The other day, although a minor event, I had a memory-producing moment. I poured a glass of water and took a drink, then set the glass down momentarily. Soon, I took a second drink, only to have this less-than-desirable sensation. During the brief time that the glass was unattended, a boxelder bug landed in the glass and became part of my drink.
Apparently boxelder bugs do not go down or give up willingly because this particular boxelder bug decided to grab onto my tongue in an attempt to escape.
Those who are aware of boxelder bugs realize that they seem to have no need for anything. It would appear they exist with a reasonable desire to survive.
Anyway, this misplaced boxelder bug succeeded in crawling up my tongue but still met a quick demise. Although one acts instinctively in unknown situations, I have no regrets on crushing this little boxelder bug. In fact, as a common late- fall guest in the house, all the remaining boxelder bugs were put on the "unwelcome" list.
Life experiences produce memories. It is hoped that these are pleasant memories, but not always. Memories are good for us and the cattle we work with. Pleasant environments produce pleasant memories. Regretfully, stressful environments produce bad memories. Not unlike my quick overreaction to the boxelder bug and all the innocent boxelder bugs close by, cows also will overreact.
If exposed to something they feel uncertain about or something that actually causes stress, cows remember. I always will remember that boxelder bug crawling up my tongue, and cows always will remember that touch of pain produced by an electric prod. It only was one boxelder bug or only one touch of the electric prod, but that makes no difference because the memory has been programed and bad memories do not go away.
In fact, as the cow bellows in response to what seems like an incidental touch, her response upon leaving may be much like my treatment of the boxelder bug's friends. I turned on them, and so may the cow turn on her handlers.
Fall is a busy work time for cattle producers as cattle are gathered, worked and readied for winter. Accessibility, protection and simple ease of handling all come into play when the cattle are sorted. This experience or reintroduction to people is important. Cows are expected to have a long life on the ranch. The oldest cow in the herd certainly should be in double digits in age. Granted, the average age of the herd is significantly lower than the oldest cow, but the goal is to keep cows for a long, productive life.