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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mad Cow

Actually, we don't have mad cows on our farm. I really don't like the term because the disease is correctly called Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. Feel free to visit that link if you want to learn more about BSE because this post isn't about mad cows. It's about happy cows, but since the title drew you in you might as well stay and read a bit, right?

Why does my farm have happy cows? Because we work hard to insure the health, nutrition, productivity and well-being of our herd.
  • Herd: the word used to describe a group of cattle. You can have a small herd like ours (30-50 head) or a large herd (100+ head). 
  • Head: the word used to describe one animal in the herd. 
153 is a heifer in the dry lot at our farm.
Because we are raising a biological organism, our herd consists of cattle at different life stages. They are not all the same age, sex or reproductive status.
  • Heifer: a heifer is a female bovine that has not given birth to a calf. 
  • Calf: the name used to describe a juvenile bovine of either sex. Think of how we use the word child. 
  • Cow: a female bovine that has given birth to a calf. 
  • Bull: an intact male bovine that is used to breed the cows and heifers. 
    • We have two bulls in our herd and farmers commonly have at least one bull per 30 females. 
A heifer walking through the corn stalks we let them graze. 
My family primarily raises crops. We raise cattle because we love animals and they are able to graze the ground we farm. Essentially, feed for our herd throughout a majority of the year is free because we own the land already and they might as well graze it.
  • Dry lot: we bring our cattle into a set of pens where they have access to feed, water and minerals. It is handy to have cattle come into the pens because it makes it easier to check them each day. Cattle maintain a similar schedule daily according to the juxtaposition of the sun. Our cattle come into the pens at the farm every afternoon and return to graze towards evening. If my brother notices that one didn't come in, he knows something could be wrong and can closely inspect. 
  • Corn stalks: we let our cattle graze the ground that was used to grow corn from April to September and has been harvested. The stalks are left in the field to prevent erosion and provide a great feed source for our herd. One acre of corn stalks can feed two 1,000-pound cows for one month. 
Stay tuned for an upcoming post that will teach you more about how we raise cattle in the heartland. If you have any questions or need clarifications, please comment below.



Photo credit: These pictures were snapped by the newest farm wife in our family - my sister-in-law. I'm sure glad God made farmers, but it takes a special woman to be a farmer's wife! Shout out to all the farmer's wives out there!

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