Haley Mouser - MN State Jr Beef Ambassador
Do the things that make you happy make a cow happy? If you like what you see and it makes you feel good, does that make a cow feel good? We all understand that farm animals live differently than we do. We like the idea of a big red barn. It’s nostalgic and stirs up emotions of times gone by, simpler times. Even the Animal Welfare Institute likes the idea of “straw-bedded barns.” We want our city houses to look like farm houses. We want our dogs to live like people. We want to feel good. We want to believe that if the situation an animal is in would not make us happy, it must not make them happy either. However, cows are different. What makes us happy is not going to make them happy.
Cows eat grass. People don’t. Cows defecate no matter where they are nor do they care about timing. People don’t. Cows have hooves. People don’t. Cows live outside. People live inside. Cows don’t speak. People do. Cows can be content, secure, and satisfied, happy, when all their needs, having food, water, and a dry place to lay down, are met. How do you know a cow is content? It’s simple, when they are chewing their cud or laying down they are typically content. Content cows are happy cows.
How can we ensure content cows when they live outside? Could we ever build enough barns to house every cow during inclement weather? No. My family and I have a small herd of thirty cows, specifically Hereford cows, in northern Minnesota. We face difficult weather on a regular basis and experience temperature extremes of -40 below zero to 90 degrees above zero in just a matter of months. To bed our barn with straw, house all 30 animals, provide water, food, and ventilation would be difficult. What do we do during inclement weather? We provide for their needs. They have access to food, which is hay or pasture. They have plenty of water during the heat and the water stays unthawed in the cold. They have access to shelter or a wind-break. And lastly they have access to a dry place to lay down. I cannot tell you how much I love seeing content cows. When I can walk by my cattle and see them chewing their cud in all types of weather and situations, I know that they are content and fully satisfied.
The same goes for cattle in feedyards. Even though they may not have access to pasture, they have a personal nutritionist who develops their daily rations. They have people who ride pens daily to make sure they are healthy. They have everything they need: food, water, and a dry place to lay down. When driving by a feedyard, instead of seeing sickly, depressed cattle we actually see cattle who are content, chewing their cud and laying down. Even though we might not feel good when looking at cattle in a feedyard or seeing cattle outside in inclement weather, those cattle can still feel good, and as long as they have their needs met and are chewing their cud, they are content, happy cows.