How to Tell One Cow From Another

In my previous post I mention “Purple 44.” This is the method Handsome Hubby’s family uses to identify beef cattle.

Each year a different colored ear tag is used for that year’s crop, and each calf is labeled with the same number as his or her mother. So if Purple 44 had had a calf, it may have had a blue or yellow ear tag, but it would have also had the number 44 on it.

I wish I had understood this about 10 years ago. On one rare occasion, I was on horseback up in the woods helping check the cattle. For some reason and I honestly can’t remember what it was (although it probably had something to do with pairing up a cow and a calf), we were looking for the cow “Red 39.” I’m unsure of the exact number of the cow, and it’s really not relevant, but the color was definitely red.

At the time the cattle herd was mostly black, but there were some red ones intermingled. I checked every red cow I came across, but none had the number we were looking for on its ear tag. Actually, no one found the cow, and we gave up after much searching.

It wasn’t until after the horses were loaded into the trailer and we were seated in the cab of the pickup headed down the hill that somehow I came to realize we were looking for the cow with the red ear tag; the cow itself wasn’t necessarily red. In fact, odds were that she was black.

I hoped that I hadn’t been the one to miss the cow on our search that day. But now that the years have passed, I can laugh at my ignorance of ranch ways.

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