Monday, January 17, 2011

The Name Game

As calving season continues on (we now have two purebred Simmental calves), I have been constantly reminded of the increased workload Joe has to endure, as well as the excitement the girls get from hearing the news, "It's a boy!" or "It's a girl!" My girls are so excited to actually pet and visit the new calves, however, the excitement continues when they are asked to name the calves.

As I reported earlier, Yosemite Sam is the first bull calf we had, just a few days ago. Bugs Bunny was born Saturday night, named again by Anna, who, in the car on the way to Grandma and Grandpa's decided that she would name the boys and Josie would name the girls (Amelia was thrown under the bus this year). Sounds like a good plan, don't you think?

While the girls believe that the responsibility of naming the new babies is theirs to bear, Joe has the final say on the truly correct, registered names. The names the girls come up with are merely nicknames only to be used on the farm (Joe used to use ex-girlfriend's names, but has since stopped that). They do have a registered name, which is Joe's initials, followed by a derivative of their dad's name, for the bull calves, and mom's name, for the heifers. For example, Bugs Bunny's actual name is JRW (initials) Dominique (dad's name) W2Y (tattooed name). The true name of each animal ends with this series of letters and numbers: the first letters being Joe's initials, followed by the number which indicates the order in which the calf was born, and then another letter, which denotes the year in which he or she was born. This sequence, on the purebred calves, also matches their permanent ear tattooes. Quite a science. Josie thinks it's great that the little calves get to wear earrings so young, and Anna wonders what their mothers think about their tattooes, since we have made it abundantly clear how we feel about scarring the girls' beautiful skin.

Even though they're just nicknames, naming the calves gives the girls a sense of ownership, making it such a great way to introduce them to the cattle business. However, sometimes, the inevitable has to happen. When some of the cattle need to be "culled" (which means sorted out and sent to the sale barn due to many factors: some of them include being difficult or trouble makers in the herd), it becomes tricky to explain to little girls about keeping the herd healthy and breeding with the traits we want in our cattle. That's why when Paige, Anna's bucket calf, lovingly named after one of the girls' favorite cousins, needed to go away because as a bucket calf (a calf literally fed by a bottle and a bucket) and a twin, she did not have the qualities that would allow her to be a viable asset to the herd, we had to pull a fast one on Anna. Joe didn't have the heart to tell her that her first true responsibility on the farm wasn't working out, so he switched out the tags with a similar looking calf, and thanks to the fact that the kids don't quite get the true naming system yet, Paige lives on! That may seem dishonest to some, but I equate it to allowing the girls to believe in Santa Clause. However, if we're still pulling these fast ones on the girls when they're 15, then we have a lying issue in our house. Until then, age appropriate fantasies will occur in our house.

The bearer of the most work during this time is Joe, for certain. Late night checks, assisting in the birth of some of the calves, as well as remembering to write down what calf was born in which order to what mother are just the start of his duties. I am happy, however, that even though they're just nicknames, by naming the calves, my girls are getting a taste of responsibility and ownership in this business that their dad loves. I just hope I can remember to check Joe's pockets for the calving books he uses, as to not wash the important data he recorded with his work clothes!


  1. Checking pockets before washing is a tricky business around here too. I never know what I will find in my husband's clothes! We have feeder calves, but one came to us "exposed" and had a calf. The girls helped feed her, and my husband let them name her (I was shocked since we raise our cows to go to market!). Her mother was young, so her birth was a hard one, and Lady did not stay with us long. It was a learning experience for sure!

  2. We like to name our calves as well. So far we have, Sleeping Beauty, Pocahontas, and Prince Daddy. I can't wait to hear the next name!

  3. I love calving and lambing season. We had Simmentals that I showed in 4-H, and I enjoyed coming up with some cleaver names for you. hope all the cows and calves are doing well.

  4. Did you know that 'culling' is a photography term as well:) It's what we call it when we go through our pictures and weed out the ones we're not using:) I'm excited about this:)