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Alameda County supervisors ban wild cow milking in rodeos

Use of 'essential equipment,' including spurs and bucking straps still allowed
Alameda County Seal
Alameda County Seal

Alameda County supervisors voted Tuesday to ban the rodeo practice of wild cow milking in unincorporated parts of the county following hours of public comment and discussion.

Supervisors Richard Valle and Dave Brown introduced the ordinance and it passed unanimously.

Wild cow milking is just as the name suggests. A two-man team tries to get milk from a cow turned loose in an arena, as defined by the West of the Pecos Rodeo in Pecos, Texas.

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, known as the world's oldest and largest sanctioning body for rodeos, does not include wild cow milking as a sanctioned event at its rodeos.

"We are pleased with the way the (meeting) went," said Scott Dorenkamp, livestock program and government relations manager with the association, though the group wished the issue hadn't come up.

Dorenkamp was rather pleased with the amendment made by Valle, which maintained the use of spurs, bucking straps and non-release ropes at rodeos. Those items are equipment essential to a "quality rodeo product," Dorenkamp said.

He believes the people wanting to ban that equipment really want to outlaw rodeos.

Matt Johnson with the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere, which has opposed horse racing and staged a protest before the supervisors' meeting, wouldn't say yes or no on whether Dorenkamp's allegation was true.

Johnson said Ringling Brothers is bringing back the circus without animals. He suggested rodeos could change, too.

Valle said his intention was not to hurt rodeos, such as Rowell Ranch Rodeo in unincorporated Alameda County. He said during the meeting that he saw a middle ground that would protect rodeos and ban wild cow milking, which he did by introducing an amendment to the original ordinance.

"Animals, they don't step up the podium," Valle said. "They don't get a chance to speak. Who speaks for them?" Four supervisors voted in favor of the amendment.

Supervisor David Haubert voted against it. He thought the county should rely on the state or federal government to regulate wild cow milking.

Haubert and Board of Supervisors Vice President Nate Miley preferred that county committees take a look at issues coming before the Board of Supervisors before the board looks at them. "That's my big frustration," Miley said, because that did not happen. But it's not required by county law or policy. Supervisors can introduce items without vetting them through committees.

Miley also said the consideration of Valle and Brown's proposal took away from the discussion and action on vital issues in the county such as homelessness and mental health.

Haubert had a similar opinion. "People are literally dying in our streets," he said. In 2019, supervisors voted to ban mutton busting, a practice where children ride a sheep like adults ride a steer during a rodeo. Supervisors also considered banning wild cow milking in 2019.

No one from Rowell Ranch Rodeo responded by mid-Wednesday afternoon to a request for comment on the board's action.