New Cow Terminology

Yep, I’m learning new stuff. At the present time, Mike is raising about a dozen calves that range from about 250 lbs to probably 700 lbs. In the next few weeks there will be close to three dozen to care for. Not a large amount by any stretch of the imagination, but for me, knowing NOTHING about cattle, it means some quick learning. I’m learning, for example, how to differentiate between the breeds and not simply white, black or brown cows. I’ve learned a bull is not only a male “cow”, but is still equipped with the necessities for breeding, as opposed to a steer which was born male but altered. (How do you like that wording?) A bald calf isn’t hairless, it has a white face, like our little Holstein, Hal. Hal is a brown bull…only he’s called a red and white Holstein (most are black and white). He is also bald. If this is confusing to you, you must be from the city too!

One way of learning about ther terminology is to search for cattle on craigslist. It gives me an idea of pricing, availability of breeds and brings new terminology that I otherwise might not hear or understand when a cattleman uses it. I’m still confused. For example, if a heifer (female cow) is fresh, does it mean she’s ready for breeding? If so, what does it mean if a milch cow has recently been freshened. Ok, so the city girl in me still has a mental picture of someone bathing and primping the cow and putting a big pink bow on her head, but I know that’s not so.Which brings me to another set of terms. There are bottle calves (not weaned) and feeder calves (weaned), at what point are they no longer calves? Is is age or weight? At present Hal is a red and white, bald Halstein bull feeder calf…I think…though he probably weighs about 500 lbs. But what about Big Mean Mama? She’s a black angus heifer, at least 700 lbs (maybe 800) and the guardian of the herd. She protects the little guys, like Sam, the Charolais. I call her mean, but she’s really not, she is leery of strangers, human and cattle, and will stare down the newcomers. We don’t really know her age, except that she is a few weeks older than most of the other calves. If we were to sell her on craigslist, I’m wondering how to advertise her. Somehow I don’t think it would work to say we have a lovely, sleek black angus mama-type calf for sale. Fortunately for me, she is not for sale, although since she is “polled” she might make a good bred heifer at some point. ‘Polled’ simply means she is hornless. At some point Big Mean Mama will be a polled fresh black angus heifer. When, I can’t say.

I’m so glad humans don’t choose mates based on such criteria. Can you imagine the match.com ad that reads: “Fresh, bald, caucasion heifer,  approximately 150 lbs seeks homozygous polled registered bull for breeding. No steers allowed”?

About cattlebaroness

I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky with a BA in History, nearing completion of a Master of Arts in American history. Born and raised first on military bases around the world, then in Orange County, CA, I moved to Kentucky when my children were small. I now live on a small family farm and am learning about farm life, planting and our newest addition to the landscape--cattle. Until a month or two ago, all I knew about 'cows' were that they came in brown, black and white and that some are raised for milk and others for meat. I am a quick study out of necessity.
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