Standing around, chewing mouthfuls of cud, gazing at nothing.
September 13, 2014 11:15 PM   Subscribe

 
They just basically want to know if whatever the hell you're doing has anything to do with them.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 11:33 PM on September 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


let me guess. they're gods.
posted by philip-random at 11:34 PM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


or in the parlance, atom heart mothers
posted by philip-random at 11:37 PM on September 13, 2014


Obligatory and always delightful Jazz for Cows.
posted by Anitanola at 12:10 AM on September 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


What does it mean that "cattle can smell odors five miles away"? I am pretty sure cows smell things like we do, by inhaling particles of those things.

Maybe it's shorthand for "cows can smell things at levels of concentration resulting from dispersal over five miles", but those levels would depend on... a lot of stuff. Five miles seems like a meaningless benchmark.
posted by aws17576 at 12:11 AM on September 14, 2014 [7 favorites]


[One comment removed. Let's maybe let the discussion of the info contained in the article get underway before starting with "I like to eat them" sorts of derails? Thanks. ]
posted by taz at 12:33 AM on September 14, 2014 [10 favorites]


Cattle also excel at audio. A human who hears something can usually pinpoint its location to within 5 degrees. Cattle can narrow it down to within 30 degrees.

So, they have less precise hearing?

That said, I appreciated the various facts, even if they pretty much fell in line with my expectations.
posted by JauntyFedora at 1:19 AM on September 14, 2014


Who is Modern Farmer's audience? None of this should be news to anyone who handles stock.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:44 AM on September 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Cattle also excel at audio. A human who hears something can usually pinpoint its location to within 5 degrees. Cattle can narrow it down to within 30 degrees.

Yeah this is backwards. Humans are unusually good at pinpointing where sounds come from. This is due to our narrow range of vision. We need to be able to look right at the sound immediately. We are really good at that, we can get our heads turned and eyes pointed before any conscious thought occurs.

Herbivores have much wider range of vision, I want to say it's 270 degrees or something ridiculous like that. So their ability to pin point sounds isn't as well developed.

And that folks, is your weird science fact of the day.
posted by fshgrl at 1:44 AM on September 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


Almost every sentence is crying out for a "citation needed" tag, but I think the bigger issue is that Modern Farmer seems like one hell of a weird place to publish this information unless you just delight in causing existential crises.

"The herd you are raising for slaughter is smarter than you think. Each one, though destined to have its throat slit and its lifeblood slowly drained, is aware of its world in rich, complex ways, sometimes besting human experience. Bessie, in the north field, seems to be mindlessly chewing her cud, but she is thinking about her calves, her deep maternal affection for them and her duty to them. Thoughts of her calves will likely be the last thing on her mind before she is ground to hamburger. Those calves, by the way, appreciate that you have given them separate names, that you notice their personality quirks, although they often wish that you would notice their true names, the deep lowing sounds they use to call out to each other, asking a friend to come near or calling for a lost child. You, kind farmer, never seem to realize that those are names, the very names they will cry loudly, in horror and dismay, when the day of sale and slaughter inevitably comes. But perhaps inevitable is the wrong word. Their fate is not settled. It is not determined by the stars or the whims of the gods. You decided this. You chose. These gentle creatures, researchers tell us, enjoy solving simple puzzles, but they will never solve the puzzle of their existence. None are able to imagine that you, their provider and friend, will some morning come bearing the skull-hammer and throat-knife, or bear them away to one who does. In the worst of human nightmares we think that perhaps our lives are determined by capricious gods who think nothing of our inner lives, our joys, or our pain. For us, that is only a passing thought, a shudder in the night. For the cows--your cows--it is reality. You are their god and have determined that each in turn will die in pain and be forgotten. They do not know their destiny, only you do--you, gentleman farmer, gracious steward, horrific elder-god, demon king, ritual slaughterer of cattle-kind for generation upon generation."
posted by Pater Aletheias at 2:10 AM on September 14, 2014 [63 favorites]


I'm going through a crisis, and this taking itself too seriously article allowed me to chuckle for a moment, and for that I am grateful.
posted by Aranquis at 2:54 AM on September 14, 2014


Who is Modern Farmer's audience? None of this should be news to anyone who handles stock.

I enjoyed this article, and check the Modern Farmer website regularly for this kind of content. As a vegan, I love animals, but keep a respectful distance; so I enjoy reading about their natures - even though the inherent contradictions (as illustrated perfectly by Pater Aletheias) tend to be in the forefront of my mind while reading MF articles.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 3:03 AM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Who is Modern Farmer's audience? None of this should be news to anyone who handles stock.

But it does allow their readers to feel superior to all those dumb city slickers who have no idea about their cows' rich inner lives.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:38 AM on September 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Apparently they have tools we can't even understand.
posted by Segundus at 4:05 AM on September 14, 2014 [21 favorites]


Apparently they have tools we can't even understand.

Nice! That was solid.
posted by Carillon at 4:15 AM on September 14, 2014


Herbivores have much wider range of vision, I want to say it's 270 degrees or something ridiculous like that. So their ability to pin point sounds isn't as well developed.

"Eyes on the side, I like to hide. Eyes up front, I like to hunt."
posted by valkane at 4:35 AM on September 14, 2014 [18 favorites]


Almost every sentence is crying out for a "citation needed" tag, but I think the bigger issue is that Modern Farmer seems like one hell of a weird place to publish this information unless you just delight in causing existential crises.

Well, there is a small audience known as dairy farmers who don't raise animals for immediate slaughter.

I grew up living near cows. They are nice, gentle animals who are happy to see humans (as usual, with the hope of getting some tasty food, maybe apples or at least a big clump of grass from the other side of the fence). This article points out all the nice things about them, but I worry it romanticizes things a bit much for people who are thinking about going into the business. Farming is hard work. It's not just moving the animals around from pasture to pasture and milking them, it's growing the crops that will feed them during the winter. Well, that and shovelling all the shit out of the barn. I understand farmers are starting to use robots to help with all the work, but I'm still quite happy to just appreciate them from a distance.
posted by A dead Quaker at 5:50 AM on September 14, 2014 [3 favorites]




I would like to take this opportunity to point out the totally uncontroversial fact that the belted Galloway is the best cow.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:20 AM on September 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Car!
posted by Poldo at 6:23 AM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Cows are 100% awesome when they're just doing their cow thing.

My aunt had a small farm when I was growing up. The animals weren't there to be raised as food. My aunt just legit enjoyed having farm animals around.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 6:30 AM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Who is Modern Farmer's audience?

Yeah. If I have to read one more time about that damn moocow coming down the road and baby tuckoo et al, I'm going to lose it. Give me Neoclassical Farmer any day of the week.
posted by yoink at 6:43 AM on September 14, 2014 [9 favorites]


They do not know their destiny, only you do--you, gentleman farmer, gracious steward, horrific elder-god, demon king, ritual slaughterer of cattle-kind for generation upon generation.

but, but, but - i like to eat them
posted by pyramid termite at 7:23 AM on September 14, 2014


ROU_Xenophobe is absolutely correct, except for the misspelling of "Jersey".
posted by wintermind at 7:27 AM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


And to engage with the article, I do think that it's good for non-farmers to understand that food animals have much more complex lives, in a behavioral sense, than popular culture would lead you to believe. I suppose you could argue that's part of some plan to desensitize people to the fact that many of us eat these animals and don't really want to face what that means head-on, but I suspect it's really because very few people grow up around these animals any more. And it's yet one more reminder that we have an ethical responsibility to treat the animals we eat and milk and take eggs from as humanely as we can.
posted by wintermind at 7:32 AM on September 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


Well, there is a small audience known as dairy farmers who don't raise animals for immediate slaughter.

I hate to break it to you, but what do you think happens to boy dairy cows?
posted by emilyw at 8:07 AM on September 14, 2014 [6 favorites]


In my experience, cows are as smart, interesting, and thoughtful as most humans.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:07 AM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've always figured cows to be basically on the same intellectual and emotional level as horses, which makes the anglo readiness to slaughter and eat one but not the other very strange and hypocritical to my mind.

Sheep, though. There were several herds of free-ranging sheep around where I grew up, and I've always thought they were dumb as anything. Not enough sense to get out of the way of a slow-rising flood.
posted by erlking at 8:10 AM on September 14, 2014


I grew up living near cows. They are nice, gentle animals who are happy to see humans (as usual, with the hope of getting some tasty food, maybe apples or at least a big clump of grass from the other side of the fence).

I lived next to a dairy farm in Germany, and ended up hanging out with my neighbor's herd every day after school. He taught me how to milk the ones that were terrified of the milking machine, and they really did just act like oversized puppy dogs looking for treats. I developed a great affection for cows, and now drive my husband nuts with demands that he pull over so I can pet the cows when we encounter a herd. (More than one farmer has reacted with bemusement when I have asked if I could come into the pasture. But they always say yes.)

In short, cows are awesome, and I love them.

ROU_Xenophobe is absolutely correct, except for the misspelling of "Jersey".

ITYM Holstein, as the 100 or so Holstein figurines, plaques, windchimes, and stuffies all over my house will attest.
posted by MissySedai at 8:13 AM on September 14, 2014 [6 favorites]


wintermind, that's the oddest spelling of Hereford I have ever seen.
posted by drfu at 8:38 AM on September 14, 2014


Close observation of cattle has led me to eat very little beef. Close observation of chickens has led to the opposite, I'm afraid.
posted by underflow at 8:43 AM on September 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


I hate to break it to you, but what do you think happens to boy dairy cows?

I bet they live long, happy lives full of good food and companionship.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 8:52 AM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


My wife's grandfather was a gentleman farmer (as he himself called it) with a small herd of dairy cows. The state purchased part of his land to build a new interstate and it separated the larger part of his fields from the barn area. So the state dutifully built a tunnel under the roadway to allow the cows to pass into the pasture area. The cows, however, wouldn't go through it.

Eventually, someone figured it out it was the sound of the hooves echoing in the tunnel that bothered them. So they carpeted the tunnel. Problem solved.

My wife would hang out with her grandfather regularly and can attest to their sense of hierarchy. When it was time for milking, they would line up in order and heaven help the cow who tried to take another cow's place in line.
posted by tommasz at 8:58 AM on September 14, 2014 [8 favorites]


Close observation of cattle has led me to eat very little beef. Close observation of chickens has led to the opposite, I'm afraid.

Close observation of chickens has led you to eat lots of beef?
posted by asterix at 9:10 AM on September 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


drfu, you mispelled Friesians.
posted by Pendragon at 9:38 AM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


chickens aren't as smart as some vegetables
posted by philip-random at 9:49 AM on September 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


My parents have a small farm, which they started about nine or ten years ago after leaving the city. During those nine or ten years, they’ve had all kinds of animals, but a few storied steers stand out.

One was a big red Brahman named Billy. He was pretty talkative, and the moment he saw you he’d start bellowing, even from a mile away. So you’d head over there and the bellows would get softer and softer until you got right up to him and could start scritching his head. God damn, he loved that.

Another was named Handsome, and he really was like a big dog, to the point that he’d try to roughhouse with my mom and she’d eventually have to smack him on the head or something. Handsome he was, too, with a gorgeous tan coat that blended into these seriously jet-black socks on all four legs.* He was great.

When my parents were first starting their new project, they’d buy newborn calves to bottle feed in this sort of nursery they’d built. For whatever reason, the first few calves died the day they came home or the day after, either from shock or who knows what—my parents couldn’t quite pin it down, and it was pretty discouraging.

Enter Handsome. He’s a day or two old, kind of reluctantly taking to the bottle, and his outlook is dimming like it did for the others. It was a warmer spring day, and for the sake of trying something different my parents introduced him to the outside. For the first few hours he was still kind of gloomy-looking, sitting in the sun and looking like he was going to shuffle his mortal coil at any moment.

But for whatever reason, he started rebounding, to the point that he actually started getting up and standing on his own (something the others never did). Then he started walking around and looking at stuff, and before you knew it he was even a bit energetic. He made it!

Fast forward a few years, and he’d recognize you like Billy did (without being obnoxious about it), and he’d quietly saunter up to you and hang out, obviously hoping you had an apple or some other treat. Rambunctious or not, he was a real sweetheart, and I loved him to bits.

But he was a steer, and without his balls he cost more to feed than my parents could justify, so his time eventually came. I wasn’t around when he was sent to freezer camp, and I actually wasn’t aware that it had happened at all for quite a while.

So then, I was visiting on a break from school or something, and my parents whip out a bangin’, seriously damn good steak for lunch. So I’m sitting, eating this juicy steak and chatting with my parents when my younger sister comes up to me in a fit of giggles, her composure fraying at the seams when she manages to blurt out “Guess who that is!”

It's harder to eat steak when you're frowning, but you can do it.

* I was trying to figure out what breed Handsome was when I learned that Square Meaters exist.
posted by Chutzler at 10:53 AM on September 14, 2014 [8 favorites]


That's....actually not a happy story </understatement
posted by glasseyes at 1:40 PM on September 14, 2014


Every since my experience with managing cows, I have relished every bite of BBQ, roast beef sandwich, and medium-rare steak even more.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:35 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Physically, intellectually and emotionally, ______ are far more complex than we give them credit for. Applies to most living things, I'd wager.
posted by jetsetsc at 8:17 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


've always figured cows to be basically on the same intellectual and emotional level as horses,


Horses are much more of a pain in the ass than cows because they are only somewhat smarter but they are much more creative thinkers. Also they have prehensile noses.
posted by fshgrl at 8:55 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Who's this "we," kemosabe?

I hate to break it to you, but what do you think happens to boy dairy cows?

I was surprised to see this ad on BART the other night. Maybe things are changing.

Dairy is an evil business. Don't buy into it.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:05 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


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