In the blurb after my name at the bottom of these columns, it says I dream of keeping a few cows of my own one day. Someone recently asked whether I couldn’t think of anything better. Something better than a cow? No!
During my final years as an undergraduate, I kept ending up in projects relating to cattle farming and nature conservation. It’s no different now I’m doing my PhD research. You’re always with cows, some of my friends say. I don’t mind at all. Despite everything, there’s great potential wherever people, cows and nature meet.
In order to really understand that combination, it’s essential to get outside regularly. You have to talk to farmers and other stakeholders. Look at birds and plants. But sometimes I wonder if that’s enough for me, whether I shouldn’t start keeping a few cows of my own. To explore that interface between agriculture and nature myself, albeit on a miniature scale.
Why not get some dwarf goats, they say. Much easier.
Of course I know that it’s perfectly possible to research cattle farming without keeping cows yourself. And I know keeping a couple of cows wouldn’t give me any insight into the choices ‘real’ cattle farmers face. And yet, the idea of having my own cows won’t let me go.
Still, I get discouraging advice from all sides. You can talk about having children as if it’s the most normal thing in the world but bring up the idea of a few cows and most people only see objections. Why not get some dwarf goats, they say. Much easier.
Having your own cows can soon seem unachievable. Especially if, like me, you didn’t grow up on a farm. Of course, keeping cows is a lot of work and to be fair I don’t know how exactly I would set it all up, particularly in the immediate future. But surely, at some point in the distant future, it must be possible?
Vincent Oostvogels (25) is in the first year of a PhD on biodiversity recovery in dairy farming. His dream is to be able to keep a few cows of his own one day.