You can’t pick up an agricultural publication these days without finding a story on
how drones will revolutionize the cow business. Supposedly, they’ll do everything
from checking on float valves to spotting a trespassing hunter. They’ll even find cattle
on a far-flung ranch.
I’ve got news for the experts; we already have such a device – it’s called a dog. The
initial cost of a good dog and a good drone are similar, $2,000 to $5,000, but drones
could be cheaper in the long run because you don’t have to feed them every day or
take them to a vet.
Although, drones could get pricey if your irate neighbor insists
on shooting yours down repeatedly.
I grudgingly admit a drone might be useful. Imagine you’re
planning a gather but you don’t know where the cattle are, so
you send the cowboys off in every direction. With a drone you
could see exactly where they are and save some saddle time, not
to mention wear and tear on the horses.
If you ask me, this is cheating. There’s always been an unwritten
rule that if an outlaw or renegade cow can hide from
the cowboys, she gets an annual reprieve, even if she has consumed
seven tons of your hay but has never given birth to a
calf in her pitiful 10-year life.
The experts predict radio chips will be implanted in cows that
will send signals to an overflying drone, so a rancher who is sitting
in his La-Z-Boy at home will know when a cow is in heat, if
a heifer is trying to calve and the body temperature of every cow on the place.
These chips will also tell a rancher where his $10,000 range bulls are – but, horror
of horrors, this would mean I’d have to buy my own range bulls if I want my cows
Wolf lovers say that drones will tell a rancher when his cows are near a pack of
marauding wolves, but what they’ll really do is tell him where to find a bloody transponder.
The fortune tellers predict there will be driverless tractors and hay balers for sale
soon, but that’s no big deal, I had driverless tractors 30 years ago, as no person who
calls himself a cowboy or cowgirl should ever be seen driving one – at least not on
I read one article that predicted drones will create 100,000 jobs, but this will be
offset by an equal number of lost cowboys. Instead of real cowboys, the cowboss will
be some computer cowboy dispatcher who plays with a joystick all day. Real cowboys
will be an endangered species.
I’m sure we’ll have drones that will shoot rocket syringes so cattle won’t even have
to be gathered for immunizations and such. You might laugh and say a ranch will
always need cowboys to gather the cattle, but I’m sure some dweeb in his garage is
working on a drone that will fire sandbags at reluctant cattle to get the herd all moving
in the same direction.
Speakers on the drone will make cowboy grunts and noises such as “giddy-up,” “get
along little dogies” and “get going, you worthless hussy.”
Because drones are now considered aircraft, that means the government will regulate,
tax and frisk everyone involved. And just think of how much privacy we’ll be
It used to be that if a person owned a piece of ground that he or she owned it from
the middle of the Earth to the top of the sky but, thanks to drones, the courts have
ruled now you only own the airspace above your property. But they don’t define this
“airspace;” it could be two miles or 50 feet!
Believe me, before too long cow towns like Oakdale, Ogallala and Omaha will be
ghost towns, “rodeo” will just be some video game that geeks play online and cowboys
will be harder to find than lawyers in heaven. There will be no more cattle
wrecks, so cowboy poets will become rappers and Elko will lose its identity.
So, please, join my Down With Drones movement. Our members believe every season
is drone-hunting season.
A word of caution however: Shooting down drones is probably against the law, so
remember to follow the old cowboy commandment – shoot, shovel and shut up.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not
necessarily those of Farm World. Readers may log on to www.LeePittsbooks.com to
order any of Lee Pitts’ books. Those with questions or comments for Lee may write to
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