The Benefit of Having Animals, and Cow 'Sorting'

Submitted by xtramelanin on May 6th, 2018 at 8:18 PM


Appropos of OT season, a buddy sent me an article about having livestock or pets when younger, helping to deal with stress better, later in life.  I have linked the article below, but some quotes are here:

German researchers recruited men under 40 whose childhoods fit one of two starkly different patterns. Either they had spent the years before they turned 15 in a city of more than 100,000 people and had never had a pet in their childhood home. Or, they spent those years on a farm that raised livestock.

And some of the findings include this:

In their responses to questionnaires as well as in measures of acute physical stress, the study's 20 country boys clearly felt the heat of the social challenge more strongly. Their levels of cortisol — a "fight or flight" hormone — spiked higher, and they reported higher levels of anxiety.  But the young men who had grown up petless in big cities showed a more sustained immune response to the social challenge.

However, before anyone gets a too idealized notion of rural living, and farming in particular, lets talk 'Cow Sorting'.  This is what you do when you are 'sorting' or dividing up a herd, generally getting ready to keep some, take others to market and/or maybe put some in one field or another.  Yesterday's cow sorting with the neighbor included carrying a steel gate around to deflect cows, fortunately sufficient to defend against a spooked bull who weighs a literal ton, and to encourage many other smaller critters (700-1200 lbs) to go one way or another in tight quarters.  All of this in an ankle deep soup of cow scat and lots of rain water.  

Cow sorting led to 'cow chasing' this morning, as one steer in particular thought he was Cool Hand Luke and escaped.  He is back after quite a rodeo involving all the sons, a tractor, the neighbor, a gator, some hockey sticks, etc.  But that's not a story you'd be interested in.

Anyway, here's the link:

So  my questions to you are:

1.  Did you grow up with animals, livestock, farming at all

2.  Think the study, in general, might be accurate?





May 7th, 2018 at 5:28 AM ^

that as much as you love its predecessors and successors, it is still 'the one'.  when ours passed about a dozen years ago our oldest son, then 5 years old, in particular was inconsolable.  when i mentioned to him that we would get another dog some day he had this quote that i've never forgotten.  with tears streaming down his cheeks he said, "no daddy, you can't replace the best dog in the world".    it was a full 2 yrs before we got another. 


May 7th, 2018 at 2:52 PM ^

Our family 6-8 months to get over our puppy who got ran over by my wife. Your new puppy will bond with you, it just takes time. I recall my wife saying “I’m just not feeling it with these puppies, but now (1.5 years later) those new puppies are treated like royalty and get better care than our children.


May 7th, 2018 at 5:35 PM ^

I love it.

The answers:


1. Elvis

2. He rescued the gator, the UF mascot, from certain doom after Elvis took a bite out of a Georgia free safety.

(The backstory on Detective Sonny Crockett was that he played WR for Florida).


I only know this because I just started watching MV on Hulu. 

Leatherstocking Blue

May 7th, 2018 at 8:53 AM ^

My father would tell the tales of growing up on the farm in the Berkshires and milking the cows in sub-zero temperatures and getting a face full of manure soaked cow tail. Maybe that's where he got his temper.


May 7th, 2018 at 9:10 AM ^

We got two six month old kittens 4 months ago. So. Much. Fun. They're two crazy brothers who literally bounce off the walls. If they're not fighting "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" style, they're running like race horses from one end of the house to the other. And they like to spend at least a few hours a day sleeping on us, which has that relaxing effect you're talking about. Plus, they're super cute. I highly recommend it. 


May 7th, 2018 at 9:54 AM ^

Based on the OP's description and question, the study isn't well-designed to establish whether being around animals produces health benefits for humans.

"German researchers recruited men under 40 whose childhoods fit one of two starkly different patterns. Either they had spent the years before they turned 15 in a city of more than 100,000 people and had never had a pet in their childhood home. Or, they spent those years on a farm that raised livestock."

Are benefits due to having the livestock, or do they result from other aspects of rural life?  A study that would be better for addressing the OP's question would feature either (a) urban living, with and without pets, or (b) rural living, with and without livestock.  So that the presence or absence of animals wouldn't be mixed up with other environmental factors.


May 7th, 2018 at 10:02 AM ^

A couple of points after reading the article.

First, the participant groups were small--20 in each--so some caution should be used in drawing conclusions.

Second, the article notes the same caveat that I mentioned, but then points to another study:  "You might conclude that urban parents who want to give their kids the laid-back country attitude and robust immune system that comes with growing up on a farm should be sure to provide their children a pet.

"This study doesn't really shed light on that surmise. But here's an intriguing tidbit from a 2001 study carried out at the University of Zagreb: Young adults who had a pet as a child were more empathetic, more prone to choosing helping professions, and 'more oriented toward social values' than were young adults who'd grown up without pets."



May 7th, 2018 at 9:54 AM ^

Couple researcher friends who have had their studies hit the mass media tell me that the news reports never really accurately portray what the study actually says.

I looked at the study, and in general it seems like it found exactly what you'd expect:

1. People who grew up in a rural agricultural environment are more uncomfortable in urban stress situations than those who grew up in an urban environment.

2. Growing up in an urban environment may make people less relaxed in general and less able to recover from stressful situations.

The way the study measured stress was to put participants through the TSST, which is a lab test designed to create stress.  They tell the participant to prepare a 5 minute presentation for a job interview.  Then right before they go to present, they take their notes away and tell them to present it without notes.  

Guess who is more likely to be stressed out by this?  People who grew up on a farm.  But maybe it's not because of the farm.  It might be because the city dwellers have been prepared for a moment like this through their schooling, their job searches, etc.

Other takeaways:  it's cool to know that farm kids more quickly recover from stressful things. 

It's common sense that highly urbanized kids (on average) grow up in a more physically sanitized environment that puts a high value on social interaction skills and also on preparing for things like presentations and job interviews.  Not to say that rural kids don't get this too, but the cultural value placed on it may be different (on average).

I grew up around farms, although my family didn't farm - I was more the book nerd type and so were my folks.  And thinking about it, it's hard for me to recall my childhood and adolescence being very stressful at all.  The pace was slow, the routine was consistent, I was pretty healthy even though my house was dirty and my environment was full of dirt, grass, mud, skinned knees, pickup ball games, corn, cows, sheep, soybeans, turkeys.  And being in nature does take me back to my happy place.  When I moved to city life in my 20s, of course it was faster pace and more stressful and I had to learn to adapt.  This all feels pretty obvious to me.

My kids are toddlers and I notice even with them, they relax and focus and smile more when they are playing outside in nature.  

So it may not be the animals, exactly, that make the difference.   it may be the way the study was designed and the general difference in growing up urban and rural.


May 7th, 2018 at 1:10 PM ^

After a few years of marriage my wife & I got the great idea of moving to the country and homesteading.  Lots of fresh air, constant projects to do (including fixing up the house), and beautiful sunsets and wild creatures around. 

We've boiled sap to get maple syrup, planted a bunch of fruit trees, chopped loads of firewood, and raised pigs.  First time we raised pigs I was almost terrified to touch them.  Now I think piglets are cute and cuddly. :)  

Moving to the country has been deeply relaxing and a welcome change up to my daily work in the city.  When work has been crazy, going home and being the last car on the road when I get to my driveway is a wonderful thing. 

Having work to do and a safe setting for my kids to play outside on their own has been terrific for them.  Country living is terrific!


May 7th, 2018 at 3:26 PM ^

maybe the better story though is what i call 'hillbilly braveheart', when one of the older boys, who was then only about 10, charged two bulls and turned them back into the pasture.   that could've gone south in a hurry. 


May 7th, 2018 at 3:53 PM ^

I would say (semi-relatedly) that folks who grow up hunting and fishing definitely deal with human sickness and death better than those who don't. At least with "normal" deaths of elderly people.


May 7th, 2018 at 4:31 PM ^

XM seems like a truly great guy and his stories of rural life are entertaining.  But what serves as deletable posts here?   Posts from someone other than crowd favorites regardless of the subject matter?   I've seen M-related (directly) posts get shitcanned (including mine) while stuff like this goes on for days into random topics that have absolutely nothing to do with UM, nothing to do with sports AT ALL, and nothing to do with anyone or anything remotely related to Michigan. 

Please don't just point me to the meta forum b/c those rules aren't followed consistently.

I haven't been posting here for long but have lurked for a few years now and then and am familiar of some of the posters who get negged just for commenting and can see how eventually some would bail from here after getting a board post tossed while others remain.

It would seem click-thru traffic is what's desired but double standards tend to be a turn off.

Blue in PA

May 7th, 2018 at 4:54 PM ^

My dog is always happy to see me and his expectations are very low.  Food 2x a day, some attention, pats on head, a belly rub, a walk 5 days a week.....  He never cares if i'm in a bad mood, had a shitty day at work, don't feel well etc.  Dogs are great, until they eat a towel and require surgery, then they suck, all the money out of your checking account.

Deer are awesome too, fried with garlic and butter.


I milked cows as a teenager, dairy cows aren't stress relief they're a pain.  Beef cattle aren't so bad.