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Raising Calves in Monroe County

By Mike Walker

Newborn calves at a cattle farm in Monroe County. Photograph by Mike Walker.


Hazel Shrader, a sturdy, sensible lady with a kindly face, rose well before sunrise each morning, especially in the coldest months of winter. Following a slippery path to her pond, Hazel would break the ice so that her 15 cows, their calves, and a solitary Hereford bull could drink. Afterwards, she would ensure that these animals had enough hay to last through the day and check on any newborn or especially fragile calves. Then she would leave.

Hazel worked as a school teacher as well as a farmer, and she would not have the opportunity to see about her livestock again until after school was out in the afternoon. Never married, Hazel had helped her widowed mother, Minnie Shrader, tend this farm on U.S. 219 near Pickaway in Monroe County for many years. When her mother passed away in 1972, Hazel inherited the small farm, including the 15 cows.

“By maintaining heifers,” Hazel tells me, “I never had to buy any calves. They were born, and if I lost one, it wasn’t any loss of money [for the calf].” Hazel kept cattle through most of the 1980's, up until she retired from teaching school in 1987. Despite these two demanding vocations, Hazel never missed a single day of school, except for the four days she took off when her mother passed away. From her farm chores, she did not even have a reprieve at that time.

Hazel Shrader’s situation was certainly not unique, as many people in Monroe County keep a small beef or dairy herd, or both, for profit and personal milk production. Both my maternal and paternal grandparents owned farms in Monroe County, as did many other family members. Indeed, it is difficult to think of a person on either side of the family who has not, in some way, been engaged in farming at some point in their lives.

The entire county is primarily agrarian and has depended on livestock production and subsistence farming since the arrival of early settlers in the 18th century.

You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.