Reclaiming the Cow Economy

Reclaiming the Cow Economy

A Blue Collar Approach to Basic Financing

A mentor of mine once said, “Good cattle are the only investment that makes any sense.”

To the right is Anne, one of our future Devon cows. She will be coming to the farm in May. The old english photo of the cow above is illustrating desirable traits in a cow like Anne that used to serve as a symbol of wealth. At only 16 months of age, she has a low hanging brisket, tall feminine hips, and rear pin bones that are wider than her shoulders. This is a cow who will have an easy time calving and has genetics that carrying a high volume of meat. Her gut hangs low, displaying her ability to hold a high volume of forages and produce more meat per acre of grass than most other animals in the world.

The Original Stock Market

Economics, finance, and wealth are inevitably topics that are on all of our minds these days. And while I may be the least qualified person to make any comments on economics, being that I have neither wealth nor any experience in financing, something I do know about are cattle. And, believe it or not, knowing livestock and knowing economics used to be two sets of knowledge that could not be separated.


The speculative market in which traders and buyers functionally gamble on the fluctuations of market values of different goods and services is nothing new. It goes back to 14th century Dutch East India company during the Dutch’s colonization of India. However, when it began it was, as I view it, blue collar. It was the speculation on the three things in this world that actually build wealth: “Land, Labor and Capital”, according to the late Henry George in his work Progress & Poverty. Anything that is traded upon are derivatives of the value of these core things that build true wealth.

As long as we collectively agree that this delusion of wealth exists, it does. But, the moment we lose faith in the collective value in things that are based off of predicted growth, it all falls apart.

Livestock as the Antidote

Cattle are perhaps the best example of how land, labor and capital can merge to generate wealth both yesterday, today, and tomorrow in a way that is healthful. Land (grass) is combined with labor (the management and care for animals) along with capital (livestock). Which creates more capital, in the form of offspring and weight gained turning into meat.

To me, this makes sense. What makes less sense is when someone tries to describe to me how bonds and shorts work— which to my understanding is the stock based on the speculation of stock. So we are gambling that this group of gamblers is right or wrong? It seems that the further we distance our investments from the big three previously mentioned, the more trouble we get ourselves into.

I am no luddite, I don’t think we all need to hop into a time machine and go back to when those photos of cattle were painted. I love many aspects of modern life, but, I think the economic complexity of it and the results of that complexity are probably not an awesome idea nor something that could be sustained over the millennia to come.

To me, livestock was one of the major currencies for the majority of the history of currency because it’s real, productive, and helpful for the growth of civilization. I think if our farm does nothing else except be helpful to our community through supplying real traditional animal husbandry and meat, I would consider that time well spent.

Fat as Currency

Not only is the building nature of a herd of animals one of sound investment, but I think a clear reality of how we value energy can be seen through the way we have bred animals over the last 100 years. Animals that could efficiently produce energy off of the land in the form of fat used to be of the utmost value. The hog, for example, was excellent at up-cycling waste into energy in the the form of fat. There were no mixed grain rations. As these animals were efficient and relied on very little.

Truly heritage hogs require little to no input, since they are designed to build fat efficiently. However, our breeding toward them producing protein instead of fat, has made them high maintenance and high input animals.

Why did we take an animal whose purpose was to supply an extremely sustainable source of lipids that powered lanterns, candles, and our bodies and repurposed it into something more expensive to maintain and produce? I believe mined lipids in the form of oil is the major culprit. We no longer had to produce our own fat above ground because we could simply extract it below ground (which is what petroleum is). And due to this seemingly free energy, we could now produce grain very cheaply and efficiently, something that used to be very expensive and time consuming to do. Preindustrial grain production is a thing one would never consider feeding to a pig as it was so valuable and labor intensive to produce only 150 years ago.

There are few genetic lines that resemble what the majority of pigs used to look like, our Kune Kunes being one of them.

It was only through cheap grain that we could create a pig who is bred to produce protein instead of fat. Historically, our sources of protein came from ruminant animals who lived exclusively off of grass and other forages. Which meant before industrialization this was the affordable and easy to produce meat. And lard pigs were the sustainable coal mine that up cycled nutrients into readily available energy.

These animals were and still are sound investments as they build instead of destroy; they involve reproduction instead of manufacturing; they produce energy through photosynthesis, not combustion.

Take Aways for the Modern Farmer and Consumer

Although it can be tempting to glamorize a seemingly simpler world of the past and feel the despair over the global economy that continues to expand in complexity. On our farm, we avoid nostalgia of the past and fear for the future, and chose to build instead. We have been given the tools that have thousands of years of efficacy to back them up. How can we move forward and use them wisely to create a new Cow Economy that was better than the one that came before it? One that is elegant in its simplicity but robust and resilient in its complexities.

I personally believe that with the innovations of the modern world such as electric fencing, waterlines and, yes, even the internet; we can use these biological systems given to us and improve upon them to generate more resources and economic viability that can withstand a changing world.

Thank You

Both for your support and making it through this newsletter. The daily operations of the farm can often distract us from the larger picture, but the creation of these letters give us a wonderful opportunity to remember why we do what we do; the true north behind every choice we make.

If you ever have any questions, want to chat, or are interested in seeing our operation first hand, please don’t hesitate to give us a call or drop us an email!

  • Bennett & the Northaven Pastures team


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