Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Terms of endearment

When my dad was a farmer, I didn’t pay much attention. But when it’s your business, you note every detail. For instance, people usually call all cattle “cows”. But there are different terms for them, that I didn’t even use correctly until I moved here as an adult:

Calf - from birth until one year old
Heifer – a female from one year old until she has a calf
Cow – a female after she’s had a calf
Bull – a male
Steer – a male that has been castrated

Before I went to college, I never thought much about being from a dairy farm, since there are so many in the area. But if it ever came up in conversation, people were interested. I remember one girl telling me, “I just figured everyone in Michigan went to the beach all summer – like me.” I had lots of friends come and tour the farm.

After college and grad school, I got married and lived in three different states. When we moved back, I met new friends … and they were all interested to come and tour the farm! Even though they live in an area where there are farms, there’s no reason they’d go to one unless they were friends with a farmer. It’s not like they could just walk into their barns and start poking around.

I love giving tours. I like people to come in warm weather, when they can see the new calves – or maybe see a calf being born. We also – year-round – take people to the milk parlor to see the cows being milked. We also give everyone a chance to milk a cow’s teat with a bare hand, just to see what it was like in the olden days. That, and it’s cool. Who doesn't love new experiences?!

Winter is a quieter time. Even the cattle change - every morning when Kris starts the machinery, the heifers run up from the pasture to see what’s going on. He said that it was so cold and windy yesterday morning that they didn’t even leave the woods.

The bulls have impregnated most of the heifers and cows, so they’ll have calves starting in April. They gestate for 9 months, so they spend the winter being pregnant. (Cows have to have a calf every year in order to produce milk.) The winter I was pregnant I’d walk past them in the pasture and wonder how they looked so much more nimble than I was.

Pregnant on a dairy farm, you ask? Are you guessing there were comparisons made to cows and milk production? ... More than even a girl raised on a dairy farm could imagine!


Anonymous said...

This is so funny! I grew up on a farm too and my dad would always get mad when I called them cows...he had steer. My favorite quote of his, one time when I was home from college I was complaining about the smell outside. He says to me, "That smell is paying for your education!" Never again have I taken his farming for granted. Kudos to you and your husband for this undertaking!

Carla said...

Thank you so much!

It must be what all farmers teach their kids ... We taught our kids to say, "It smells like money!"