Did you know that dogs and cats can only sweat from their nose and the bottoms of their feet? Cows can’t sweat at all, so we need to be sure to give them extra protection from the sun. Especially our black cows, they sure can get hot in the summer sunshine!
In our main pasture, we have this shed that the cows can go in and out whenever they want. It gives them protection from the wind from most directions, and provides them some shade from the sun. When the cows are in this pasture, they spend most of their nights sleeping in this shed.
Cattle need way more water than you might think. A lactating cow in the middle of the summer can drink around 18 gallons of water a day. A heifer who is not pregnant will drink around 10 gallons of water a day in the summer. Calves don’t need that much, because they are getting lots of liquid from their milk diet, but they still need access to fresh water. The herd we have at our home this year will be 7 cows and 7 calves, plus 3 pregnant heifers this summer. They will drink between 150-200 gallons of water a day as we get into the summer months.
At our farm, the cows drink from the same well water that we do. This is the water trough we have in the pasture with our three heifers. This is a 100-gallon tank. We last filled it up about 4 days ago. Normally, we keep a hose with an auto-fill valve in the tank, but we are doing some house construction and our water supply is a little different than normal, so we pull a hose out and fill the tank up as needed. The red disk floating in the water is a heater, so the water doesn’t freeze when the weather gets cold.
Posted in Animals
Tagged cattle, cow, water
Just like you, our beef cows go to the doctor every year. It just so happens that our veterinarians are my husband, my father-in-law, and me. So our cows get “vet-checked” every day when we feed them. Most beef cattle farms will have vet checks once or twice a year (depending on how the farm is run), and the vet will be on call for illnesses or emergencies that come up.
While cattle are domestic animals, they are not really tame animals. They tolerate people being around, but in general they don’t want to be loved and petted like dogs or cats. Think of cattle like that neighborhood cat that runs around, wants you to feed him and talk to him, but won’t let you get close enough to pet him.
Since cattle are not “high contact” animals, we try to leave them alone as much as possible. When we do need to bring them in out of the pasture, we do as much as we can all at the same time so we can leave them alone again for a few months. You can see that one of these cows is watching me; the other cattle are watching the guys who are walking through the pasture towards them.
There’s no denying it, there are two main goals of having a herd of beef cattle. The first is to have new calves every year to sell or keep to grow the size of the herd. The second is to raise animals to the right size so they can be sold for their meat. Let’s talk about the life stages these animals go through before they get to your grocery store.
Pregnant cows. We’ve already talked about these ladies a bit. They’re large and in charge. They eat and drink a lot. Their number one job is to have a healthy baby around 9 months after they get pregnant (just like people).
Last time we learned a little bit about what’s special about dairy cows. Today we’ll see why beef cattle are different.
As you might expect, beef cattle are raised for their meat. This can be in the form of steak, ground beef, roasts, or included in hot dogs or other processed beef foods. Instead of being bred for the amount of milk they can produce, like dairy cattle, beef cattle are bred for how fast they grow and how much muscle (meat) they can develop. While in dairy we talk mostly about the cows, in beef we talk about calves, cows, heifers, and steers. Beef can come from heifers or steers, there’s no difference in the taste, but it does usually come from animals that have grown up to about 18 months old. There are lots of different breeds of beef cattle, but Angus are the ones that most people have heard of.
Okay… so dairy or beef cattle? Cattle come in all kinds of breeds, just like dogs or cats. Some breeds are primarily used for the beef they can produce; some breeds are primarily used for the milk they can produce. Just like certain breeds of dogs are bred for their speed (Greyhounds) or their size (teacup Yorkshire terriers), certain breeds of cows are bred for their ability to make milk (Holsteins or Jerseys) or to grow muscle (Angus or Hereford).
Dairy breeds of cows are capable of making much more milk than one calf would need. Some dairy cows can produce up to eight gallons of milk a day. Most beef cows just produce enough milk to keep one (and sometimes two) calves fed and happy, but not much extra. This is usually 1-2 gallons a day.
These photos are all of dairy cows (all girls). The first four cows are Holstein cows. Continue reading
My original plan for this post was to talk about the difference between dairy and beef cows. Then I realized that we (farmers and veterinarians) use the word “cows” when we usually mean “cattle.” So what’s the difference? Well, cows are girls. Cattle are boys and/or girls. So let’s start there.
Bovine – a term for cattle, male or female, young or old. We use this more on the medical side than anywhere else.
Cattle – multiple bovines, males and/or females of any age. (These happen to be all girls, but they range from 3-10 years old.)
Posted in Animals
Tagged beef, cattle, cow
Just like last post, I do not mean to endorse or oppose any of the brands shown here. I took my camera to a local grocery store, and took photos of labels that I know people have questions about, regardless of the brands.
We saw this label in the last post talking about vegetarian-fed animals. These eggs are also labeled “humane,” so let’s talk about that for a second.
The USDA has no regulations on the use of the word “humane.” There are no oversight or recommendations for this label. Period. Anyone can slap this label on anything they want.
I want to start off by saying that I do not mean to endorse or oppose any of the brands shown here. I took my camera to a local grocery store, and took photos of labels that I know people have questions about, regardless of the brands.
We’ve all heard about cage free and free range chicken. But does anyone really know what it means?
USDA certified organic
The USDA will certify a farm or ranch as organic, once it has been inspected and found to follow the regulations for organic production. The basics of the guidelines (as far as the government can translate to “real-people speak”) are posted here and here. The actual rule is 48 pages long. In a nutshell, here are the key points a farmer needs to follow to be certified organic: the land must be managed as organic for 3 years before certification can be awarded; buffer zones must be in place to avoid potential contamination from prohibited substances; no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides can be used on land; no antibiotics or growth hormones can be given to animals. Farmers must keep accurate records detailing all the practices and procedures carried out on their farm, lists and sources of each substance (feed, fertilizers, etc) that are used, and a list of their monitoring practices and procedures. Continue reading
Posted in General
Tagged FSIS, organic, USDA