Friday, June 10, 2011

The 19th Century Cow Theory vs the 21st Century Bull Theory

The Cow Theory

 The phrase “the cow theory” caught my attention while doing some research in the newspaper archives of New Zealand. Today’s world is filled with theories about the cow. Theoretically, belching cows are one of the greatest contributors to climate change -- theoretically, cattle raisers are inhumane humans who rear animals to “kill” in a world where killing a “sentient” animal is no longer necessary -- theoretically, all the food a fattening steer or mama cow consumes could solve world hunger by feeding the cow’s ration to humans -- theoretically, small beef cattle farms are environmentally degrading to the soils of grasslands and to the water supply -- theoretically, we should be assessed new “land taxes” so we will better appreciate our privilege of rearing environmentally friendly cattle or grass.

All theory, yet broad assumptions and bad science are being used by national and international institutions of government in a quite God-Like approach to policy changes aimed at mitigating the negative environmental impacts assumed under these “theories”.

What follows is the text of the article entitled “The Cow Theory”, published in the Otago Witness, an old New Zealand newspaper. I very much like this 135 year old life sustaining ‘cow theory’ over those running rampant today.

Pauperism Exterminated by Means of a Cow
Otago Witness, Issue 1212, 20 February 1875, Page 18, Full Text Follows:

"Speaking of the cow theory— that is, that a man with five acres of land can maintain himself, his family, and his Cow— a writer in the Farmer's Magazine, for the last month, has the following —

"On Sir Baldwin Leighton's estate in Shropshire, England, pauperism is almost exterminated by means of the cow, it being the rule rather than the exception for a labourer to have sums varying from £20 to £80 put by in the savings bank out of the proceeds of the sale of the butter. I have seen the books with the sums entered to their credit. Most cottages have two or three fields attached to the holding, mostly laid down in grass. The cow, however, is only a second string to the labourer's bow, and does not in any way interfere with his giving efficient service to the farmer (Sir Leighton), as the cow can be looked after by the wife, who makes the butter and sends it to market by the carrier."

We have frequently called attention to the great boon a good cow is to the poor man, and the large profits of a good dairy. This is especially the case where only a few cows are kept and are well cared for.

A friend of ours, with three grade shorthorn cows, has realized no less than ninety dollars from the product of each cow, in a single season, besides the milk and butter used in the family. But these favourable results depend upon two conditions, one or both of which we frequently see overlooked or disregarded, to wit : First, that we have a good cow — good in form, that a profitable disposition may be made of the carcass for beef, when the cow is no longer wanted for the dairy — and a liberal and steady milker.

It is incomprehensible that poor cows should ever be used when good ones can be obtained at so small an advance upon the common price. And this is especially true where feed is high, and the animal is kept with a view of supplying milk and butter for the family or market. Indeed, inferior cows should not be kept for any purpose, but should be slaughtered for beef as soon as their inferiority is discovered. To keep an ill-formed cow or a poor milker for a breeder is even worse economy than for the dairy, as in this way we perpetuate and multiply unprofitable stock.

The second condition for success with a dairy cow is, that she have plenty to eat and the best and kindest treatment. . . But in no instance does full pasture or a proper supply of other food in winter, or when pasture is short, pay better than in the management of the dairy cow — the more plentiful the feed, the greater will be, not only the yield, but also the absolute profit."

This 19th Century Cow Theory Supporting Families in the 21st Century?

J.West's Joey, British White Bull Calf

 Yes, this Cow Theory has merit and value to small farming today, whether it be cows, pigs, or chickens, or any of a number of different livestock species suitable for home growing. In the United States, there is a growing group of citizens taking up backyard chickens in our cities, others in rural areas selecting dual purpose cattle to provide their own milk and beef, wild hogs are still captured and 'fed out' to supplement the rural person's income -- those are but a few of the many instances today where small livestock farming is providing vital income and food to sustain households.

Across the world, small livestock farming plays a vital role. The industrious can and do raise livestock to improve the quality of their lives, or merely to sustain a ready source of food for their families. An excellent example of this is in the Philippines. What follows is an excerpt from a 2010 article "Raising Livestock in the Philippines", and it well illustrates the 19th Century Cow Theory alive and well and working to sustain families in the 21st century:

"Filipinos raise animals in order to improve the quality of their lives. Many families today, both in the provinces and in the cities, engage in livestock raising to have a secured supply of food, support their daily needs, and have an additional income. Just like having a vegetable garden in the backyard, tending animals prove financially rewarding if done in the right way."
"For many smallholder farmers, livestock are the only ready source of cash to buy the inputs they need to increase their crop production, like seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides. Livestock income also goes towards buying things the farmers cannot make for themselves. And that includes paying for school fees. Income from cropping is highly seasonal, almost of it coming in just a few weeks after harvest. In contrast, small stock, with their high rates of reproduction and growth, can provide a regular source of income from sales. Larger animals, such as cattle, are a capital reserve, built up in good times to be used when crops are poor or when the family is facing large expenses, such as the cost of a wedding or a hospital bill."

In the progressive world of the 21st Century, we are faced with international efforts by the United Nations to bring the valuable function of the Cow Theory to an end. The United States is slated to be the proverbial 'guinea pig' for the world. Developing countries are slated to theoretically gain financially and environmentally from U.S. revenue generated by plans such as the now tabled 'Cap and Trade' bill much argued over by our U.S. Congress. Such taxation schemes could be said to be premised on the"Bull Theory".  Already, our own EPA has been granted via executive order broad and far-reaching authority to literally regulate the methane belches of your cattle -- if they so choose. 

It may be too late 10 or 20 years from now to turn back to the "Cow Theory", and rural areas across the globe will find the regulatory tape, fines, and fees resulting from carbon regulation and taxation a lot of Bull -- their lives forever changed and that of future generations.  So, get off the fence on this important issue, and keep your eyes and ears alert to the actions of the EPA, and support the efforts of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association to look out for for your land and your cattle.