February is Responsible Pet Owner’s Month! While a lot of folks probably don’t think that livestock farmers think of their cows, chickens, and pigs as pets … well, a lot of them do. Here’s how we participate in Responsible Pet Owner’s Month – agriculture style.
Thanks to Rosie for helping us understand responsible livestock care from a farmer’s perspective!
We have all seen and read numerous articles from humane societies and other organizations about American farmers and our “mistreatment” of animals. Whenever I see one of these articles, I often wonder what the answer would be if I asked the authors of those articles exactly how many farms they have visited lately to see first hand how farmers handle their animals. If I had to guess, it is a very small number, if any.
When people read articles like these, they forget to take one very important thing into consideration: the credibility of the author. Even if the authors hold a position of authority for a company or site other sources for their information, I find that the topic of livestock production and treatment of the animals can only be truly understood from a first-hand experience. Sure, you could research the topic and find information about it, but how do you really know what is happening on our farms unless you have experienced it first-hand?
As someone with 20 years of experience on a livestock production farm, I would like to take this opportunity to THANK our farmers for their hard work and responsible animal care- this should be a nice change of pace!
Like any typical farm kid, I spent ten years participating in the County 4-H fairs showing cattle and pigs. In those ten years, I got to see not only how my family handles our animals, but how numerous other families handle their livestock as well. I can honestly say those farm families have a great respect for the animals that they raise, in fact, the only minor mistreatment of animals I can remember were caused by pedestrians at the fairs who were unfamiliar with how to properly handle animals.
Many practices that farmers commonly use are misconstrued by the general public and seen as mistreatment when, in fact, it is helpful to the animal. One example of this is our use of a “show stick” when showing cattle. From a spectator’s point of view, it looks like the people showing the animals are just poking the cattle with a sharp stick. The show sticks are used to communicate to the animal how we would like their feet placed on the ground. As is the case with most large animals, cattle have much deeper nerve endings than humans, so what we would see as a painful poke, they feel like a nudge and they move their feet accordingly. Another main use of these show sticks is to rub the underbellies of the cattle in the show ring to keep them calm and comfort them because they are in a new setting. This is just one of many examples of misinterpreted actions that farmers use when handling animals.
Growing up in a farm community, I also got to see how other farm operations handled their livestock at home on the farm. Once again, I have always seen animals treated with respect and often cared for like members of the family. On our farm, each of our cows is still named and that is how we keep track of them in our record books!
Responsible animal care is an important issue, and thus should not be overlooked. For any skeptics about my claims of good animal care on farms, look into the regulations that producers have to follow that were put into place by government organizations. Just like anyone else, farmers have rules to follow that ensure the well-being of every animal, and from my first-hand experience of 20 years on a farm, farmers are glad to follow those rules and would not raise their animals without the care and respect that they deserve.
Once again, thank you, farmers, for your hard work and responsible animal care! Even though the countless articles that paint a bad picture of our farms continue to come, farmers continue to believe in what they do and the manner in which they do it, and I am proud to call myself one of them.
Illinois State University student
Animal Industry Management