Lee Pitts: Droning On And On
August 1, 2017
You can't pick up an ag 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, two to five thousand dollars, 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 ten 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 Lazy 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 bred. 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 my outfit.
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 "giddiup", "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 sacrificing. 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 fifty feet!
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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!