Monday, August 30, 2010

Dairy Farming 101 - part 1...animal basics

We farmers tend to use our own lingo, and we forget sometimes that not all of you grew up "just knowing" what a springing heifer or a twisted stomach is!  So, for those of you how don't know the difference between a silo unloader or a front end loader, here's a simple crash course in Dairy Farming 101!

heifer - a young female calf...she will be referred to in this manner from birth until she has her first calf at around two years of age

bull  - a male calf...will be referred to in this manner all his life  (how boring!)

steer - a castrated bull...raised for beef

springer - a heifer or cow who is close to delivering her calf.  Her udder "springs up", and fills with milk, an indication that she is close to delivery 

1st calf heifer - a two year old heifer who has deliverd her 1st calf, and is integrated into the milking herd.  Once she has her 2nd calf, she graduates to "cow"

fresh cow  - a cow who has just delivered her calf

holstein - one of the most common breed of cows in this and white in color...usually large, strong looking animals that yield large quantities of milk

jersey - another breed of cows, not known so much for their high milk yields, but for the high butterfat content in their milk...beautiful brown color...but we haven't been overly impressed with their personalities!  :)

breeder - the person who comes to the farm and artificially inseminates the cows...he/she works for a company who owns many bulls for the sole purpose of breeding cows.  Some farmers still use their own bulls, but it's not the most common practice anymore.  Bulls can be very dangerous, and by using a breeder, the gene pool is much more varied!

heat - call the breeder! 

heat - oh yeah...that brutal stuff we had this summer...mid to high nineties, with high humidity!

settle - when a cow is confirmed pregant, we say she has "settled"

dry cow - exactly what it sounds like...when a cow is about two months from her due date, she enters a "dry" period, when we stop milking her in order to give her a rest before she delivers her calf

herdex - a chart where the farmer keeps track of all the cows...from breeding date to dry up date to fresh date

fever - in a cow, anything over 102 degrees

milk fever - a condition where after calving, a cow becomes very weak, and has difficulty standing up. She may walk unsteadily or fall down, her ears will likely be cold, and left untreated, she will die. She almost always needs to be given calcium through intravenous injection in order to recover. This usually happens in older cows; rarely in a 1st calf heifer. ( and this usually happens either at midnight or on a Sunday morning, of course! )

twisted stomach - sometimes, usually soon after calving, a cow's stomach will twist, requiring surgery.  The surgery is rather routine, and the animal usually makes a full recovery.  The main indication is that the cows stops eating...whenever a cow stops eating, beware!! (did you know that a cow has 4 stomachs?)

hardware - sometimes a cow will ingest a foreign object...a sharp piece of plastic, a piece of metal...maybe a soda can was thrown into the corn field and got chopped with the silage...a nail...this can end up puncturing the stomach and cause serious damage.  A cow with hardware will often need to be slaughtered.  This is why you should never throw trash into a field!  It doesn't just look nasty, it can be very painful to the cow and costly to the farmer

magnet - each cow on our farm swallows a large magnet, which remains in her 1st stomach throughout her life.  The purpose it to attract pieces of metal that she may swallow.  It helps, but is not foolproof. 

Stay tuned for Dairy Farming 101 - part 2................  

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm, very interesting information. So much I don't know about farming. Here I thought all cows were cows! :)


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