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Re: what would happen if....?

Owning a cattleranch gives me some insight into such matters. Cattle herds are usually surrounded by fences and are virtually entirely dependent on water sources managed by man. Situationally, a few pure bread cattle might be in a large enough well watered area to survive until the fencing becomes ineffective to hold them into their micro environment. This would have to occur rapidly because population increase in the fenced in island population would be rapid until the grass available would be used up. (roughly doubling every year). Inbreeding of these island populations would become an issue as well as predatory problems as more mobile predators (reintroduced wolves) would also nibble away at the populations. In cold climates, almost all cattle herds are dependent on extra man provided feed to make it through the winter so their survival rate would be very low as well as high calf mortality rates. Overall, these problems might be overcome by very small groups in very large grass pastures of hundreds of square miles in more temperate climates that I live here in northern wyoming. Herds stuck in summer pastures with pine trees will spontaneously abort due to eating pine needles in the winter (turpintine). In domestic cattle, the selection process would be against features we desire such as large muscle groups with no horns and for features that promote survival and early reproduction in the wild. Resistance to parasites and diseases that we currently vaccinate and dip for would be selected for. I personally doubt that most herds would survive the first winter and most would not survive the 20 years for the fences to fall down to effectively make the region open range. When left to their own devices, Bulls impregnate yearling cattle and as a result most of the yearlings would die without human intervention during birthing. Aggression in Bulls would also increase through selective pressure causing some decrease in diversity. Bulls still can't impregnate many more than 30 or so cows a year. The number of bulls would rapidly escalate due to the lack of castration during yearly brandings and fights would increase. The one thing they do have going for a long term survival is that there are just a huge number of bovine individuals in every ecosystem in the world. Some of them would survive but the population would certainly bottleneck for decades and suffer inbreeding for many more. The eventual result may resemble those of Chetah genetics (the whole population may have originated from one pair), or even human genetics (which seems to have undergone a bottleneck or two also.). . Typical cattle are even too stupid to paw at the snow to get to the grass under the snowcover. Horses and Bison have that figured out. It is more likely that the already well adapted wild bison will come back from areas like Yellowstone. Any cattle interbreeding with bison will have a better chance of survival than pure breeds. Conclusion: they will survive probably assuming that what ever kills us off leaves all other mammals alive

Buy american beef! Angus diet and all that.

Frank Bliss
MS, Biostratigraphy
Weston, Wyoming

On Oct 16, 2004, at 8:21 PM, Dr. Darrin T. Milne B.Sc., D.C. wrote:

In the fictional book 'Evolution' by Stephen Baxter, he writes about a
possible future (post-homo sapiens) where huge herbivores roam the earth
which are the descendents of goats and cows (as well as rabbits now that I
remember). While this is hypothetical, I was always under the impression
that, if humans were to become suddenly extinct, certain extant domesticated
species (specifically the cow) would follow because of their dependence on
man. Does anyone have a idea if domesticated cows could become feral and
ultimately survive in the absence of man?