Monday, June 18, 2007

Know Your Farmyard Terminology

I've always had a fascination with all things agricultural. Peter and I joke that there must have been a mix-up somewhere along the way and I got sent to the suburbs and the perfect mall rat ended up spending her life "stuck" on a farm. The goal within the next five years is to get a few acres, build our own house, and then get some animals - a couple of cows, a few goats, and a horse or two.

Our landlord is a cattle farmer and we see his herd in various fields in the area. When they were in the near fields, I nicknamed the more recognisable ones - Beefy, Bruiser, Chuck, Stripey, Brownie, Blackie. I was a bit puzzled though since when I turned to the Internet to help me identify the breed, I couldn't find one breed that encompassed the variety in the herd.

The landlord was over this weekend to work on the garage and I decided to ask him about his herd. Peter has been pushing me to talk to him and offer to help out so I could learn more about the care of cattle, but I am shy and have a deep and abiding fear of authority figures.

"How's it going there? Ah yeah, it's a grand day. I've been meaning to ask you, what breed of cows do you have?" I asked. "I don't have any cows," he replied.

My mind tried to process what he'd said. He has a fierce 'West Cark' accent but I was pretty sure I'd heard him say he didn't have any cows. Then what, I wondered in my head, were those four-legged, grass munching, cud chewing, mooing creatures I'd seen in his fields?

He was able to decipher the look of confusion on my face and explained, "I haven't got any cows. I have bullocks. A herd of cattle." "Oh," I said sheepishly, cursing my high school for not having a Future Farmers of America chapter, "I use the word interchangeably. What breed are they?" Turns out they are several different breeds - Hereford, Angus, and Shandley. (I know about the first two but I hadn't heard of Shanleys before. When I asked the Internet, it looks like I misheard the answer and my best guess is that the third breed was Shetlands.)

As a public service, here are a few of the more obscure farm terms, so that the next time you're talking to a dairy farmer or a horse breeder, you don't embarrass yourself.

Bull - Intact male bovine of breeding age.

Bullock - Mature castrated male cattle used for beef production. In the States, these are called steer.

Heifer - young female bovine who has not had her first calf, or has had her first calf and is still producing milk. Heifers become cows after they have their second calf.

Hogget - castrated male sheep usually around a year old. (Tom would often complain that what was sold as lamb was actually hogget.)

Wether - male sheep castrated before reaching sexual maturity.

Gilt - Young female pig who has not yet given birth.

Gelding - castrated male horse.

Hinny - offspring of a female donkey and a male horse.

All research to produce this public service came from h2g2, which claims to be 'an unconventional guide to life, the universe and everything.'

6 Comments:

At 18 June 2007 at 20:07, Anonymous Primal Sneeze said...

Are you sure he didn't mean Charolais, Ann? Irish farmers often mispronounce the breed Charlie or Sharley. A far more common breed than Shetland.

 
At 19 June 2007 at 03:15, Blogger laurie said...

fascinating. i only knew a few of those terms. not being a farm girl myself, or one who aspires to be a farm girl.

one of the most interesting stories i ever wrote, though, was about a day in a life of a farm vet. i got to watch him catrate calves; and perform surgery on a cow right there in the barn (i think it was a cow; it looked like a cow)--it had a twisted stomach, which is apparently fairly common; and give rabbit-raising advice to a young couple.

that was a wonderful day, a spring day spent out of doors going from farm to farm. i wore big rubber boots and coveralls and that day, just that one day, i definitely wanted to be a farm girl.

 
At 19 June 2007 at 09:42, Blogger Fence said...

Most Irish cattle are a mix. We have a pedigree Hereford farm near us at home. But most cattle round us are mutts ;)

There is also a field with the warning "Beware of the Ram" which i'm not sure I believe. Because often times there is nothing at all in the field. Maybe it is invisible. Who knows.

 
At 19 June 2007 at 15:45, Blogger Col said...

Steers don't have udders, silly.

My uncle raises beefalo, which are another quite interesting breed.

 
At 20 June 2007 at 18:58, Anonymous Jared Brubaker said...

Ann...I can't find an email for you so I'll post here...

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Please feel free to reach out to me at anytime.

Thanks and I hope to hear back from you soon!

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At 20 June 2007 at 20:04, Blogger -Ann said...

PS - Ah yes, that could indeed be it. I don't know - he's got brown and whites, red and white, black and whites, plain black, and a tawny colour. I know there's no Friesians or Jerseys. Beyond that, I'm lost.

Laurie - That sounds like a description of my perfect day. If I could do it all over, I'd be a farm vet.

Fence - I hadn't thought of cattle mutts before. I definitely think you should beware of the invisible ram.

Col - Well, it depends who you believe. Have you seen Barnyard? They would lead you to believe that steers do indeed have udders. Maybe that's why I'm confused. :)

Jared - Um. No, thanks.

 

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