BRATTLEBORO — How many heifers, and where are they from? And what is a heifer, anyway?
The heifers are the stars of the Strolling of the Heifers Parade, of course. There will be almost 90 of them in this year's parade – most of them handled by 4-H club members who train them for the event and get them groomed on Parade Day.
First of all, many people ask, "What's a heifer?" That's easy: a heifer is a young female cow that has not yet borne a calf of her own. Once they give birth, they'll start producing milk. So today's heifers are tomorrow's milk cows.
Like puppies, heifers don't naturally take to being led down the street. And they're used to the soft ground of fields and barn yards, not hard pavement. So the handlers of the heifers have to spend time, in the weeks and months leading up to the parade, getting the heifers used to being led, and if possible, used to the pavement.
Recruiting the heifers each year for the parade has been the job of Peter Stickney, who is the director of the farm program at the Putney School, where students learn farming skills as part of the curriculum. Ten heifers from the Putney School Farm will be in the parade.
The handlers are mostly members of 4H Clubs. This year, the seven participating clubs are:
Hill and Valley 4H Dairy Club, Winchester, N.H.
Pinnacleview 4H, Walpose, N.H.
Windsor Wonders 4H, Springfield, Vt.
Franklin County 4H, Whately, Mass.
Hartland Cattle Club 4H at Cedar Mountain Farm, Hartland, Vt.
Top of the World 4H at Spring Brook Farm, Reading, Vt.
Heritage Hands 4H at Buckhill Farm, Westminster, Vt.
There are also six individual farms participating, which are:
Maple Row Farm, Rindge, N.H.
Franklin Farm, Guilford, Vt.
Elm Lea Farm (The Putney School), Putney, Vt.
Jersey Girls Dairy, Chester, Vt.
Lilac Ridge Farm, Brattleboro, Vt.
Hope Roots Farm, Westminster, Vt.