Wagner: Cows appreciate when you don’t litter

Farm Forum

Trash. Garbage. Refuse. However you look at it, whatever you call it, it all adds up to the same — a mess.

But it’s not just an eyesore and a problem for the environment. It can also be dangerous.

Recently I had a friend from Wisconsin who ended up having to euthanize one of her dairy cows. The culprit? It appeared as if the cow ended up with hardware. Hardware is a condition where a cow eats something that cannot be digested, such as metal, plastic, etc. The object then can puncture the reticulum, and can be pushed through to puncture other organs, such as the sack around the heart.

Sometimes the symptoms of hardware can be treated, such as having the cow swallow a magnet to keep metal from being pushed through the reticulum, or administering antibiotics and anti-inflammatories to help relieve infection and swelling.

Cows are kind of like 2-year-olds, meaning that they’ll basically swallow anything within reach and that they don’t necessarily chew their food completely before swallowing. Which is where each one of us can play a role in helping our herds stay healthy.

If you take a drive down any road — highway, gravel, it doesn’t matter — it’s apparent that we still have a littering issue. And trash is the enemy, on so many levels.

It doesn’t take a very large piece of sharp metal or hard plastic to kill a cow that swallows it. Something the size of a quarter can be just as deadly as anything larger.

There are steps that many farms and ranches use to ensure their herd stays safe. We can use metal detectors and magnets and can monitor our herd health and evaluate our feed. Yet the best defense is a good offense.

Garbage has a place, and it’s not our ditches, our fields or our pastures. It’s not city streets and sidewalks; it’s not yards or parking lots. I have yet to see a city without garbage cans somewhere. Put the trash where it belongs.

When garbage such as cans and bottles end up in our ditches, it’s not only an eyesore, but it’s dangerous to animals of all types. When the ditches are cut for hay, the cans and hard plastic can be picked up, eventually making their way into a feed supply. What saved one person a few seconds of having to hold onto their trash until they reached an appropriate receptacle can end up costing an animal its life.

In the year 2014, it’s hard to believe that we still need to be telling adults why we need to keep the environment around us clean. Yet every day we see signs of the lack of respect that some have for the Earth. We talk about what’s best for the next generation – maybe we can take a minute out of talking and show a little action.

And for those that volunteer to walk ditches and do their part, thank you. Not just from humans, but animals as well.

Val Wagner loves raising her four boys on the farm in Dickey County, along with her husband, Mark. Catch her blog, Wag’n Tales, at wagfarms.wordpress.com, or follow one of their cows on Twitter @Cows_Life. Contact her at wagntales@gmail.com.