Most of you have probably heard of the book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”. This book, and the series that followed it, was one of my favorites growing up. The full cycle story tells the tale of what the mouse will want or remember if you give it a cookie. The end of the story is the same as the beginning:  the first thing the mouse will want if you give it a cookie. A glass of milk.

While listening to my advanced beef science lecture today about maintaining the resources it takes to make a cattle operation profitable, I was inspired to expand on this story, except with a little twist.

Sure, I know that cattle are cared for from the second they are born. But not everyone knows first hand like we do in the cattle industry. And they even believe some other “story tellers” who aren’t the greatest fans of our industry. But the truth is cattle are managed in ways that help them become what they are meant to be. In fact, it’s like an added bonus in the beef industry. The calves get a mom and a whole bunch of other caretakers who take care for them–cattle ranchers. Whenever a rancher is challenged with not taking extreme care of their cattle by an activist, it always pulls my heart strings, because I know the feelings that I had for my show steers in high school, and have for my herd at home, along with the care that I give them. Yes, I cried when I sold my steers at auction. But that’s life. I’m not a cruel person. I took care of them until the end of their useful life for the purpose of a show project. That’s right. I said useful. Cattle were put on this earth for a purpose–to serve the greater human population as the best source of protein on the planet. They do so in a way that benefits the environment, helps other species in nature, and provides a meal for countless humans efficiently.

I know I may be beating this topic with a stick, but frankly, I along with many other cattle advocates are beating our heads against a wall–the wall that has been built between consumers and agriculture. By no fault of our own, we’re the lucky ones. The ones who were born and raised in agriculture, and know the truth of the matter. It’s like getting caught eating cookies before dinner, but we have nothing to hide.  Together we must break down this wall, the on average 3 generations that the average consumer is removed from the farm. Let’s be like the rooster and shout it from the roof of the barn, “It’s time to wake up, American Agriculture. Keep doing what you’re doing, but let’s tell people our best kept secrets!” So here goes my short rendition of how this COWgirl feels, one more time. And I’m sure it won’t be the last. (Please keep in mind I’m going from serious to imaginative, but still with the hope of making a small point).

If you give a cow a cowgirl, they’ll probably love each other forever. The cow will ask the cowgirl if she’s going to have a calf and the cowgirl will reply, “Yes!”. The cow will get all excited and prepare to calve, because she knows the cowgirl will take the best care of her calf after she has her turn–just like the cowgirl did for her as a calf. Once the cow has the calf, she’ll probably want some milk to provide for the calf. So her body will do so on its own, and the cowgirl will monitor that she and the calf are comfortable and healthy. When the calf gets big enough she will let the cowgirl take it from her and happily continue to graze on the grass that she loves so much, and trust the cowgirl with her toddler. When the cowgirl takes the calf, she will not forget about the cow that gave her the calf. She will continue to take care of both of them, just in separate locations. When the calf is big enough to go on in the beef production cycle, the cowgirl will sell the calf to another rancher, just like her, who will take equal care of the calf as it gets older. And when the cow has the cowgirl all to herself again she will ask if she’s going to have a calf and the cowgirl will reply, “Yes!”.

Not everyone understands.
But if people can learn multiple languages it’s possible to teach them about the beef industry. They just have to be will to learn.

Until next time-

~Mal the Beef Gal

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