Monday, May 25, 2009

Miniature Cows: The Wave of the Future

Farmers hit with rising feed costs are looking at some creative ways of reducing overhead costs. One farm in Nebraska is now raising miniature cows. According to the Los Angeles Times, farmers have discovered that the cows produce 50-75% of the meat produced by a regular cow but consume only half the feed. The cows are barely waist high to a grown man The L. A. Times describes the cows and the growing interest in them as follows.

"In the last few years, ranchers across the country have been snapping up mini Hereford and Angus calves that fit in a person's lap. Farmers who raise mini Jerseys brag how each animal provides 2 to 3 gallons of milk a day, though they complain about having to crouch down on their knees to reach the udders. "Granny always said I prayed for my milk," said Tim O'Donnell, 53, who milks his 15 miniature Jerseys twice a day on his farm in Altamont, Ill. Minicows are not genetically engineered to be tiny, and they're not dwarfs. They are drawn from original breeds brought to the U.S. from Europe in the 1800s that were smaller than today's bovine giants, said Ron Lemenager, professor of animal science at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. The Petersens' mini Herefords, with their white faces and rounded auburn-hued bodies, weigh in at a dainty 500 to 700 pounds, compared with 1,300 pounds or more for their heftier brethren."

The possibilities are intriuguing. Smaller animals could lead to fitting mini farms into suburban areas, or even city parks. But the most intriguing possibilities involve downsizing people. I spoke to a world famous genetic engineer, Dr. Minnie Picolo Klein, specialist in genetic engineering at the Mid Atlantic National Institute for Chromosomal Study. (M.A.N.I.C.S) Dr Klein agreed to speak to me in her office at the building housing the M.A.N.I.C.S. science laboratories.

Dr. Klein had an interesting account of how she came to the idea of downsizing people. She described her change of career as follows.

"I used to be an economist. This is a very troubling field to be in. One day, we were discussing the implications of corporate downsizing. I mentioned to my colleagues the possibility of downsizing people instead of corporations. I shared my dream with the other professors of one day having a walk in closet suffice to house a family of six. How would it be if you could winterise a doll house and have a whole family move in for just a few hundred dollars? What about food? A half a bagel could feed a family for a week. A Big Mac at Mcdonalds would be enough to feed an entire family. There would be trickle up effects as well. Since maintenance costs for a family would go down, smaller salaries sould be acceptable. The only problem might be transportation. A large minivan for a downsized family would be about the size of a bread box. But if you were ever to drive such a small car on a regular highway, no one would be able to see it. We might have to live in our own gated communities. But think of the trade off ! An entire family could go to Australia in someone's carry on luggage. Instead of thousands of dollars, a family vacation would cost a couple hundred dollars."

I asked Dr. Klein what her fellow professors had to say about her proposal. She recounted their reaction as follows.

"They said that my proposal was more scientific than economic. There was a meeting at the University. It was decided to give me a sabbatical. I was very surprised because I had just finished a sabbatical in Jamaica studying the impact of indigenous plants on the local economy. They gave me a laboratory to follow up on my ideas. It was very hard at first. My assistant was a psychiatrist. None of the windows would open and there were no sharp objects anyplace. After a while, the psychiatrist wrote a report on my studies and things got better for me. They started letting me out of the laboratory without an escort."

Dr. Picolo Klein seemed to indeed have some interesting ideas about downsizing the human race. The main roadblock to her goal of transforming society is her lack of success in downsizing the people already in existence. Even for this problem, Dr. Picolo Klein had an answer.

"Eating is an addiction". explained Dr. Klein. "If people could shake that, then they could save a lot of money." Sphere: Related Content

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