. Women, young and old, accompanied the herds, living in relative isolation from late May until early October. Far from the village, they tended to the animals, knitted, crafted whisks and brooms, milked the cows, and made cheese—often working sixteen hour days. Life on the fäbod was arduous work, but it was freeing, too. “It was only women, and they had all this free space to make a lot of noise,” says Jinton. “They had their own paradise.”

The herds grazed during the daytime, wandering far from the cottages, and thus needed to be called in each night. Women developed kulning to amplify the power of their voices across the mountainous landscape, resulting in an eerie cry loud enough to lure livestock from their grazing grounds.

One should always take caution when hanging out with someone kulning, as it can’t be done quietly. Rosenberg, who’s researched the volume of kulning, says it can reach up to 125 decibels—which, she warns, is dangerously loud for someone standing next to the source. Comparable to the pitch and volume of a dramatic soprano singing forte, kulning can be heard by an errant cow over five kilometers away. This explains how the song might reach a distant herd, but what prompts animals to trot over remains a bit of a mystery. “That we have to ask the cows!” says Rosenberg. “But it’s really no stranger than calling a dog.”

<img class="article-image with-structured-caption lazy" src="https://assets.atlasobscura.com/assets/blank-11b9c95a68e295dddd0ea924647536578ce285b2c8469a223c01df1ff3166af1.png" alt="An example of a Swedish fäbod.” width=”auto” data-kind=”article-image” id=”article-image-63436″ data-src=”https://assets.atlasobscura.com/article_images/63436/image.jpg”>
An example of a Swedish fäbod. Länsmuseet Gävleborg/CC-BY NC 2.5

Much like trained pets, cows feel loyalty to the humans who care for them. According to Rosenberg, it only takes one solid affinity between a cow and a woman to bring the whole herd home. “There’s always at least one cow that is the smart cow, in a herd,” she says. “She’s like the leader cow.” Once this particularly enlightened cow hears the call, Rosenberg suspects, she heads toward the source, encouraging the rest of the herd to follow suit.

To do this at such great volume, requires learning the proper technique, which, it turns out, is a far cry from that of classical or popular singing. “It’s more like calling,” says Rosenberg. “Like if you see somebody on the other end of the street, it’s the way you would use your voice naturally to try to get their attention.” Kulning was taught orally. Young women learned from the old, imitating the songs of their elders and slowly adding individual flair and vocal ornamentation. Rosenberg, who now teaches kulning in a classroom setting, says the key to the call is improvisation. “You have to have variation, because you never know how long you’re going to be calling for.” In other words, you have to keep singing until the cows come home.

Cows, however, weren’t the only ones on the receiving end of kulning. The call could ward off predators in the woods, and served as a form of communication between women who were otherwise isolated from one another. If a cow went missing, for instance, a woman on one farm might cry out using a particular melody to pass the message to those within earshot. Once the cow had been located, her far-off neighbor would convey the news back to her in song.

Two milkmaids at work.
Two milkmaids at work. Kulturarv Västernorrland/Public Domain

Rosenberg discovered something else during her research. While interviewing herdswomen from the last generation to regularly practice kulning in the context of the fäbod, she became aware of the call’s effect on the women. “There’s a pride in it,” she says. “This a skill that they cherish by themselves, too.” It became obvious to Rosenberg that kulning wasn’t simply a tool, but also a form of individual musical expression. “Many researchers and ethnomusicologists try to separate the function and the art,” she says. “But I found that with kulning, function and art are actually just two sides of the same thing.” This was apparent in the joy it brought the herdswomen she spoke to, the pleasure it brought those in earshot who would stop their work to listen, and the shivers the sound can send down the spine today, even through tinny laptop speakers.

Perhaps it’s the intangible thrill of kulning that has allowed it to survive into the modern day, even as the fäbod milieu slowly receded from Swedish society. From the 1960s to the 1980s, remote summertime herding faded from practice, and kulning was approaching obsoletion. Luckily, a few historians and musicians, including Rosenberg, were intent on weaving it into Swedish culture in new contexts, using new platforms.

<img class="article-image with-structured-caption lazy" src="https://assets.atlasobscura.com/assets/blank-11b9c95a68e295dddd0ea924647536578ce285b2c8469a223c01df1ff3166af1.png" alt="Woman meets cow at the fäbod.” width=”auto” data-kind=”article-image” id=”article-image-63461″ data-src=”https://assets.atlasobscura.com/article_images/63461/image.jpg”>
Woman meets cow at the fäbod. Kulturarv Västernorrland/CC BY-SA 2.5

With the help of people like Rosenberg, traditional music saw a revival—finding new life in theater, contemporary folk music, university classrooms, feminist organizations, and beyond. A few decades later, an inspired Jinton would go on to learn the technique by studying one of Rosenberg’s books. Now, she’s intent upon sharing kulning with the public through social media.

When Jinton turned 21, she decided to quit her studies to move from the city of Gothenburg to a cottage in Grundtjärn, the remote village where her mother was born. She began practicing kulning more regularly—in the forest, to prevent unexpected bear encounters, or to serenade her cow, Stjärna. She began a blog, and when she posted her first video of kulning, it instantly went viral. “Before I started sharing my videos, I thought I was alone feeling this way about these sounds,” says Jinton. “But so many people were feeling something special, almost as if they were being reminded of something.” Kulning can entrance creatures of all kinds—from loyal cows to enraptured Instagrammers. Jinton intends to spread that feeling to others by performing a vanishing art.

But Rosenberg has a different take. Maybe, she says, kulning never disappeared. Instead, it’s simply resurfaced in new ways. If you listen closely, she says, you can find kulning everywhere in Sweden today. You can hear it on stage at a folk show, or in someone’s backyard when a mother calls her children in for dinner. Some women have even learned the far-carrying cries as a form of self-defense, says Rosenberg. It has survived, she says, by shifting as it slips into new contexts. “I do not see it as a revival,” she says. “It’s really a continuation of an expression that is so strong, it will always find a way to persist.”

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How to indentify your best cows sooner – Beef Magazine

My study rancher recently raised an important question: Should he be adjusting his beef cow numbers as he goes through the cattle cycle? In the past, he had not been doing so.

In the 1980s, I observed some Wyoming cattle producers starting beef cow herds that became very successful businesses. I also observed some startup beef cow businesses that failed. Some cows were high lifetime net income-generators, and other cows were not.

I became suspicious that a key determinant of survival was the startup year in the cattle cycle. This suggested, at least to me, that during a beef price cycle, the year a cow starts calving has a major impact on the lifetime net income she generates.

Later, my Integrated Resource Management work in North Dakota with individual ranchers during the 1990s convinced me that the cattle cycle startup year was all-critical for a cow generating high lifetime net incomes during a cattle cycle.

Finding the best ones

So, how do you identify high net income-generating cows in advance? This seems to me to be a key cattle cycle question.

 I would like to share with you a couple of rancher conversations I have had through the years on this subject. These two conversations planted the seeds for my current work on cattle cycles.

My first conversation goes back to the mid-1980s, when a rancher came up to me after one of my University of Wyoming Extension meeting presentations. He indicated that he bought cows every seven years or so. The purchase years were very specific and very specifically planned. This rancher shared with me the specific years that he purchased cows.

I dug out historical cattle prices and sure enough, these cows typically produced calves during the years of higher-priced calves. I concluded that these cows tended to be high net income-generators.

In the early 1990s, a Minnesota rancher came up to me again after one of my university Extension presentations and said that in a certain year, he bought 100 young cows. He also sold all calves born and did not add replacements. Now his cow herd was gone.

I immediately pulled out my overhead of calf prices, looked at it, and said, “And you made money, didn’t you?” I will never forget his reply. “I did not come up here to tell you if I made money or not. I came here to ask you when I should buy my next 100 cows.”

Computer connections

After retiring in 2000, I ran a consulting firm where I spent eight years evaluating individual ranchers’ beef cow herds, one herd at a time. I spent my spare time building computer simulation models generating detailed economic analyses of these individual beef cow herds. I created a database of all these herds, looking for profit indicators across these herds.

I closed down my consulting business in 2009, and since then have been expanding my computer models to further analyze beef cow herds and cattle cycles.

In the next decade following my retirement, (2000-08) we had BSE in 2003; two droughts — one in 2003 and another in 2006; and the ethanol era beginning in 2007, bringing on record corn prices.

These events clearly upset any resemblance of a cattle cycle in the 2000-to-2008 time period. Those eight years were a time of just surviving in the beef cow business. Nobody was thinking “cattle cycles.”

Years 2009 to present brought the cattle cycle back, regenerating my renewed emphasis on the cattle cycle. Thank goodness I had my cattle cycle experience of the 1980s and 1990s to fall back on.

The biggest problem with suggesting a strategy for taking advantage of a cattle cycle has been identifying a “management trigger signal” before the fact. It has always been easy to look back and say what one should have done. What is needed, however, is a trigger signal before the fact. I have spent considerable time researching that trigger signal.

My eastern Wyoming-western Nebraska study rancher has now asked me to help him identify that trigger signal. As background for this study, I am going to first share with my readers some of the management data compiled and presented to my study herd manager.

Winter feed costs. Figure 1 presents the calculated historical winter feed costs per cow for the study herd over the current cattle cycle (2009 through a 2019 projection).

Market Advisor | March 2019

Winter feed costs trended upward in the first half of the cattle cycle, peaking in 2014. From 2014 through the 2019 projection, winter feed costs averaged $243 per cow. Winter feed costs hit a high in 2014 and went down in 2016, but are now slowly working back upward due to both hay and corn price increases.

Summer pasture costs. Figure 2 presents the summer pasture costs per cow for the study herd over the current cattle cycle (2009 through a 2019 projection). Pasture costs tend to be somewhat fixed but did certainly go up after the high calf prices in 2014. Pasture costs since 2016 have leveled off slightly, as calf prices have weakened in the last years of this cattle cycle. Pasture costs are very slow to adjust downward.

BF_p7_03 2019 harlan fig2.png

Cost of developing heifers. A significant cost of a perpetual beef cow herd is the cost of replacement animals. My study rancher raised his own replacement heifers annually during the last cattle cycle.

The actual cost of developing his weaned replacement heifers varied somewhat from year to year, depending primarily on the market price of feeds fed. Figure 3 presents the estimated postweaning cost of developing replacement heifers on my study ranch. The variation in annual development costs reflects the changing annual market value of feeds fed and changing annual grazing costs.

BF_p7_03 2019 harlan fig3.png

The cost of raised replacement heifers also has a second component — the market value of his raised replacement-type heifers valued on their weaning date. This is the opportunity cost of not selling the replacement-type heifers at weaning. 

The accumulated capital investment in this static herd is calculated annually by the rolling seven-year average of his annual total cost of all developed heifers.

The cost of raised replacement-type heifers varied considerably over the current cattle cycle. Figure 4 presents the calculated total cost of replacement heifers (value of replacement-type heifers at weaning plus cost of development that next year). Figure 4 illustrates the year-to-year variation in the calculated cost of replacement heifers for the study ranch. Yes, it does make a difference when replacement heifers are developed.

Market Advisor | March 2019

After seeing Figure 4, my study herd manager’s immediate question was, “How does my cost of raising replacement heifers compare to the cost of purchased replacement heifers?”

It was a real challenge to find good data on the purchase cost of replacement heifers over the current cattle cycle. Figure 5 presents my best effort to compile the localized purchase price of replacement heifers for my study rancher.

Market Advisor | March 2019

These two charts suggest that raising replacement heifers on this ranch appears to be a lower-cost approach to obtaining replacement heifers. How these replacement strategies and pattern actually affect the overall profitability of the ranch in a given cattle cycle will be addressed in my next article.

Stay tuned.

Hughes is a North Dakota State University professor emeritus. He lives in Kuna, Idaho. Reach him at 701-238-9607 or harlan.hughes@outlook.com.

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