The Contrarian


My neighbour Big Joe dropped in for coffee the other day, and got off on one of his rants about how everything has to be carried to extremes any more, whether it is the hula hoop fad or the latest business school theory, such as ‘Management by Objective’ or ‘Zero-based Budgetting’ or ‘Just-in-time Purchasing’ or animal rights or dioxin or global warming.  I didn’t interrupt to say hula hoops was a long time ago, best to let him go on when he gets on a roll.  Apparently it was cows got him going, he thinks his little herd is under attack by what he calls the do-gooders.

Seems somebody did a paper some years ago promoting the notion that we shouldn’t feed grain to cows, because cows can eat grass and the grain would go further if it was fed directly to humans instead of making beef.  Of course the paper missed the point that the reason humans are starving is not that there is a shortage of food but that they can’t afford to buy any.

I put in ‘yep, and if food is too expensive, how come all the farmers are going broke?’, but he didn’t touch that line, so I went on ‘yep cows can sure eat a lot of different stuff, not as good as goats mind you, but I remember seeing cows in Texas eating prickly pear cactus’.

Joe ignored that one too, and went on that only perfect grain goes to feed humans, grain which doesn’t meet the standard is fed to animals, so if we didn’t feed grain to animals, people are going to have to learn to eat some pretty disgusting out-of-condition grain.  Which made me think of the time we put the pigs inside one spring after being out for a few weeks, and the build-up of frozen grain in the corners of the feed troughs had all thawed out and fermented, and the pigs thought that spoiled grain was delicious, I remember thinking those drunk pigs staggering around squealing their heads off was hilarious, but I decided not to interrupt Joe again by telling him this story.

So Joe goes on to say that the next academic on the poor cows back came up with the theory that bovine flatulence (that’s cow farts, son) was contributing to the greenhouse effect.  Of course this is ridiculous, every medium-sized marsh generates more methane than all the cows in creation, but then nobody ever accused do-gooders of an overload of common sense, and they got right on that one.

So now we have two theories as to why cows should not exist.  The trouble is, the two theories are at odds with each other. As every farmer knows, bovines only get real flatulent (lovely word, isn’t it, it just conveys the image of a fat cow letting one go so nicely),  they only get real flatulent when they go out on fresh grass in the spring, so if you are worried about flatulence, keep the cows inside and feed them grain.

The do-gooders solution to this catch 22 is there shouldn’t be any cows at all.  So the campaign that starts out restricting feeding grain to cows so there will be more food for humans ended up restricting cows instead.  So now land which will only grow grass will not be used, and there will be less food, not more.  “Of course this all makes sense to a do-gooder academic’ grumps Joe

I allowed that there is a move toward grass-fed beef, so some people must recognize the problem, but that didn’t seem to settle him down.  Then I suggested maybe all the grassland could be given over to raising goats, which are more civilized that cows anyway, they package their manure up in neat little pellets instead of great messy plops, and their milk is healthier.  All this got me was a look that would wilt a plastic carnation from Joe,  I guess he thought it was so dumb as not worth a reply because he didn’t say anything

I think maybe I am on to something here.  Maybe I should get hooked up with some of those city-bred do-gooder academics Joe is always talking about, and we will show the beef farmers something.  Or maybe not.

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