Best Friends

I visited two clients today and after finding and checking the last heifer, I was tired from several hours of work, and I slogged through more mud as I headed back to my truck. I was at an open lot heifer ranch that, like the rest of the central valley, was pretty muddy from the recent rains.

I washed my boots off at the water hose, and then washed them a second time on my tailgate because they got so muddy getting back from the water hose.

My drive out of the ranch took me by their office, and I saw the wired haired butterscotch mutt, who had been hanging with me while I worked the heifers.

He too was tired.

I rolled down my window to take a picture of this odd couple, and one of the employees told me they are best friends.

Don’t worry if your best friend doesn’t look like you, just enjoy their presence 🙂

Connecting Dots

My Co-op post yesterday got me thinking even more about connecting the fields of Modern Agriculture and Conservation Biology.

I remembered a group of researchers being led by Dr. Katy Proudfoot at The Ohio State University. They are looking at spatial use of maternity pens by dairy cows. These maternity pens are typically small (1,000-3,000 square feet) and can have a high cattle stocking density (I believe only 50 square feet per cow is common)

As a Wildlife Sciences undergraduate, I would have found the opportunity to collaborate with a veterinary group as an extremely attractive project. So today I reached out to the College if Natural Resources at the University of Idaho, to see if I could connect with anyone there who would be interested in helping the veterinary group on these studies.

I also tweeted at a post-doc researcher who has done much work on white nose syndrome in bats. She said she may know some people from the conservation side interested!

On the natural resources side, determining spatial use is a major pillar of conservation research, and maintaining the proper environment to maximise use is a fundamental task of ecologists.

On the veterinary side, we often talk about barn design to control the environment in favor of the cows, i.e. proper ventilation, temperature control, access and delivery of food and water, waste management etc. We spend very little time thinking about the cow’s preference or biological drive, and Dr. Proudfoot’s team is leading the way in that area.


We could be talking about a housing unit for chickens, or we could talk about my favorite type of video (and board) game – wherein you play with a friend instead of going solo. Instead, let’s consider “CO-OP”s, organizations explicitly arranged around cooperative action.

My family was, as many other homeschool families were, part of a food purchasing co-op. I can remember, on occasion, helping sort hundreds of pounds of bagged bulk-grains into each families pile per what they had ordered. This co-op gave us access to resources and prices we could not have easily obtained from other methods.

But that’s not even the co-op I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about the $50,000 lecture. You see, I heard a lecture in undergrad that the prof called his fifty thousand dollar lecture, and he hadn’t even given it that name. It was the same lecture he had given to land and resource managers within the USFS, FWS, and BLM sometime before. After delivering the speech, a gentleman approached him and asked where he had been 5 years ago, because that talk would have saved him fifty grand and years of wasted time.

The essence of the lecture was teaching us to find sustainable solutions to conflict. Public lands are used in as many ways as their are people who want to use them, and as future managers of those land resources, we need to find solutions to ongoing deep conflicts over the lands. The best way to do this – CO-OPs of the stakeholders, the people who really care about the lands. No matter how far they seem to be divided, user groups that respect each other can actually agree on many things as good for the land and the future, and finding common ground can get people off their accusative rhetorics and onto beneficial solutions and teamwork.

It was an absolutely beautiful lecture, and I’ve carried the thought with me when I’m looking for solutions to any kind of conflict.

Unfortunately, respect seems to be rapidly draining from our public conversations. Outrage is the new norm. We feel the need to silence all dissenting voices, and disagreement is perceived as equivalent to hate.

I rejoiced when I recently heard about someone bucking this trend, and pursuing meaningful conversation from all sides, and real change. Not only a positive example of this kind of co-op, but one that bridges two places of my own experience and passion that are deep to me. Two separate societies, of which I am a committed member of both, that don’t see eye to eye, and often think the other has done little more than given them a black eye. I long to see them married to one another. Conservation Biology and Modern Agriculture.

This thrills me, and I want to see more of these.

Please check them out!

Peninsula Pride Farms.