COLUMN: SOLILOQUY: Advice for new rural residents

Farm Forum

Dear Cousin Reginald,

Because you’re moving to the Dakotas but are accustomed to city life, I thought you’d like a little help figuring out phrases in farm reports. When I first heard them, they confused me, but I now consider myself an expert in rural matters.

Sometimes you’ll hear that soybeans are “up sharply” or that they “drop sharply.” That is because soybeans aren’t soft like other beans but have a rather spiny surface. When they are harvested, they often jump up through the machinery or catch on the bean catching attachment (disker) and fall to the ground.

From time to time, after hitting the ground, the beans will bounce back up and “rally.” You will then hear the report: “Beans rally.”

Corn does the same thing but not to the same degree. That is why you might hear the phrase, “Corn up a half.”

Organic engineers have designed special wheat that grows quickly after being planted. You might say it springs right up. This is called “spring wheat” and it’s very common in these parts.

If you hear that “grain stocks are extremely tight,” it indicates that farmers have wound baling wire too snugly around the stalks after harvest and will need to loosen it.

Some beans open and close their shells with the rising and falling of the sun. When bean pods take longer to close than they should, you’ll hear that “beans closed lower in the day.”

A heifer is a young, tender cow. Its meat tastes best on bread. When brought to the slaughterhouse, these cows are called “bread heifers.”

You might also hear about lean hogs. These pigs are kept very busy on farms and wear themselves out, so they must lean against their enclosures frequently. This variety of hog is used mostly for labor value — helping round up poultry and so forth — as opposed to fat hogs, which are more of a food source.

Because pigs are very delicate creatures, only a few actually survive the first years of their lives. That is why you often will hear about “live hogs,” as opposed to the more frequent occurrence of dead hogs. Sometimes you will hear that hogs have “finished mixed.” That just means that, at the end of the day, there are as many live as dead hogs.

You will hear the term “roundup ready” a lot. This refers to cattle that are ready to be corralled and led to the barn.

Some cattle are particularly skilled at leaping and running. These are called Angus. They go through a rigorous training course, after which they are given certificates of achievement. Those that pass are called certified Angus beef.

Grazing cattle tend to wobble when they are too full. If they don’t fall over, they are called “steady.” At any given day, when most of the cattle are found to be “steady” you will hear the report: feeder cattle steady.

Sometimes, though, whole pastures of livestock fall at once, and this phenomenon can happen every day for an entire month. When it does, you will hear a report such as “April hogs fell.”

To lift up these creatures and make them “steady” again, ranchers use specialized equipment. That’s what barrows and gilts are. Barrows are specially designed wheelbarrows for lifting livestock, and gilts are golden harnesses on pulleys.

Sometimes you’ll hear about Semen-tall bulls. These bulls produce very tall cattle and lots of them.

Now that you know these important terms, Reggie, you won’t be embarrassed when the conversation turns to farm topics.

Best of luck in your move!


Donna “Leafy Spurge” Marmorstein

Donna Marmorstein writes and lives in Aberdeen. You can contact her at