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Answers to the Bovine Art Pop Quiz

Here are the answers to the Bovine Art Appreciation Pop Quiz.

I run a seasonal operation with a focus on buying under-valued animals and increasing their value through grazing, calving and breeding. We also produce a small amount of burger for friends and family.

In addition to translating the markings on each animal below, I’ve included a note about how each one might or might not work into my own operation. I hope it helps you think about how different sale barn animals might or might not fit into your own operation.

Note: I am never interested in more than a tiny percentage of the animals at the auction, as most don’t “fit” my program. Someone else has to buy them.


Tag placement = Cow
5+ = Five and a half months pregnant
V = Vaccinated for brucellosis
G = Gummer

This is an older (maybe really old) pregnant cow. She might work as a short term project, but only if her 5+ pregnancy fits into my calving window, and then, only if I have irrigated pasture. Hard, dry summer feed requires teeth. Also, like old humans, old cows don’t lay down muscle mass very quickly. I would be competing with butcher buyers for her. Keep in mind that a 5-month old fetus will not affect yield much. She will likely be a burger cow.


Tag placement = Heifer
O = Open
1+ = Year +

This is a big, guaranteed open heifer. She will either go as a big feeder calf or a replacement heifer, assuming someone wants to breed here. I have no interest at all.



Tag placement = Cow
M = Mummy – a mummified calf in her uterus
B = Broken – missing at least one incisor and maybe more

This older cow has a long-dead calf in her uterus. She is likely fat, as she hasn’t nursed a calf in a long time. She will be a very desirable butcher cow.


This one tries to lick the ring man!

Tag Placement – Steer

This is someone’s big, old backyard pet steer. He is huge and well-fed, a very desirable burger animal.


Tag Placement = Cow
7+ = 7 months pregnant
V = vaccinated for brucellosis
4/F = Four years old with a full set of teeth

This is a young but experienced cow. She is 4 years old with a full set of teeth. At body condition 3, she is skinny, but not emaciated. Her chief deficiencies are likely protein and energy, which I can supply. At 7+ months pregnant, I have 45 days to bring her along, and because she is on an inclining level of nutrition, she will likely ovulate shortly after calving. Butcher buyers won’t want her very badly as she is too skinny and too pregnant. Other ranchers will think she is too pitiful and risky. It would help (me) if she limped a bit. This cow has tremendous potential and will be purchased at a bargain price.

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John Marble
John Marble
John Marble grew up on a terribly conventional ranch with a large family where each kid had their own tractor. Surviving that, he now owns a small grazing and marketing operation that focuses on producing value through managed grazing. He oversees a diverse ranching operation, renting and owning cattle and grasslands while managing timber, wildlife habitat and human relationships. His multi-species approach includes meat goats, pointing dogs and barn cats. He has a life-long interest in ecology, trying to understand how plants, animals, soils and humans fit together. John spends his late-night hours working on fiction, writing about worlds much less strange than this one.

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