There was a day in the not-too-distant past when I new nothing, literally nothing, about agriculture. My dad's family had a farm when he was young and inevitably at family gatherings, talk would turn to the good ol' days on the farm. What I heard: "Bwa, bwa, bwa, bwa, bwa, bwa." I had no interest in farming, or tractors, or cows. I should have been listening more closely, it would have saved me from looking like a complete idiot on a daily basis. See the "howdy wave" post.
I married a farmer not because I loved farming, but because I fell in love with this guy's forearms and he happened to be a farmer. Perhaps part of my allure was that I was a blank slate. In a good way of course. I didn't know the difference between a John Deere and a New Holland. I truly thought that farmers chose the paint color for whatever tractor based on whether they liked red, or blue, or green. Like cars.
I also thought that a cow was a cow was a cow. What's the difference between a steer and a bull? No idea. A Jersey and a Black Angus? I'm hungry for a hamburger for some reason.
The road to understanding this great life in agricultural has been a fascinating one. And occasionally painful to my nose (manure) and my laundry pile (manure again).
Last week we sold our calves as we do every year at this time. Occasionally I long for my innocence before I understood the hard, tiring work that goes into growing things from scratch. I miss the days when I thought that bread came from the store, McDonald's served yummy hamburgers, and fruit magically appeared in the produce department at Safeway.
Ignorance is bliss and you'll never be the same again....
The calves are usually born in the spring. That happens because of strategic planning with the bulls. Kind of takes the romance out of it. The cows have their babies and graze on the fertile fescue fields all summer. The calves are so cute scampering about in the sunshine.
When the rain comes and the fields get too muddy for grazing in the late fall, the hardworking farm guys move all the cows, and their calves to the barn at our house. At this point, Jeff monitors and feeds them morning and at night, 7 days a week.
There are some icky details that I will spare you like how a boy cow goes from bull to steer and how the calves are taken away from their mamas and cry all night long.
The general purpose of bringing them into the barn is to feed them and fatten them up. Jeff and his dad grow their own hay, straw, and grain, and then feed it through the winter. A nice situation economically speaking, although it assures that the work is never done.
When the calves are about a year old, it's time for selling. The price goes by weight, so in this instance, chubby is better. The calves are marched through this chute into a trailer.
Goodbye our beautiful bovine! Emma cried really hard, finally understanding this year what the process was all about. With young kids, every moment of conversation is a teachable moment. Lately, Emma has been asking what kind of animal we are eating at our meals. Ham = pig, hamburger = cow, chicken = chicken, and so on. As the cows were being loaded and taken away Emma asked, "Are you going to eat me for meat when I die?" A teachable moment about cannibalism.
Mmmm. Tastes like chicken.
The calves were taken away in style. This trailer is double decker with a lovely sweeping staircase in the foyer. Sure, the occomodations were tight, but with such luxurious surroundings, no one was complaining. Very much.
The buyer of our cows will take them to his feed lot and probably sell them for slaughter [tried to find a nicer word than slaughter and couldn't find one] in late summer after they put on even more weight.
In our lot remains the mama cows who are oblivious to the process, but I imagine they notice it is much quieter now. They will go on to meet with their favorite bull of the month and have more babies to scamper about in the sunshine. And so it continues....