Who is more knowledgeable about cattle: The animal “scientist” or the herdsman? In case some of you think I am being too harsh on the academic institutions and the graduates they produce, I will try to explain my views.
Firstly, I need to make it clear that I do not wish to attack anyone personally.
Secondly, I was also a budding academic until I declined Prof. Jan Bonsma’s invitation to join the Animal Science department of the University of Pretoria as a lecturer. In retrospect this was one of the best decisions I ever made. That made me understand the difference between observing natural processes rather than dissecting a whole and studying detail that has no relevance in the whole.
I can use the below two photos of dairy cows on a grass based system in tropical Latin America in order to answer the question of who has more knowledge: The “scientist” or the uneducated herdsman?
When confronted with a situation of poor body condition as seen in the top cow, the “scientist” will advise improved nutrition – lower stocking rate; increased concentrate feeding. The herdsman, through observation, knows there are cows like the one pictured below that are productive and maintain body condition. He wonders why not more of them are being bred because generally their progeny also maintain body condition. Who has the greatest knowledge?
The problem is our education system. “Scientists” are expected to learn parrot fashion from someone else who was taught by someone who studied detail to the extent that he knew everything about nothing. True animal and pasture scientists result from observing Nature.