That's not a cow! A tutorial of terms - from a Dummy!
Well, true. That's actually a goat in the middle of the herd. But, if you were to think, as I tend to, "Hey, look at those cows!" you'd find a farmer lookin' at you funny. Somehow I managed to live most of my life without any farmer lookin' at me funny until recently.
Me: Hey, William! How are the cows?" I say when we're standing in front of the new calves.
WM: Not sure what you mean?
Me: These guys. Are they getting better? (They had been sick.)
WM: Well, the calves seem to be eating better. The cows are out on pasture. They're crazy.
So easily I forget that a cow is not a cow, even though all my life I was raised to name that bovine creature on pasture a cow. It seems if we are not from a farming area, we all tend to do that - call them "cows." I've learned way more than I probably want to know about cattle since I bought my little farm seven years ago, and am now married to a farmer.
Most of us know that baby mooies are calves. But, what I didn't know is if females are born a twin to a male, they are called freemartins. I guess the male hormones shared in utero can cause the female twin's ovaries to remain undeveloped and for her to be unable to reproduce (although that is not always the case). A freemartin is undesirable for a dairy operation for obvious reasons, so she will be sent off with the calves destined to be meat animals. Male calves or freemartins destined for a job at McDonalds are also referred to as "Feeders" once they have been weaned from milk and are on grain, grass, silage or hay. Our calves are not yet weaned from milk, but when they are, I am going to call them, "weaners!"
Male calves meant for meat production are typically castrated or banded so they remain infertile, less hormonal and calm. They are called steers. Most of us know that an intact male is called a bull. When we look out on pastures or cattle yards nowadays, it is more often steers we see than cows. The dairy farming gig is not what it once was.
Cows are female cattle that have already birthed at least one calf. Before they have had a calf, and they are approaching their reproductive age, they are called a heifer. If a heifer closes the kitchen because she's had it, I suspect she's part of a big family, or an unseasoned cook! Or, she is interested in "bullin'" as William's father called it when a female is in heat and meeting up with a bull. Just like humans, the gestation period for cattle is about nine months. If my girls are out there bullin' now, we'll be expecting next May - Spring Babies!
Our herd is a mixed group of bulls, cows, a heifer, a steer, a calf and a goat! Without the goat included, this is a herd of cattle indicating both sexes. This herd is pretty wild as we don't have much contact with them. They pasture, they reproduce, and every so often, we need to thin them out. In the Spring, their manure is collected to fertilize the fields before planting. Besides eye candy on pasture, the cattle play a very important role providing for the farm and the farmer.
You are welcome. Next time you're on a farm, you won't need to get any funny looks if you just remember STEERS! Cows are female and lots of farms are raising beef - castrated males called steers. Of course if you pass a dairy, you are likely seeing some cows! (Another time I'll explain how to recognize a dairy farm.)
WHAT'S NEW ON THE FARM THIS WEEK?
Meet JJ! He's new to the farm as of last Sunday! We are super excited to bring minis back (William had three notorious minis in the past on Lake View Organic) to to be cute and funny farm mascots. We are looking for a Jenny for this sweet little guy, but in the meantime, we are smothering him with love and treats. He comes to us from an Amish farm where he was free-ranged, so the transition to taking him off the halter was easy. He trots around the farm munching grass and apples quite content for the time being. If you come to see him this weekend, he might be penned or tethered as we are working on his one bad habit - nipping at hands and ankles if he's feeling cranky.
WHAT'S NEW IN THE STORE?
The harvest this week: onions, peppers, mustard seed, oregano...all of these delicious aromatics have led me down the path of making exotic tasting spice blends. My take on Vadouvan (a French inspired onion/shallot/garlic infused curry), after pulling a preponderance of onions and shallots from the garden, is this farmier version meant to be heated in a bit of sunflower oil before being added to a dish of chicken, seafood, squash soup or vegetables. Of course, it can be added dry, but the depth of flavor will develop with an infusion of heat and oil.
My version of the Middle East Spice blend called Za'atar uses toasted sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds instead of sesame seeds. Our oregano, hot peppers and coriander seeds are toasted into the nuts with a dash of cumin and salt to create a very rich depth of flavor that tastes great sprinkled on corn-on-the-cob, steamed green beans or added to our sunflower oil and scooped up with a good bread. Blend it with plain yogurt for a fantastic dip!
We're looking forward to seeing lots of familiar and new faces this weekend at the Lake View Organic Farm Store! Bring a friend. Take a drive. Weather looks to be BEAUTIFUL to spend some time in the country.
Cheers to you all!