Because we have registered animals on our dairy farm, all of our cattle have names. While most of their names are determined by the first letter of their mother's name, like Harley and Harper, or whether they rhyme, by and large each cow family follows a general theme when it comes to naming the new babies. For instance, we had a cow last week named Eva that calved with a heifer. Evelyn was the name we gave her first calf a year ago, so her new baby was named Everly.
Of all my jobs that make up managing the calves and youngstock on our farm, naming calves is one of my absolute favorite duties. I like to let Sam have some input from time to time, which ends up turning into bickering sometimes because we each have our own ideas, and I'm a stubborn German who married a stubborn Norwegian. It may take a couple of days before one of us gives in to the other over what to call a baby bovine.
You might look at a couple of our heifers and wonder how they got the names B-52 and Blackbird - not the ornithological variety, but the long range Mach 3+ reconnaissance SR-71 Blackbird. Well, their mother's name is Beth, and they are sired by bulls named Airlift and High Octane, so they make up our B-aircraft family. Blackbird was an example of letting Sam win, and I must say that it fits her quite well.
My first Jersey cow, Heather, was named after the first Jersey cow to set foot on my uncle's farm in the early 1980s. He was my inspiration toward becoming a dairy farmer, as well as having a few little brown cows around, so it fits. When she had her first calf, Hattie, last fall, it was the beginning of my H-family for my Jersey herd. As another example, we have a 5-week-old calf named Summer. Her mom's name is Shandy. I'll let you put the rest together.
This year, we also had two undersized heifer calves born from small first-calf heifers and sired by calving ease bulls. With mothers named Firecracker and Chevelle, I wanted to give them names that would fit the lettering pattern yet also lend a nod to their small and delicate statures. Therefore, we have a Funsize and Chantilly running around the place now.
Lastly, just a few hours before this was written, it took me, Sam, and the vet to deliver a 140-pound bull calf from the cow we purchased from Bob and Karyn Schauf at the Indianhead Holsteins dispersal in Barron, Wis., earlier this spring. This cow, in addition to being the daughter of Sam's favorite cow at Indianhead during his 4-H dairy judging days, happened to be named Brittany also, thus marking the need for a B name.
After a uterine torsion that was corrected just in time, we got the calf delivered safely and in front of Brittany to clean off and nuzzle her new baby. We took a few moments to marvel at how healthy they both were after a situation that could have gone terribly wrong in a short amount of time, and then looked at each other to decide what to call the not-so-little fellow.
"Today was my baptism day 26 years ago," Sam said.
After making a phone call to my mother-in-law to confirm this fact, it was decided to call the calf Baptiste. It was strong, elegant, started with a B, and fit the momentous occasion that took place just one week after my husband was born.
If you ever visit a farm where the cattle have unique names, don't be afraid to ask the farmer how they got those names because, chances are, there's a great story behind them or their ancestors in the herd. After all, there's more to a name than its surface meaning and the letter it starts with.