“Why do you name your cattle?” I’ve been asked. All cattle need some identification. If one of my eighty head of cattle gets sick, pregnant or injured, it is critical to identify that bovine so treatments can be recorded. It’s also important to know which are aggressive cattle and which are not. Effective herd management requires animal identification.
At first, I tried using numbers instead of names. As babies were born, each received a numbered ear tag. If I noticed odd or aggressive behavior, I would read the bovine’s number and make a mental note to write down my observations. Of course, when I got to the writing part I would not remember if #86 or #68 was the problem! Even today I can’t remember what happened to cow #107…did I ship her or sell her?
Names are memorable and help define a cow’s personality. Maya is the mother of Topper - a working ox, whereas Laverne is Curious Bleu’s mom. Luna was named by an AirBNB guest who was staying at the farm when Luna was born. It's easy to remember Luna because she often acts like a luna-tic. I also think animals appreciate having names. During feeding, I'll say, “Hello,” to the black heifer, Riley, or working steers Ben and Snuff. Don’t you like to be called by your name? Same with animals.
There are some like yearling heifer, Betty who I watch for at feeding-time. She’s smaller than the rest, so I want to make sure she gets enough to eat. Lately, I’ve been paying close attention to Maya and Misty, two cows due to give birth soon. I need to know if they have trouble in labor and help them if necessary. Each animal has a name just as each has a personality.
Last week I shared a story about a heifer named Brooke who, after she was processed, was used in a meat-cutting demonstration. Her purpose in being born was to provide beef, and because she was handled with care during her lifetime - the end was not dramatic. Just as names help me connect and care for each animal, it would be intolerable it if the animals I raised left this world in pain or anguish.
I encourage you to think of each steak you eat as a former personality. While you may not know the name of the beef on your plate, when you buy from a local farm you'll know who raised it.