Last week there was a very fun and lively discussion on Farmgirl Chit-Chat about what we Farmgirls name our cows. Every name that was thrown out there made me think of a beautiful, clean and shiny milk cow. Which we do not have. We have a small herd of beef cattle that are probably not particularly beautiful to most people. But to us they are gorgeous! Each one is an individual and each one makes us happy for different reasons. Their names reflect that.
In walking among our cows, talking to them, (my husband admitted that he sings to them!), treating them to a bucket of grain, doctoring them, and loving them, we have gotten to know their individual personalities. Their names haven’t come immediately – with some of them it has taken months before a name sticks!
So I thought I would introduce some of our cows to you and tell you how their names came about!
I will start with our beautiful Angus Bull. After all, he is one of the most important cast of characters in the whole herd! We named him McKinley. My husband is from Alaska and Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America, was an important part of his childhood growing up. It was kind of like this big, beautiful thing that he loved greatly, but admired from a distance. That is our McKinley. He is big, beautiful and an amazingly wonderful bull. But we give him the respect that is due and allow him his space. And he gives us the same in return.
My favorite Momma cow is Princess Kate. I think she has such a soft, beautiful face. When we purchased her I said to my grand-daughter, “Isn’t she beautiful? And she is pregnant with a little calf. What shall we name her?” That little 4 year old girl said, “Let’s name her Princess” (of course, what little girl wouldn’t say that?) and I immediately thought of Princess Kate, who was pregnant with her first baby at the time. So that beautiful momma cow became Princess Kate!
Then there is our red cow that is elderly and wonderful. We called her “the old red cow” in the beginning and of course that evolved into Old Red and fit her perfectly. She is the cow that will always, always be the first to come when we call, the first to check out something new on the farm, the first to be nudging me through the fence when I’m working in my garden. And she is a seasoned, amazing Momma. Just look at that bag on her!
And String Trimmer. WHO names a cow String Trimmer? That would be my husband. This funny Momma keeps the grass trimmed down to the ground under our yard fence. In the summer she comes to the hilltop every evening and slowly works her way around the fence doing such an amazing job of trimming that we never have to use our string trimmer on our yard fence! The name stuck and I think she likes it!
We also have a Momma cow that is blind in one eye. She came to us like this. Her blind eye is very blue, almost glass looking. She is named Blue Eyed of course! If you look close in the picture below you can see her blue eye.
The little calf in the picture below is the first calf that was born after we bought our first group of Momma cows almost 3 years ago. She was born on Martin Luther King day and we named her Holiday. We kept her as a replacement heifer and she is now pregnant and will be having her first calf this spring! It was the best holiday ever when she was born!
And then there are the calves. Since we are in the beef cattle business, we don’t keep our calves much beyond eight months of age (except for the steers we sell as grass fed beef at 18 months of age). A lot of people have asked how we could name our calves, get so attached to them and then sell them? Our response is that while they are in our possession we give them the very best life. We name them, we love them, we provide them with green grass and a beautiful farm to live on and we always treat them humanely. And yes, we cry when they leave. Here are some of our favorites.
One winter when I went to Birmingham to watch my son and daughter-in-law run in the Mercedes Marathon our Momma Cow #173 gave birth to twins while I was gone. When I returned home and took one look at those precious little black calves laying side by side in the grass, I named them Mercedes and Marathon! It just seemed so appropriate! Unfortunately Marathon didn’t live but just a few days. Can I just tell you that I bawled for days over that?
We had to call our local Veterinarian to pull a calf for us last year. That calf was the biggest surprise when he came out. When we purchased his mother, a Charolais, she was already pregnant and we had no idea what she had been bred to. Imagine our surprise when a huge Brahma calf was pulled from his Momma. We had never met this particular Vet before and he was a quiet man that answered all questions in one word (under his breath in a strong Southern accent) so when I asked him his name and he replied, “Walter” that was the name that came out of my mouth the next morning when I was sitting on the ground nuzzling that darling calf. So, Walter he became. (Incidentally it was months later that we discovered the Veterinarian wasn’t Walter… but Dr. Walker!) Our grand-girls loved little (or rather, big) Walter, probably because we could spot him from two pastures away! When we sold Walter at eight months of age it was a sad day indeed.
And then we ended up with a little Hereford calf, he was a big surprise too. (We had a lot of surprises the first year we bought Momma cows that were already bred. Now that they are all bred to McKinley it is a little more predictable!) But this little guy was an immediate favorite of all of us. He was positively the sweetest, softest most gentle little calf. One day my grand-daughter named him Sam. She was dead set on the name. I don’t think it was a coincidence that we have a very special elderly friend that also has a sweet, soft and gentle nature… who has the name of Sam.
Incidentally Sam and Walter were best friends. This was a common sight around our farm for about six months.
I love that calves tend to have best friends that they hang out with on a regular basis. The two little steers below spent every waking minute together and naughty? Oh my goodness, they were always up to something. It reminded me so much of my son and his best friend when they were little kids … so I named them Matt and Logan!
And then there is the name we call our cows when we are calling them all to come to the feed bucket. I bet you can hear it now. “Sook, Sook, Sook!!!”
I think it’s not necessarily in the name itself so much as in the fact that when we name our cows, they become an individual to us and they feel the attention and love they get from that. I think it is a part of good cow stewardship to name our cows.
What are your thoughts – and cow names? I can’t wait to hear!
Until our gravel roads cross again… so long.
I don’t have calves or cows or even a farm…but I love to read your postings! You have a delightful way with words, my friend
Dear Cyndie – you may not have calves, cows or a farm. BUT, you are a true Farmgirl at heart. Hugs! – Dori –
Loved your post. We, too, are cattle ranchers and there is nothing as peaceful and beautiful as waking up to seeing them grazing out the kitchen window. Thank you for your endearing comments on your cows.
Hi Bonnie! Oh I totally agree with you about gazing out the window at our cows in the morning. One of our favorite things to do is sit on the porch and watch our cows! They are such wonderful animals aren’t they? – Dori –
How fun! Love your Brahma calf and the story of his name! We raise Brahma Bucking bulls here, so the naming is even more interesting because the rodeo announcer always tells the crown their names.
I have Awesome Sauce, Broken Heart Bull, Tooth Fairy, Scary Larry and Vice. (Vice was always getting his head stuck somewhere when he was a calf.)
Naming the horses is even more fun and we have so many we are always looking for good bucking horse names! Give me a shout if you think of any good ones!
Hi Erin! I LOVE those names!!!! I read your comment to my husband as we’ve always enjoyed the names of bucking bulls and horses! We’ll be thinking of a name or two! – Dori –
Can’t wait to hear what you come up with!
Oh, I just loved this posting, Dori! I’ve never had a cow in my life… but growing up in Reno, NV. they were part of the local scenery. The outskirts of town were surrounded by large cattle ranches. I especially remember the last one I lived near. I had to pass it on my way home to and from work everyday and as I drove by it I would call out to the pasture HI COOOOOOOOOOOOWS!!! I loved watching them graze out in the pasture and my heart ached that they were not mine! My grandparents were cattle ranchers in Texas. I remember my grandpa calling my granny Old Heifer…Not the most endearing nickname for a woman who bore him 8 children and took care of him all of his life. I think they had an understanding because they were married over 65 years…It’s more than a name! Hugs, Deb Beach Farmgirl
Deb, I had to laugh at the “Old Heifer” comment! I’ve heard that before too! Some of my heifers I love so much that I would be fine being called that I think!!! There is something about seeing cows graze out in the pasture that gives a person a contended feeling. And when they lay in the grass chewing their cud in the sunshine? The best feeling ever!! Hugs back – Dori –
PS. you most certainly are a REAL RANCH FARMGIRL!!! I am in love with your cows and their names!!!
Deb, thank you so much for your support. xoxo – Dori –
This post made my heart sing! And that Brahma calf, adorable!!! Love their ears. I have an ongoing cow name list in a Word document but I never know until I see and “feel” an animal for the first time, what it’s name will be. Great pics, great names, great stories attached to each one!
Dear MaryJane, your comment meant the world! Nothing like cow stories to make our heart sing is there? Those Brahma calves are just the most adorable things… even when Walter was 8 months old and bigger than his mother, he was still cute! Hugs – Dori –
I loved this.post. We also had a Princess-so ned because we bought 2 day old steer calves to raise on goat milk, and one of them was not a steer-so Princess she.became.and there was Leesa Moo, another bum who never quite realized she was a cow, but was the queen of the herd and a terrific mother. We got many excellent heifer calves at the auction yards in Twin Falls, ID where dairy calves were cheap
They bred the 1st calf Holstein heifers to.Angus.bulls so often the heifer calves were black. Good.qualities from both breeds!
Hi Shaunna, You can sure get attached to those bottle fed babies huh? They become more human like than imaginable! We had one where we lived in Utah (an old rancher brought him to me and said, If you can keep him alive you can have him). After a few weeks of me giving him a bottle I swear he started calling me “Momma”!!! Thanks for writing! – Dori –
We had jersey cows when I was a kid back in the 1950’s. The first cow was named Rosie. Her first calf was a little heifer we named Pinky and her second heifer became my 4-H calf I named her Sandy. Had to sell them all when we moved from an acreage to town but if I ever got to have cows again I would have Jersey’s they are so lovable and their milk and cream soooo good.
Dear Margaret – I’ve never been around Jersey cows but they are SO BEAUTIFUL and I heard the same thing about them that they are lovable. I really and truly want one. And I love those names; Rosie, Pinky and Sandy. – Dori –
I love you cows and their names. Thanks for sharing them. I now know why my grandma Cora and her daughter Fannie (who was mentally handicapped and just precious) named their favorite Sookie…You call them in with the Sook Sook Sook..I love it..I’m now going to read my new book Milk Cow Kitchen…Thank you
Hi Dolly, I think Sook is a universal language for all ranchers. My Dad (out West) called his cows “Sook” and they do the same here in the South… just with a little bit more drawn out Soooook drawl!!! You will love the book – I saw on FB that you got it in the mail from MaryJane today. It is the BEST book. My favorite. – Dori –
We raise beef calves that we get off of a dairy farm nearby. We get them about 3-4 days old and I bucket feed them for 6 wks. And we name all of these too, if fact we hang a board with their names on them on their pens. I love having the kids helping come up with their names.
Hi Shelley, having kids help name is the most fun. They come up with some pretty cute things! That bucket feeding is a job huh? Do you start with the bottle and then graduate to the bucket with a nipple? I’ve only ever bottle fed a dogie (what we called the orphans out West), never bucket fed them with milk. I love that you have boards with their names on them. I need that too! – Dori –
Love your post and pictures! We have Longhorns and it is always fun to see what a new calf looks like because the markings on Longhorns can be so varied! We no longer have a bull, but his name was Nougat and he is now in our freezer are ground up into yummy hamburger. Some folks asked why we didn’t have roasts or steaks cut . . our reply was he’s a BULL . . . that doesn’t usually make for tender meat, but he sure makes tasty hamburgers.
We have two momma cows, one is “Patty” who is darker with many brindled colors. The other is “Snowflake”, who is mostly white but with butterscotch colored brindling on her neck and head. These two mommas also have very impressive sets of horns!
We have a 2-year heifer who is the offspring of Snowflake and she is also white but with less brindling, she does have butterscotch colored ears and “topknot”. We have five steers, all different ages, names are “Gunsmoke”, “Huntly”, “Peyrone”, “Stormie” and “Duncan”. They are all very different in their markings. On December 11th Patty had a heifer calf and we named her “Freckles”. She is white with red stockings, red head/hood and some red “freckles on her body. All of them have horns, in varying stages of growth.
They are kinda partial to my hubby and he spoils them. They’ve been in a huge pasture where they still have feed to graze and access to water so we haven’t had to start throwing hay or hauling water . . . saving us work and money!! We’ve had several snow storms but not enough to keep them from foraging for food.
We’re trying to pare down and just have the steers to raise to butcher! Here’s hoping!
Hi CJ- I have never been around Longhorns before, but they are such beautiful cattle. Do you raise your steers to sell the meat to customers, or do you sell the steer themselves? We have a few customers that purchase from us every year and it’s kind of a big job to finish a grass feed steer. It takes about 18 months so it is a bit of a long wait! But the customers we have love the meat enough they are willing for the wait. I can’t imagine not having fresh meat to just pull out of the freezer. Over New Years when our kids were all home we had a huge Filet Mignon meal and Oh. My. Word. that meat was awesome! Thanks for writing and sharing about your cows. I love their names! – Dori –
I love to read your blog. It makes me want to be back on my uncle’s farm again. We had jerseys, gurnseys and Holsteins. I would love to have that adorable brahma. Our son lives in Texas and I would love to have some Longhorns too. We need to have many lifetimes to try it all. Bonnie Ellis, farmgirl of the month for January 2015.
Hi Bonnie – Yes, that Brahma was a cute little guy. But he was so huge when he was born. We knew the Momma was in distress almost immediately and we were so happy to have the Vet come and pull the calf. That’s something we haven’t had to do ourselves yet! Anyway, he said the Momma would’ve never been able to deliver the calf on her own. He was such a big boy. But, wow was he sweet. Yes, I know the feeling of needing a few lifetimes to do it all! – Dori –
ah…good memories from childhood that you brought up with this post. We had Rosie, Daisy, Baby, Sadie, Freckles, Woodrow, Pee-Wee, just to name a few. And then there were the chickens that we named. We had one “head chicken” who we named Bertha the Baka and we had a song we sang when we went to gather eggs. I do love to go home and hear the names Daddy has picked out for his cattle now-a-days. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.
Dear Jodie – oh my I had forgotten how my kids named their chickens too! I love your “head chicken” name!!! Darling! Our animals sure do have a special place in our hearts don’t they? I’m glad your Daddy still has cattle. So does mine. He’s turning 80 in a month and I wonder if he will ever retire? He loves ranching. Thanks for commenting! – Dori –
As you know I love horses. However, I have always had a soft spot for the Herford’s that all the rancher’s were raising all around us. When I would go out to my friends house they always raised some for selling and some to keep for food. I can understand naming them as they were soft and cuddly. The rancher’s never named any that were going to be food or sold as it was just to hard. They only named one or two they would be keeping to add calves to the herd. Sometimes a bull if the one they had was old. Most of those were kept as long as they could produce good calve.I love the pic’s. The one of the Brahma is so adorable. He looks so soft and the coloration on him is beautiful. I understand having to sell the bull calves as there has to be only one on most acreage.
The Brahma’s were one’s our family always told us to stay clear away from especially the bulls as they were mean and most rodeo’s would have them for the cowboys to ride. They did look mean but then if they were squeezing my prized possessions I would probably be mean too.
Well, its good to see you made it through the holiday’s and into the New Year.
Hug’s from Kay
Good morning Kay! I love those Hereford cows too. Funny thing to me is how you see them all over out West… and even The Pioneer Woman’s ranch is all Hereford cattle but out here in the South you just don’t see them. You see black (Angus cross of some sort) and Charolais the most common. Those Charolais cows are sweet – they are really huge cows with a very sweet nature. Walter was the only Brahma that I’ve ever been around (and he was a cross of course) but he sure had a sweet nature. One of our readers here raises Brahma bucking Bulls (you can see her comment above on this post). So they must have a good amount of “buck” in them!
You hit the nail on the head about it just being common cow sense that you can’t keep every bull and steer on the farm… but saying goodbye to the little heifers is very hard. But we have to since we only have one bull (who is their daddy) we don’t want any inner-breeding, so the heifers must go also. In the beginning when we purchased bred cows we kept a number of their heifers since they were not descendants of McKinley. So that was really nice, but now we can’t do that and it is so terribly hard. My husband took 4 of them to the sale barn this week – they were 8 months old and beautiful heifers. But the good thing is that they are sold as replacement heifers so someone else will raise them to breed. Which makes me happy!
Yes, I made it through the Holidays and fantastic days of company (some of it without water, as you remembered!) and it was one of the best Holiday seasons ever. Hope you’re doing well and keeping warm! Hugs back- Dori –
I have absolutely no experience with ranching, farming, or animal raising, so responding to your stories is purely an emotional endeavor. Every comment I’ve read in response to your column, has been from a reader whose life is similar to yours. I read FarmGirl blogs because I yearn for that kind of life. I speak with no authority, just sincere appreciation, for the love you express while writing about your daily life.
My heart sings, as I peek in the window of your ranch life and you describe lovingly your daily doings. It looks like hard, monotonous work, yet you describe it so endearingly with no bitterness or complaint.
I am in awe of the beauty you have right outside your window, across the fences and thru the pasture. Beautiful, velvety, and magnificent animals are a sight to behold, raising them lovingly is a gift. Thanks for sharing with this country hearted city girl.
Dear Gigi, your comment really warmed my heart and made my day. Because, honestly, that is one of the hopes I have when I write about my life is to just open the door for a peek into the life of a country girl! There have been some sad things that I’ve cried about – losing that little calf Marathon was a killer for me. Mainly because of how the Momma mourned (that might be a blog post in the future so I won’t say too much!! Ha Ha!). But there are so many joys of living a simple life in the country that I cannot even describe them sometimes. Now, that’s not to say that a country hearted girl living in the city doesn’t have some awesome joyful things too! Believe you me! Thank you for reading and thank you especially for writing to me. Hugs – Dori –
We do not have cows but we do name every thing including the cars and trucks chickens ect…
Hi Donna, We’ve been known to name vehicles (and tractors) too! 😉 – Dori –
Dori…love your post as always but this one made me chuckle. As a life-long farmgirl (living the life I love, I might add), my names are a little dated. As a child my sister and I would name our milk cows. We had Daisy, named for Daisy Duck. Minnie, a big brown swiss named after Minnie Mouse and Lulu for the comic book character Little Lulu. We loved to hang around the barn when Dad milked and be around “our” cows. The calves were pets and we put a halter on them and rode them sometimes when they were big enough. Thanks for the fun memory trip!
Hi Deanna, your comment made me happy! I just love those names, dated or not! In MaryJanes book Milk Cow Kitchen there is a short little bit (with pictures) about a teenage girl that wanted a horse and didn’t have one so she trained one of the cows to ride. Eventually she did jumps with her and everything!! Happy Monday. – Dori –
Wow! That Charolais/Brahma cross was a looker! Beautiful! We, too, find that sometimes the right name eludes us and other times the names are painfully obvious. Such as the case when we named our goat “Bessie” aka Bessie The Cow. She is huge compared to her barn mates so the name stuck. Your post gets me excited for kidding season when the next round of naming begins.
Hi Penny, yes some names are just painfully obvious! We have three calves on the ground right now that are begging to be named and I’m just not feeling it! I’ll be anxious to hear some of the names of your kids as they are born! – Dori –
We name our cows as well. We are a small farm with a few cows, Icelandic sheep and chickens. My milk cow CeCe was a a Christmas gift in 2010. She was a five day old Holstein. I was so excited and nervous. I had never raised a calf before. She spent much of her first 6 months following me on a lead rope. She has turned into a wonderful milk cow with a good personality and a good Momma. Her first calf AnnaBelle is bred and due to calf in July. Our little black Angus heifer , Sophie came to us as a 24 hour old calf from a neighbor. She had a crooked neck and a funny knee. She needed a people Momma if she were going to survive. She is a beauty. She is bred and we await her firsf calf. We have also raised two steer calves T-Bone and Stew who reside now in the freezer and Ribeye who will join them in December. Raising bottle calves means the opportunity to love them and care for them so that they can later provide for us. This has been and continues to be a blessing in our lives.
Teri, great names and stories! Those little orphan calves can become like our babies can’t they? How wonderful that you have her for a milk cow. And her first calf being due in July… that will be such an exciting day for you!!! And Sophie – what a sweet story that is. Thanks for sharing about them. I loved reading it. (And so did my husband!!) – Dori –
Thanks for sharing all your adorable pics of your “hummies” as we called ours. It reminds me of my 4-H days when I showed steers. I had a black and white baldy one year named Wilbur that I especially loved.
Marci, my son showed 4-H steers – oh he loved his steer project every year. Putting their halters on and taking them for walks around the neighborhood like they were puppies! BIG puppies! Wilbur is a sweet name. – Dori –