Southwest Florida Rent-A-Cows

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Southwest Florida Rent-A-Cows

(a Camera Critters post)
click any photo to see larger on Flickr

IMG_0157-cropped-Calf-Fort-Myers-Florida-01-18-2009 I get a kick out of the sharp contrast between the word “city” (as in, “city of Fort Myers”) and the presence of cows grazing unconcernedly on the empty parcels of land that are sprinkled between new building boom developments, university satellites and the ever-encroaching strip malls. In my mind, Tampa is a “city”, for Tampa has a “downtown” with sky scrapers. Fort Myers? No sky scrapers, therefore not a “city”. My Long Island-bred eye sees this “city” as more of an area of wannabe suburban sprawl. I’d remove the word “wannabe” if it were not for the rent-a-cows.

IMG_0158-White-Cow-No-Trespassing-Fort-Myers-Florida-01-18-2009Actually, I recently discovered that it’s not the cows that are rented – it’s the land. Property taxes are drastically reduced for those who pasture cattle. If there’s a guy that owns land but no cows, and a guy that owns cows but no land, then a lease agreement can’t be far behind. The cattle owner will pay the land owner to use the empty land as pasture for the cows. I always thought it should be the other way around. The land owners should be paying the cows for giving them such an awesome tax break. Probably, the landless cattle owners should rise up, form a cow cartel, and turn the tables on the guys who are getting the awesome tax breaks. I just hate to think that the cows are performing such a valuable service to the land owners, yet in the end their only reward is landing on someone’s plate. It just doesn’t seem fair.

IMG_0160-Cattle-Egrets-Fort-Myers-Florida-01-18-2009(To read more about the business of raising cattle in Southwest Florida, check out Florida Weekly’s recent article called “Local Beef…it’s what’s for dinner someplace else“)

We even have cattle rustling here in Southwest Florida! Early in the new year, 10 head of cattle, including a valuable Angus bull, were stolen from a “rent-a-pasture” in Charlotte County. The rustler was unfortunately not very bright, for he drove the contraband bovines to an auction and tried to sell them, apparently failing to notice a rather prominent and totally identifying brand on the hide of each of his ten hostages. The authorities were summoned and the cow-napper was apprehended (“Deputies Arrest Suspected Cattle Rustler”)

IMG_0163-Red-Cow-Fort-Myers-Florida-01-18-2009I found the cows in these photos pastured on an empty stretch of land adjacent to the new Kohls/Sports Authority/Circuit City strip mall on Six Mile Cypress Parkway. This field is pretty close to the intersection with Colonial Blvd. in Forty Myers, Florida, and used to be much larger, able to accommodate many more head of cattle plus a “watering hole” of sorts – but then the Kohl’s/Sports Authority/Circuit City strip mall was built. I’ve only lived here three years, and I’ve already seen a lot of this sort of thing. Formerly open spaces are now covered with housing and retail developments. A stand of woods is leveled and cleared to make way for a new chain pharmacy. Literally, they’ve “paved paradise and put up a parking lot”. I’d object more strenuously than that, but that would make me a hypocrite. Five years ago, a tangle of wilderness reigned where my own house now stands.

IMG_0166-Strip-Mall-Former-Pasture-Fort-Myers-Florida-01-18-2009I can see that someday, the intermittent open spaces where the cattle currently roam will be gone. The bottoming-out of the housing market has slowed, but not permanently halted the inevitable. Someday, the land owners will have sold all of the open spaces to developers, who will erect yet more townhouses and supermarkets upon them. I wonder where the cows will go when that happens?

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21 thoughts on “Southwest Florida Rent-A-Cows”

  1. I live near a big metro area (Dallas) but at least 30 miles out of the city, in a small town. We have housing developments…then cows and horses…then more developments. I love that. I love seeing cows and other livestock.

    Great Camera Critters share!

  2. Great post! Big smile! Love cows. We have some living opposite our house (there will never be a development there, although you never know of course, but there’s always hope). They live together with a couple of bulls, well you can imagine what happens from time to time. So from time to time we will see a newborn calf or even a calf actually being born.
    Anyway, love the white cow with the brown spots. Beautiful.
    Thanks for leaving a comment on my lazy sofa-lying bunch of cats and dogs.

  3. Even here in very rural West Virginia we have folks who lease land to raise their cattle.
    You have captured some really great shots of the bovine beauties!
    They look very healthy and well cared for.

  4. interesting post. I live in a rule small town. on the edge of it I cam see cows across the street and horse around the corner a goat throw my bed room window. But I am not allowed to have even a chicken. As I am in city limits. I do have 2 pet chickens though. And they can make me get rid of them. It is amazing what rules can be made up.

  5. Hey Tink, I guess cattle rustling is alive and well in this country. This has been a big problem in the last ten years and I believe can be a federal offense. A trailer full of cattle can be worth over $20,000 these days.

    As far as the grazing deals between farmers with no land and landowners without animals it should be a good deal for both. The farmers get cheap feed for their cows and the landowners get their grass eaten down and paid too.

    I have actually been thinking of renting out my goats. Here in California, folks rent grazing animals to clear their property and goats eat EVERYTHING!

    Thanks also for the cool cow pics and the added bonus of the Cattle Egrets in the one shot. And finally, thanks for reminding me of one of my favorite artists, Joni Mitchell with “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, you pave paradise and put up a parking lot.”

  6. What an interesting post. So the landowners not only collect rent on the pastureland, but they get tax breaks, too… And you get to enjoy the cows in unusual places.

    Thanks for sharing.

  7. That was really interesting to read about ~ I really hadn’t ever thought about people being able to rent our their extra property for cattle. How awesome for them to get a tax break as well. They’ve pretty much got it made!

    Great photos of the cows ~ I really enjoyed your whole post.

  8. It always amazes me when I see cows down here. I know that this was all ranch land at one time but to drive through the “city” and see pastures with cows grazing really blows my mind. I’m with Tootie. Do Cattle Egrets next. Did you know that several have been hit by planes at Page Field? Does that mean there are cows there too?? LOL

  9. I am glad to hear that there are some earthy treasures mixed in with all the malls – I’ll be on the lookout for cows on my next trip down. It would be kind of cool to buy undeveloped land and just refuse to sell it for shopping malls or whatever, to keep the cows nearby. It is good for people to have some idea where their food comes from, and most burbs are so far removed these days.

  10. I love seeing the cow in Florida,some are different breeds than I was use to seeing growing up in Indiana.

    When I was little I thought the brown and white cows gave us chocolate milk! =0P

    Joe can’t get over how much Ft. Myers has changed since he moved from there about 20 years ago.Lots of the wooded,way out in the country places he knew are gone.

    When I fist started my yearly trips to WDW in 1991 we’d take 27 to 192…it was mostly cow pastures and orange groves…now it’s mostly condos and Publix…makes me sad.=0(

  11. I guess it’s the same all over the world! I did a post on that once too, on how I regretted the land next to our former house was sold and the cows had to go. Next thing we knew there were roadworks and constructions going on and our little paradise was gone!

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