Animal Welfare and Nosy Neighbors: When can your passion for a good cause, go too far?

 

I live in Chester County, Pennsylvania. I grew up in this county and have spent most of my adult life in this county, with the exception of west coast dreams and military aspirations. Chester County was founded by farmers and was built  into the booming and thriving economic mainstay that it is known for today, by city dwellers that wanted a “country” way of life for their summer homes. Then they decided to stay all year long. Before long the farms disappeared. Well, for the most part anyway. In northern Chester county, where I live, I am surrounded by developments, parks, open space preserved lots that are still being surrounded by even more developments, shopping centers, a mall, highways, a turnpike, business and industrial parks…the list could go on forever. While I love feeding people with the crops we produce, I am more of the animal lover. I love the livestock. I could spend all day out in the barn with the steers, heifers and cows. I love learning about them (which is never ending), keeping them feed, happy, and healthy to the best of my ability.

So imagine my surprise a couple months ago, when a local police officer knocks on my door and tells me that a “neighbor” has called in to report “excessive moo-ing” on my property and they would “kindly” like it to stop.

I’m sorry, what?

My response: “I don’t think my neighbor understands how a farm works…I should help them. Please let them know that they are welcome to stop by when it is convenient for them to do so, and we can discuss the particularly vocal heifer in question and how a heat cycle works in bovines.”

And considering how cool my local police department is, I’m almost positive my exact message was conveyed in its entirety. Needless to say, I haven’t had any issues, or contact, with said neighbor since. I will assume that they are not interested in the reproductive cycles of cows then. However, we are still open for having visitors that want to learn.

But the real reason for this particular post, is because of a situation that happened a couple days ago. About 2 months ago, we moved the two older heifers to the big farm, in preparation for my Jersey heifer (Coffee) to have her first calf. Wherever Coffee goes, Cole’s Red and White Holstein heifer, May goes. They are kind of inseparable. BFF’s if you will. During this time frame, we found that Coffee had contracted a skin parasite, known as mange mites. Yes, mange. There are an overabundance of foxes that live in this area that carry said parasite, and are known to run through our pastures (thank you fox hunters). So Coffee probably came into contact with the parasite out in the pasture at our house before being moved to the big farm. Because it spread so rapidly, she lost all her hair. Literally. I’ll be the first to admit that she looks like a huge naked mole rat. But we worked with the Veterinarian and after several pour-on treatments and injections, we are finally past the mange issue. Coffee had her calf as well, but the little sweet heifer didn’t make it. She was just too underdeveloped. Coffee is just as amazing as a cow as I knew she would be. She is healthy and milking like a champ, despite still working on growing her coat back. No big deal, right? Wrong. Cows, like kids, need to go outside for fresh air, when the weather permits. If they stay in a barn without proper air circulation, they can get sick. That’s not good. So Coffee and May were let out in a make shift pasture, next to the barn, with plenty of water and hay, to kick up their heels a little bit and to enjoy the 70 degree February weather.  Next to the highway.

Any guesses on what happened next?

Needless to say,  we were told that social media blew up with the sick looking, under fed cow that should be immediately taken away from its owners and the cops should be called.

Now I am all for animal welfare and being involved in honest, fact-driven, and honorable causes. Having a passion for something is a wonderful drive to have. But when you slander someone on social media because you think you know what you are talking about, or simply because you are behind a computer screen and feel anonymous, that’s when you need to take a step back and ask yourself a couple questions. For instance, if you see an animal that is causing you concern, are you willing to go talk to the person that lives there and offer to help? Can you honestly look at the situation in front of you and know you can tell the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy animal? No matter what species of animal it may be? If you can’t honestly answer these questions without a shadow of doubt or fear, then you should probably mind your own business and move along. Or at the very least, talk to someone you are comfortable with who DOES know about that kind of animal, or is able to go check it out for you. Especially before you post something on social media! I do not comment on any topic that I am not sure of the facts about. Ever. I have no problem telling someone, that I do not know the answer and I will get back to them when I do. Or, I find someone that does know about that subject, and point them in their direction. The more I know about something, the better I can help people understand. That goes for animal welfare, farming practices, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Fibromyalgia, etc. I am passionate about a LOT of things people! But I am also not going to make things up to fit my own opinions or agenda. That does nothing to advance fact based thinking. I want people to think before they react. Seeing a cow in a pasture, with another cow, enjoying life and basking in the warm sun, is the sign of a responsible farmer.

So in the spirit of transparency, I’ll add in some pictures to go along with this narrative.

This is what Coffee normally looks like:

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And this is what Coffee looks like right now

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Yes, she looks like a giant naked mole rat with an udder. But do not shame my cow. She’s special.

I mean really, if we can complain about body shaming women who do not fit a media induced “standard”, then why can’t I put a stop to complete strangers shaming my poor little Jersey on social media?!? And any farmer who has had ringworm or mange go through their barn, feels my pain. These things happen, and its our own worst nightmare. We don’t need any outside help to make it worse.

So I implore you, for those that have passions as big as mine. Do your research. Use facts, not biased sources. Don’t use social media as gossip column. If you want information, ask someone who knows, or go to the source itself. We would have been happy to tell you exactly why Coffee looks the way she does, as well as why you shouldn’t jump to conclusions.

And if you want to have a good laugh, Check out this Penn and Teller  video on YouTube. This is exactly why everyone should know what they are passionate about.

++Strong Language is Used++

 

And remember to stay positive and smile. No one likes having a bad day.

 

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