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Jeff Ditzenberger: Miss Consepshun visits the farm
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There has been a huge amount of controversy surrounding the latest outbreak of a virus, H1N1, commonly referred to as "swine flu". The media has had a hay day with this, and it is causing some real problems. Farmers and agriculturists have enough challenges without having another disease named after an animal. However, in agriculture, there are many misconceptions and things that people don't know. I thought maybe we should take some time and have a serious talk, while having some fun looking at these common misconceptions. However, before I start this, keep in mind I am not trying to offend anyone. And, honestly, the only stupid question is the one you didn't ask.

BSE, commonly referred to as mad cow disease, does not have anything to do with a cow needing to see a psychiatrist. If people don't like to be told they have gone mad, why would we label a cow that way? And, it can happen to male cows, which aren't really cows at all, they are bulls. And little baby cows are not baby cows or baby calves, they are simply calves. Not to be confused with that lower part of your leg. Now that is about as confusing as the fact that more than one goose is called geese, but more than one moose is not meese.

If you drive around the countryside, especially in this area, you see lots of dairy and beef herds.

Herd of what?

Herd of cows.

Well, of course, I have "herd" of cows.

Yes, I actually had that conversation once. They are not a group or a pack. They come in some different colors. For the record, the brown ones do do not give chocolate milk any more then the red and white ones give strawberry flavored milk.

I also remember someone asking me what a "polled" animal was. No, it is not an animal that answers questions from a telemarketer on the phone. A polled animal is bred to not grow horns. Shortly after answering this question, one of the cows bellered or mooed, whichever you prefer, and the lady asked me if the sound comes out of the cow's horns? Would a polled cow not be able to do that?

Also contrary to popular opinion, pumping a cow's tail does not make milk come out of her, either. In fact, what that might do is cause her leg to kick straight back and leave a bruise. The thought that it makes her milk is "udderly" ridiculous.

Another question I remember being asked was, "If cows' udders get cold, is that where we get ice cream?" Wonder if red and white cows would then give swirl ice cream of strawberry and vanilla, or if the black and white ones ... never mind.

Now, I don't really know much about chickens, although they are part of "fowl" play a lot, too. The age-old question is ... "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" If we wonder why the chicken crossed the road, then why didn't Atari or Nintendo call their game "Chicken" and make him cross the road instead of a frog? Are brown eggs more nutritious than white eggs? Do the chickens that lay those really colorful eggs only lay them at Easter? And just the other day a customer told me the story of the city cousin who was visiting the farm. When she saw the chickens, she asked where the other two legs were. Apparently her family had been buying packages of chicken in the store and they came with four legs and two wings. Surprisingly, and thankfully, the media didn't get a hold of that and blame it on the bird flu.

Which reminds me ... if that is supposed to come from chickens, why is it when we are sick we eat chicken soup? And can producers charge more for eggs from chickens that wander around free? I mean, really, if the cell phone companies get to charge for roaming, shouldn't the people with roaming chickens get to do the same?

And finally, let's not forget some of our farm friendly sayings ...

"Let's party 'til the cows come home!" Where exactly did they go and who left the gate open so they could get there?

"That stuff is as cheap as chicken feed." Not sure if you have bought a bag of chicken feed lately, but I wouldn't call it cheap.

"That Ditzenberger is full of bull." Guess it's better then being full of cow, but I would rather think of me as loveable (say that very slowly).

"The grass is always greener on the other side of the pasture." Must have gotten that information from one of them polled cows.

And I don't know who coined the phrase, "The early bird gets the worm." But it should have been, "The early bird gets to milk the cows, slop the pigs, clean the barn, and spend five hours in the haymow stacking hay when it's 110 degrees in the shade while their friends are at the lake."

I hope you enjoyed this little whimsical piece, and I hope that the next time you visit a farm, or even just drive by one, make sure you roll down your window and enjoy the scenery. Ask questions if you get the opportunity to talk to the farmer, and enjoy everything our farming community has to offer. But speak softly in the late summer and early fall, because, after all, the corn has ears.

- Jeff Ditzenberger of Monticello is president of the Green County Farm Bureau.