Vocabulary on the Farm

In chatting with folks at campgrounds, it turns out that a lot of my neighbors have been farmers. Not really a surprise given that I’ve been in the middle of corn country. Although, it feels like the entire United States is corn country.

These folks, though, have been animal farmers. And their hands show it: strong and bloated at the same time.

In the spirit of sharing, here’s some vocabulary that I’ve learned. Clearly there’s much more to know, but we’ll start here. I have to work up my bravery to ask more questions about something I know nothing; and who really wants to talk about work when they’re on vacation?

How Now, Brown Cow?

  • cow = female who gave birth, like a mom
  • male = bull
  • heffer = female who hasn’t birthed
  • calve = gender neutral baby

Here Piggy Piggy

  • 2,000 pigs are called a “crop”
  • Two different farms are involved in the birthing and raising of pigs. One farm breeds them, a second buys the wee ones and then raises them from baby to full growth for slaughter.
  • When I asked the family if they ever get attached to, or name the pigs, they all stared at me like I’m a lunatic. Clearly that only happens in Charlotte’s Web.
  • They have no problem eating bacon. I didn’t ask this; I witnessed the consumption and deduced their comfort with the situation.

That’s all I’ve got right now. We’ll see who else I meet along the way.


Can you share any insight to the life and times on Old MacDonald’s farm?

10 Responses


My “insight” into the life and times of raising/growing/pioneering anything is limited to the “Little House on the Prairie” books. Never thought about…the difference between a heifer and a cow, can’t envision 2000 pigs, and never knew two different farms bred – raised them. Thanks to you, I’ll be better at trivia! But seriously, I enjoy learning through your travels. You make information interesting.

You make information interesting. – thanks! My new tagline?

I grew up on a farm in Wisconsin and really responded to your comment about hands. My father’s and brother’s were so strong and calloused. Years later I shook the hand of my friend’s brother who was visiting from South Dakota and immediately wanted to embrace him, since his rough hands were so like theirs.

It’s “heifer” and “calf” [singular] by the way. And having a “crop” of 2000 pigs with one farm breeding them and the other raising them is highly unusual.

Yesterday’s feature on combining the corn brought back memories of going back to Wisconsin and seeing these big machines and asking what they were. Tractors, was the answer. When I was growing up we used to have arguments as to whether the Farmall (red) tractors, Ford (gray), or John Deere (green) were better. Strong preferences and arguments ensued (the correct answer was Farmalls). I started driving tractors when I was 8 years old.

Karen – thanks for the education! And love the visual you created with your memory. Good to know that the pig breeding and raising are typically together. I learned that from Canadians, so who knows how they do things up there? 😉


Thank you. I hope these are next week’s trivia answers. What is a brown chicken and brown cow together called?

Jef – I’ll have to get back to you on that one. And indeed, may these be in trivia! May the whole blog prepare you for a major win!


My uncle was a farmer and my aunt was a teacher. Uncle Vonne, this is back in the 60s and 70s in Iowa, had some of everything.

Hogs, they were huge. One time a sow who thought I guess that I was going to hurt her babies chased me. She didn’t live in a pen or a crate, but a pasture. I recently read those sows weigh 500 lbs. I would put that run on top of my list of times I was most scared in my life. My heart still beats fast when I remember.

Corn, stored in cribs in the yard where we played. When they were empty, my cousins, sisters and I would go in there and play lion tamer/lion.

Hay, stored in the barn loft in bales. It made my sister Susie have nosebleeds and she used the hay to absorb the blood, making the situation a whole lot worse. She didn’t want to tell any grown ups because of course they’d tell her she couldn’t go up there anymore.

Horses, just a couple to ride. One time my sister and cousin Stevie were riding Dusty, Susie in the rear. They rode under a closeline and Susie forgot to duck. Poor girl … a fat lip that day on top of a mega nosebleed. Younger me and little sister Linda preferred the propane tank, a great horse substitute, to the real thing.

Lunch, it was called Dinner and Dinner was Supper and there was always gravy and it was good.

Recollections from a youngster-who-didn’t-ask-enough-questions-perspective. Thanks again Paula for all you’re doing to make us think and remember!

Nancy – I love your childhood (and adult) imagination!


I always knew I was a heffer.

Mandi -classic line. But don;t talk about my friend that way!

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