Ask us: Do you know all your cows?
Welcome to "Ask us" -- a series of posts designed to answer some of our most frequently asked questions. It took over an hour to get to the nearest dairy farm from the house I grew up in. While the local nursery had a few goats and the occasionally pig, animal agricultural was very distant from where I grew up. My life has changed significantly in the last decade and I now boast skills like being able to milk a cow, drive a tractor, and bottle feed a calf. When I go home to visit, I get asked some really interesting questions. I thought I would take a crack at answering some of those questions here
Do you know all your cows?
Yup! We know each of our cows by name and each cow has a story. Naming our cows is a practical matter as we need to be able to speak specifically about an individual animal and keep detailed records on lineage, medical history, and milk production. Naming our cows is also an emotional matter; our cows are part of the tapestry of our life and giving them names adds texture.
We work with our cows every single day, so it is almost impossible not to learn their habits and preferences. When our most awesome employee milks for us, he will occasionally call with a question. Last night, it was about the cow “who always stands sideways in the parlor”. Even without her name, we knew immediately who he was speaking about. The cow that always stands sideways in the parlor is Shayna, just as the cow who always presses her nose against the railing is Serena, and the cow that always dances is Babe, and the cow that loves to hide her calves is Guinevere.
We use a naming scheme to name our cows. We identify maternal lineages by the first letter of the first name. For instance, Maura has Meringue and Michele, and Meringue has Minnow and Mississippi. Each year we pick a theme. 2012 was desserts, 2013 was songs, 2014 was fish, and 2015 is river bodies. Using Maura’s lineage as an example, you can tell that Meringue was born in 2012, Michele in 2013, Minnow in 2014, and Mississippi in 2015. We name all bull calves after cuts of meat.