Heifer, calf, yearling, ox and more. Cows, just like people, have specific names for their place in society. Why you ask? Heaven’s I don’t know, maybe the cute young heifers, just like teenagers, don’t like being lumped in with the fat old cows. But let’s clear up the confusion so the ranchers can stop snickering at the city slickers.
A calf is a baby cow. It can be either a bull calf (male) or heifer calf (female). These are easy to spot. They’re small and prance around a lot, you know, like the out-of-control toddlers everyone rolls their eyes at when they go to a movie.
Next, you have your yearling. These cows, who have reached the ripe-old-age of one, are taken from their mommas and sold, making room for next year’s calves. Unlike people, cows typically will only care for one child at a time. I sometimes think this wouldn’t be such a bad idea when my kids won’t stop fighting.
A female bovine is called a heifer only until she has her first calf. Once that happens, the young’un joins the ranks of all other cows. Where saggy skin and a losing fight with gravity awaits.
Now a bull is the bovine version of a lady’s man, making the moves on every female he sees. Unfortunately, for the males, only a few ever get the opportunity to be one and it doesn’t last long. After a few years, they also are sent to the hamburger factory.
Most bull calves are castrated. If you don’t know what that means, ask your mom, I’m not going there. A steer is what a bull calf becomes after castration. These are typically part of the yearlings sold off each year. Removing part of their manhood helps ensure tender meat when they’re fatten and killed. Now don’t be too sad men, some aren’t killed, well at least they didn’t used to be. Before tractors and vehicles, teams of oxen (adult steers) were used to pull wagons and work the land. Being a grunt is better than dead right? Oh, some of you don’t look so well. Maybe you had better stop reading here.
Because a cow is a fat and sassy female who spends her day eating hay and sleeping. Throughout her long life, she has only one job—have one calf a year. Yep, even in bovine society, it’s good to be a girl.