Three weeks ago we spent some time in Minneapolis visiting our daughter. On a nice Saturday morning we walked two blocks down the street to explore a dog festival. It was interesting with 65 to 70 displays of all kinds of information relating to the care and comfort of dogs.
Lots of people were wandering around with their dogs of all sizes, shapes and kinds on their leashes . They were obviously interested in ways to take good care of their pets. As we looked around, the activity made me think of a very small-scale Ohio Farm Science Review were farmers visit to learn the latest in livestock care and grain production. Or an OSU Extension meeting or the county fair, both educational programs.
Our livestock farmers are as interested in providing the best of care to their animals as are dog and other pet lovers. One main difference is they can't give quite the one-on-one individual attention to a herd of cows that pet lovers give to one or two. But they are committed to quality care for their animals.
For example, many dairy herd owners today hire a nutritionist to help them provide the right nutrition for animals. This nutritionist will test the silage, hay and other roughage the cows get. Using the nutritional information from these tests, they develop a grain ration that will provide the other needed nutrients for milk production and body health of the animals. Some of our larger herds may be divided, with different feeds provided, depending on milk production and the needs of the animals.
If they have a smaller herd, they may depend on their feed company to provide their nutritional information.
Another way livestock owners are similar to pet lovers is they regularly use a veterinarian to prevent herd health problems. They often have their vet do a monthly herd health check. Each animal is checked for body and feet and leg conditions. Any that have been bred may be checked to be sure they are pregnant.
We still have two types of housing for dairy cattle in this area. Larger herds are in free-stall barns while some smaller herds can be in tie stall or stanchion barns. Free-stall barns allow the animals to move around as they please and eat or drink any time. Stalls are well-bedded with straw, sawdust or dry sand, which makes a good, healthful bed.
Cows are more confined in the tie stall or stanchion barns and exercise usually is provided by turning them outside once or twice a day. Tie stall and stanchions do allow more individual attention to the animals. They are also a more labor intensive way of handling the herd.
Like pet lovers who are concerned when some problem comes up with their dog or cat, livestock farmers are the same way with their animals. Most of them will walk their herds every day to check each animal for obvious problems.
They are concerned about the condition of the feet and legs of their animals. Hoof and lag problems lead to lower milk production because the animals are uncomfortable and can't get around like they need to. So most dairy farmers have a regular hoof trimming program to keep the cows standing right and avoid leg problems.
Yes, there is unfortunately an occasional pet owner who abuses their pets. None of us like to see that. And there is the occasional livestock owner who doesn't do the best job with their animals. They often do not stay in business very long.
So there are many similarities between the way pet lovers care for their animals and dairy and other livestock owners care for theirs. The dog festival was an interesting experience!
Parker is an independent agricultural writer and works with the local Farm Bureau Board.