"How did the girls do at the fair?" That's a frequent question we have gotten from friends recently.
Our family and many other families are involved in 4-H in our county and the Trumbull County Fair. The week of the fair was like the finish of a race after months of preparation. An exhausting week, but one filled with fun and opportunities.
Beyond the leadership, determination and social skills gained by being involved in 4-H, the fair provides an opportunity for us to share a bit of animal agriculture with the public. Even with the stormy weather during the fair, there were a lot of people who came through to see the animals. (Seems like no matter when we have the Trumbull County Fair it rains.)
We answered a lot of questions about the cows during the fair and I thought I would share some of them with you.
"Are these animals going to be sold at the fair?" No, we brought Holstein dairy cows that we took back home. These animals are being raised to become part of the milking herd.
"Aren't all baby cows born in the spring?" On dairy farms, calves will be born all year around.
A dairy cow's milk production decreases as she gets closer to her calving due date. Her body is putting her energy into growing a healthy calf versus producing milk. The expecting mama cows get a six- to eight-week break from milking prior to her due date.
If all the cows calved in the spring, they would all be on a 'dry period' at the same time. Allowing the cows to calve all year around ensures a more steady milk supply.
"How much does a dairy calf weigh when it is born?" A Holstein calf will weigh approximately 85 to 110 pounds. There have been occasions when a calf has weighed more than that. Twins can weigh less.
"They have no horns, so these are girl cows, right?" Nope. All dairy cows, male and female, grow horns.
Because of the close proximity with other cows and people, we choose to remove the horns when the cows are young. A young boy asked if it hurt, and the analogy I gave him was it is like getting Novacain before a dental procedure. Not painless, but necessary to prevent the animals from injuring each other and the people who care for them.
"How old are the cows when they have a calf and what is the gestation period?" The target date for an animal to have her first calf is 24 months. That may seem young, but dairy cows grow fast and are mostly grown to full size at that point.
The gestation period is nine months, same as humans. This question often came up when people saw Julie's animal, Aletta. She is quite large and will be 2 years old in December and is due to have her first calf in January.
We enjoy sharing information about the animals. Plus, it is a lot of fun watching people, young and old, pet a dairy cow for the very first time. Hope to see you next year at the fair.
Smallsreed is a member of Trumbull County Farm Bureau and grew up on a family dairy farm in northeast Ohio.