Cyndi's Two Cents

The great divide


Sitting in the alleyway of our “big” barn sipping Coca-Colas while trying to cool down after long hours in the heat of the day, we caught up with a neighbor we hadn’t seen for a while.  Politics, religion and farming are all acceptable topics when we get together.  I almost always pick up a nugget to share in this column when we visit with this neighbor who has been farming with his wife for more than 50 years.

Since we’d last visited, our neighbor had a medical procedure performed so had spent as much time as he could stand with doctors, nurses and a surgeon.  One of the doctors had been pleased to hear that our neighbor is a farmer.

“When I retire,” the doctor said, “I plan to do a little farming.”

My neighbor didn’t miss a beat with his response.  “When I retire,” he said, “I plan to do a little surgery.”

Many people fantasize about idyllic life on a farm.  It’s a good life but it is hard work and no job for sissies.

A post on Facebook last week featured a picture of a dozen cow carcasses lying under a tree.  The cattle were victims of a lightning strike on a ranch in Oklahoma.  It’s a gut-wrenching reality on many levels.  It’s not only the loss of those production females, but the genetic history and potential that cannot easily be replaced.  It’s an economic loss, of course, and any stockman that cares for livestock feels a sense of loss for each of those individual animals.  We all know these things happen, but in the back of any livestock owner’s mind is the question “What could I or should I have done to prevent this?” We all know there is no good answer to that question and overthinking it isn’t going to bring those cows back.

I wasn’t prepared for the comments responding to this post.  People with no experience in caring for livestock wondered why the cattle hadn’t been moved to a “safe” shelter.  One person said if the rancher knew there was bad weather in the area, he should have brought the cattle into a barn instead of leaving them out in the open.

We talk until we are blue in the face about the disconnect between the people who grow the food and the people who consume it.  Almost every ag group and ag company in this country has proposed some sort of initiative to have respectful and meaningful dialogue about food and agriculture with those who are often generations removed from the farm. This post was the perfect example of how many people know very little about animal agriculture.  This post and the comments about it set the stage for the perfect opportunity to educate consumers.

Unfortunately, it went another direction.

Instinctively, the first thing I wanted to do was type a note and blast everyone who judged the rancher for his animal care practices.  I did not. But a whole bunch of other people did.

One person responded: “Obviously, you know absolutely nothing about raising cattle. Eat more chicken.”

There were more insults hurled against the uninformed consumers but no need to repeat them.  If we are ever going to bust those myths everyone talks about, we need to have a dialogue, not an argument.  The anti-ag groups eat this up because when we respond to consumers in this manner, we are just making it easier for them to convince more people to stop eating meat.

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