Today I had a five hundred pound cow (pictured left) try to come up to me and get scratches like a really large dog. Some cows just don’t know they’re big and will lean on people or try to sit in their laps. It’s been many years since I have been this up close and personal with a cow and I must say it sparked a lot of nostalgic and funny memories.
My father was a homesteader for a while. He felt it was important to raise his son (and to a lesser extent me) with a farmer’s work ethic. This meant that at one point he had a pretty substantial vegetable garden, a field for haying, an adequate barn, a couple horses, and at times there was a cow or two on the property. The cows were male dairy calves bought on the cheap and raised for meat. Before I go much further I will state that male dairy cows are almost given away all day every day because they’re pretty useless. They take forever to grow, do not have a lot of meat on them, and their “feed to meat” ratio would best be described as a money pit with four stomachs. And if you get attached to the cow and decide to keep it as a pet dairy bulls are…. Temperamental assholes.
I remember going to the neighbor’s farm where there would always be ten or fifteen proper meat cows growing out. Meat cows are a totally different ballgame. They’re huge, bleary-eyed, and generally think they are dogs (hence the one that tried sitting on my lap today!) I loved those things! And I always was struck by how disturbing it was that the cows bred for meat were also by far the friendliest. Yes, please eat me, I love you!
My brother’s first cow looked more like a tall goat than a proper cow. He was some sort of dairy cross, even cheaper than the purebreds which might be bought by a breeder if they were of decent enough quality. He had named the little calf Mooooove-on, which he claims was the name of a baseball player, omitting a few o’s perhaps. Moooove-On was dumb as a brick. I never got the sense my brother ever liked him and by the time I was around (long after Move-On had been turned into hamburgers) the only relic of his short life was a hollowed out bloody horn sitting in my brother’s room. Apparently the cow got it stuck in the fencing one day and rather than moo for help he just ripped the whole damn thing straight off his own head. The dried blood made this artifact all the more horrendous an image.
I grew up with my mother … and wasn’t fed beef or pork growing up, this I only had a few scant times in my life when I was at my father’s. The last time I remember was when I was in my teens. The hamburger package was sitting next to a huge, hard, heavy green mass in the freezer that looked vaguely like a volleyball made of impacted grass. As it turned out that was some sort of blockage surgically removed from one of the horses when their stomach turned over. I was a girl of few questions and it never occurred to me that I should ask what was up with this. Or perhaps I was too busy staring at the hamburger. It was labelled “Holly.” Apparently we were having my dental hygienist for dinner. How very German. “Didn’t these packages used to have dates?! Names are a bit morbid!” My father didn’t have a good answer to this and when he served me the traditional chunk O’Holly it was still bleeding. That’s the thing about my dad…. He likes his meat almost raw. He also sports and Amish beard and I don’t ever remember a TV being in the house growing up and as far as I know there still isn’t one. He’s not Amish though. Really. Just a tad eccentric.
**Credit: The first three photos in this article I took at South Mountain Road Farm in Northfield MA. The last two photos were taken at Clover Creek Farm in Rochester MA**