Cattle industry has emerging ‘saint’

Baxter Black

The Vatican has proclaimed Sister Theresa a saint. It was one of those wonderful recognitions that allow Christians in particular, and humanitarians in general, to put aside our differences and appreciate humans who have made the world a better place.

As time passes and the erosion of years smooth our memories we can look back at others in a historical sense. Those who rose above the often contentious or apathetic daily grind to make us a better class of men like Martin Luther King, for one, Helen Keller, Cpl. Pat Tillman, Billy Graham, Winston Churchill and Ghandi. Their lasting impact, personal integrity, and inspiration have lifted us all to a higher plane.

A familiar figure has risen from our own small world of animal husbandry, who, to me, may be our own “saint”: Temple Grandin.

Autistic, curious, insightful and innocent of guile, she has carved a trail to the top of the science of animal behavior, particularly livestock.

Earlier this year an HBO movie of her life story received seven Emmy awards.

She is being feted as a celebrity worldwide, but she is one of us. She represents all of us who spend our lives in animal agriculture. Because of her honest, uncomplicated, logical explanations and lack of bias, she leaves the animal rights loonies at a loss on how to attack or ridicule her. She is also one of the most visible forces that is changing how we in the cattle business treat and handle our critters. We are changing.

Many programs have come into use over the last 10 to 20 years that are designed to increase the value of the beef we sell. Programs that reduce stress, bruising, sickness, and mortality, many offered with third-party verification for marketing advantage.

Today it is not uncommon to invite professionals, be they Temple Grandin, county agents, drug company reps or experienced cowboys to elaborate on or demonstrate techniques and advantages available to make us better stockmen. They include pre-conditioning, proper vaccination, better designed handling equipment, traceability for disease containment, and kinder-gentler methods like less chousing, less yelling, paddles not hot-shots, quieter facilities and stockmen, and patience.

Temple Grandin is our “saint,” maybe our “poster girl,” that stands in the public eye assuring consumers that we know what we are doing and we are trying to do it better.

On a personal note, I wish there was some way she could draw us cattlemen together. I think that within the cattle business today there is more bickering, distrust and lack of meaningful discourse than I have ever seen.

Temple Grandin stands head and shoulders above us in the public eye. She gives us all a big dose of pride. Her personal story, what she means to us in so many ways, her ability to overcome huge odds and turn her affliction into a discovery that us “neuro-normal” people overlook. We need to pause, rethink our differences, and appreciate what we could become if we could look through her eyes.

“Saint Temple”… maybe her statue could ride on the dashboard of every truck with fencing pliers in the glove box and cow manure on the tires.