Here?s to cattle: the largely unsung heroes on our farms and ranches

Talk to farmers, stockmen and ranchers and most will tell you how much they love their cows. Problem is this humble and in most cases easy-going beast rarely receives the praise associated with the noble show horse or one of the so-called smartest creatures, the squealing pig.

Fewer and fewer people extol the virtues of this contented creature that spends her days quietly grazing and eating grass. We?ve all watched movies about horses (Trigger) and pigs (Babe), but for most of the time, cows are considered boring and ignored by Hollywood, the media and the general public.

Still, cows are not whiners. They take their obscurity in stride and rarely complain about their circumstances. Except for a couple of rare occasions, animal rights activists have overlooked this wonderful beast of burden and focused their careful aim on mice, monkeys, rats and other vermin.

Everyone screams bloody murder when some shampoo company tests its latest shampoo on a furry rodent. Where is the outcry for the lifestyle of cows?

They spend days and nights under the stars without a tent or blanket and only their coat to keep them warm. They have to hoof it across the pasture just to get a drink of cold water.

But hey, I?m not here to say I feel sorry for the cow community. Confident and quiet, it is not their way to ask for preferential treatment.

Spend time with a herd of cows and you?ll soon discover they are indeed spiritual beings. They live their entire lives in service to mankind.

Behind that seemingly blank stare rests a knowing glint that suggests, ?Go ahead. Make fun. I spend all day eating and sleeping. You?re the one with high blood pressure and cash-flow problems.?

Cattle occupy a unique role in human history, domesticated beginning with the Stone Age. Some are raised for meat (beef cattle), dairy products (cows) and hides (both).

They are also used as draft animals and in certain sports. Some consider cattle the oldest form of wealth, and cattle rustling, consequently, one of the earliest forms of theft.

Dairy cows are referred to as the foster mothers of the human race because they produce most of the milk that people drink. They provide 90 percent of the world?s milk supply.

The best cows may give about 25 gallons of milk each day. That?s 400 glasses of milk. Cows in this country give an average of 2,000 gallons of milk per year. That?s more than 30,000 glasses of milk.

Beef cattle supply more than 30 different cuts of meat including the heart, tongue and what we grew up calling mountain oysters?a male private part. You gotta? admit, that?s meaningful giving.

Another gift from the bovine community is leather that comes from their hides. We use it for boots, belts, baseballs, suitcases, purses, wallets, easy chairs and jackets. Yes, cattle or cows make the ultimate sacrifice for human comfort.

Another place cows shine is in the rodeo arena or as spokes mammals in advertising. Who hasn?t seen the skydiving cows on their television screen?

Another cow celebrity that?s been around for eons is Borden?s Elsie the Cow.

Snorting bulls symbolize a healthy stock market and a Hereford cow pioneered space travel. Every kid knows about the cow who jumped over the moon.

Milk, ice cream, cheeseburgers or that fine leather purse?think about it. Where would we be without our cows?

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas.

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