Curbing the Ballooning Bovine Population

(Originally ran on September 15th, 2003)

Before I get started, I'd like to give a shout out to the good people at Remington, who invented the "Shift" key 125 years ago. Thanks to their fine efforts, I can type the word "bOOgeR!" in a fun upper/lower case combination.

I'd also like to voice my support of a conceptual supergroup made up of the surviving members of the Beatles and the Who. Think about it: the Beatles still have their drummer and bass player, and the Who still have a lead singer and lead guitarist. It's perfect. They could tour as "The Whootles" and perform innovative new songs like "I Wanna Hold Your Baba O' Reilly." It's a plan and a half, baby.

Now on to the important stuff.

I spent last summer doing Public Affairs for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. One day I was looking at the national website, browsing through some recent news items, when I came across the following quote from Dr. Robert Mead:

"The DNA evidence proved conclusively that the stolen calves were the offspring of another man's cows."

Apparently some rancher had decided to apply the old five-finger discount to his neighbor's calves. Thanks to modern DNA technology, the unseemly cattle rustler was brought to justice.

Or was he?

I can't help but wonder whether the accused rancher was taking a fall on behalf of the real perpetrator. A perpetrator that weighs somewhere between two and three thousand pounds. I'm wondering if this wasn't another case of bovine infidelity.

We all know that cows are apt to wander into uncharted territory. For the most part, they stay together, munching their grass and minding their own business. But now and then a sense of adventure grips one of these unlikely beasts, and then you've got trouble brewing. All it takes is one misdirected late night stroll into a neighboring field and Big Harold has some serious explaining to do.

Just what are the implications of bovine infidelity? Can we really cope in a world that sees cows behaving like cats or members of the Real World cast? I'm not sure we realize the unholy terror such a world would be, let alone our campus.

Back home we'd have to put up with all kinds of stray cats. They'd run around at night, jumping out in front of cars when you were driving home. Cats are pretty quick, but when was the last time you tried to dodge a cow in the middle of the road?

Neighbor cats were always pawing at the back door at my Grandparent's place. How would Grandpa and Grandma react if they had a 2000-pound heifer wanting to come in and play with the rubber mouse?

One winter morning we found a dead cat in our window well. That's bad enough, but imagine coming outside in the morning and being greeted by a frozen side of beef stuck in there! That's no good!

Maybe Bob Barker should modify his line at the end of the Price Is Right to read "Please remember to spay and neuter your pets and cattle."

Maybe the government could sponsor special population control hunts if things got too out of hand. Bands of enthusiastic weekend warriors could take to the hills in the hopes of thinning the herd and bagging the biggest Bessie of the year.

This may all sound pretty stupid, but apparently there are wild cows out there. Two summers ago I watched a buddy of mine participate in a "Milk the Wild Cow" contest at the Pleasant Grove Rodeo. It was hilarious to watch, but what I couldn't figure out is why all these guys can rope a speedy little calf in under ten seconds, then go for ten minutes and only have one team manage to rope and milk the mega-beef-beast. That keeps me up nights.

Anyway, you don't raise wild cows. They're wild. That means they're not domesticated. I've seen roaming Bison in Yellowstone, but I've never come across any free-spirited cattle herds running the range along I-15 in open defiance of custom fencing. Maybe I'm just a dumb suburban kid, but all I'm saying is the problem may be more real than we think.

All we know for sure is that we can stop cattle rustling with DNA testing. But we'd better be aware of bovine infidelity, or we may be dumped with more than we can handle (see graph). So please, spay and neuter your pets and dairy or beef cattle, and keep your hands off of your neighbor's calves.