It’s amazing how you can live in the same neighborhood for more than 20 years and you can’t readily name the streets and businesses you pass on a daily basis.
Lately, I’ve made it a mission to explore my surroundings in a more purposeful manner.
For years, I have watched (what I thought were) bulls lazily graze in the grass on Old Concord Road, near Rocky River Road. What a life … relax, enjoy a snack, take a nap and repeat.
Feeling a bit bold, one day I pulled into the driveway and wrote down the information on the sign: Branch Hill Farms, 704-596-3919. I called the number and reached Cindy Helms.
She was kind and gracious to invite me onto the property and meet her brother, Joe Ferguson. Normally, I never drop in on anyone without a call ahead of time. But today was different. What a lesson I had in store!
Those grazing animals are Texas Longhorns. They are cows whose horns haven’t been removed. I’m sure many of you know that already. Growing up in Buffalo, N.Y., however, I can’t remember ever seeing that sight.
Joe Ferguson explained how he has been around cows his entire life. The family owned a dairy farm from 1936 to 1960. Since 1960 they have been breeding cattle. A cow gives birth to a calf every year. The calves are sold at cattle sales when they are about 6 months old.
The Ferguson family has owned their 20-plus acres of land for five generations. Cindy started boarding horses in 1967. She also shows horses in competition. A few other family members also live on the property.
Back to Joe’s lesson about cattle:
He explained that the Texas Longhorns are docile creatures. I don’t think most people would assume that by looking at them. The horns can be 6 feet long from tip to tip. They can use the horns to scratch their own bellies.
Joe also explained how Longhorn meat has less fat than other breeds. Although he owns a few dozen cows, there is one bull used for mating purposes. I did not see the true bull, but it’s a Black Angus with no horns.
When I think of bulls, I think of the bulls in Spain. Joe said those fighting bulls are bred to be mean, not born that way. The same goes for the bucking Brahma bulls in rodeos.
Joe also described how a cow has four stomachs and how it takes in its food intake (which I won’t describe here).
“It’s a shame that schools don’t teach more about agriculture,” Joe Ferguson said. “Most kids think milk comes from Food Lion and steak comes from Wal-Mart or whatever.”
The moral of this story is, Take time to learn something new every day. Take time to discover more about your own surroundings. You never know what you’ll learn.
And that’s no bull.