For those of you who follow our farm journey on Instagram or Facebook you know we raise a small cow/calf herd. What you might not know is that just a few years ago all of those cows were technically Dads. Megan and I grew up in 4-H and showed cattle all throughout our school years. We kept many of our heifers back to breed and overtime we slowly grew our cow herd. Even though the cows feel like Megan and I's, they are technically my dads. When Tyler and I got married, we had this vision to invest into the herd with Dad. It is our goal to eventually become 50/50 partners. A couple of years ago we purchased our first cow. This was a big deal to us, now to most people it sounded a little hippy. We had one cow and flowers but... stick with me. That cow had a steer and we traded the steer for a heifer from Dad's cows. We then had two! This last weekend we went to an annual bred cow sale and purchased 5 more cows. Dad bought 4 to add to the herd. The cows are between the ages of two and seven years old.
They say slow and steady wins the race. Tyler and I are trying to be smart and strategic about the way we grow the herd with Dad. Similar to my flowers, we want the growth to be manageable and financially possible. The goal to farm more profitably runs deep in our heart but to do so we need to first build our home on the farmstead. Hopefully I will have some updates on that here soon.
I recently wrote a blog for work (www.linncoag.com) about the language used by farmers at an auction. The last time we attended, we noticed different colored ear tags. Dad explained that the different colors meant that the cows were different ages. I am not sure if every auction uses the same language but here it seemed all the farmers knew the ear tag code. There was no display and no key on the listings. I am sure we could have asked but instead we decided to observe and by the time we left the auction, I had created a key on the bottom of the sheet. The colors represented the cow age.
White: heifer, a young female that has not had her first calf
Green: 3 year old
Yellow: 4 to 6 years old
Blue: 7 or 8 years old
Orange: Solid mouth (close to adult)
Okay you might be wondering what solid mouth means! Did you know an age of a cow can be determined by looking at her teeth? Milk tooth is a calf, the teeth are short and soft. As the cow gets older, the teeth become worn out and eventually will fall out. Solid mouth means the cow still has all of her teeth but she has almost reached adult stage. Broken mouth or the red tag means the cow is beginning to break or lose her teeth.
Farmers will use this information to help make decisions when purchasing. For example on our farm, we are looking for young cows to help build up our herd. We are relatively small so it is important to look at the longevity of the cow. A healthy and productive cow can live to be 12 years old or so.
Below is the listings from the sale. You can see there is additional information to help the farmer make decisions. The breed, calving due date, vaccination records are all factors that will aid in interest and price.
There was over 900 cows for sale on Saturday and this was due to dispersals (farmers selling all of their cows), downsizing herds, or farmers who focus on raising good quality commercial cow/calf pairs.
We will raise the cow/calf pairs until the calves are weaned. Once the calves are weaned and no longer need milk, we will sell them to be fed out to market size on another farm.
It was such a fun day, I think my heart is still racing from raising the bidding number haha! Thank you for taking the time to read, as always if you have questions about farming practices or why we do what we do, don't hesitate to reach out.