Today is the BEST day of the year: it’s the first day of our Annual Bucket Calf Project! Around 150 local kids visited our farm to select the calf that they will call their own for the next seven weeks. Watching the kids play, meet new friends, spend time with their families, and fall in love with their calves warms our hearts - but what's most exciting about this project is seeing the kids learn and become interested about where their food comes from. In addition to adopting and learning how to lead the calf with a halter, they will learn about different functions of a dairy at each of the weekly meetings.
For the next eight weeks, please join us as we document this amazing hands-on learning experience that welcomes the community to our family farm.
Picking the "right" calf takes a lot of deep reflective thought. Some of the kids, much to their parents’ chagrin, chose a calf at the farthest end of the rows of the calf hutches. They'll be at the farm at minimum once a week (ideally more often so they get to know and learn how to lead the calf), so that's a lot of extra steps when you take your calf to its hutch!
For many kids, calf selection is about instinct. Today, a young man was trying to decide which calf he wanted to call his own, and he found one he liked because the calf had the same hair he did when he woke up in the morning!
Learning to Halter, Lead (Walk), and Care for the Calf
After kids select their calf, they learn how to put on its halter and lead it around the lawn of the Alexandre's home. The rope comes out of the left side and the short strap goes over the nose. Some rope holding tips are: hold the rope close to the calf, keep her head high, and give the rope some slack. Gloves also made the rope easier to hold.
When leading, it's best to walk behind the calf, almost as if you were “chasing” it. It's important to not let the calf run freely, because that can be dangerous if they start to kick or get scared. However, if they have a lot of energy they need to burn off, it's great practice to let them run around in a circle while guided with a halter!
When visiting the farm to practice with the calf on non-meeting days, we leave electrolyte bottles out for kids to give to the calves as a special treat. Some kids also like to take care of the calf by bringing a brush to groom it's coat.
Learning About the Project
Throughout the meeting, Stephanie spends about 10 minutes going over the project details, important information, and tips on leading and taking care of your calf. She gives her speech to small groups of participants as they make their way to the lawn, and makes sure everyone hears the important information at some point.
The first on the list is GERMS. Stephanie explains that while her children built up an immunity to germs, not all kids have. She emphasizes the importance of washing hands after working with your calf, and especially before eating anything, and directs participants to the soap available in a mesh bag near the milking barn.
Then there is other information… wear proper shoes (closed toe), long pants if possible, bring gloves to avoid rope burns, a brush if you want to brush your calf, and don’t forget to turn in that 4-H enrollment form! Some kids listen intently to the guidelines and follow along by reading the brochure, while others are so excited to walk around with their calf!
Getting to Know the Team
Our farm is blessed to partner with our local 4-H, who does all of the administrative work for the project (sign-up, insurance, etc).
A special shout out to Jackie and Michelle for making it all look so easy. They signed everyone in with a smile on their faces.
Our 4-H leaders were as helpful as ever this Orientation. They (the older kids in matching green shirts) help guide participants throughout the calf selection and sign up process, and are there to show folks how to properly halter and lead a calf.
Stephanie and Vanessa are the Project Leaders, and offer their 24 years of information and guidance. Stephanie began this program when her eldest son, Joseph, was young as a way to bring his friends to the farm to learn about life on a dairy. It has blossomed into the amazing program it is today. Our farm is very fortunate to be in a community that has continued to support and participate in the project for so many years. A lot of works goes into hosting Bucket Calf, but years and years of experience and a fond LOVE of seeing the community on our farm makes the effort feel much lighter.
Bucket Calf Project 2022 Weekly Agenda:
Week 1 - June 21
Calf Selection, Project Details, and Enrollment
Week 2 - June 28 or 29
Alexandre Family Farm Calf Project
Week 3 - July 5 or 6
Maternity Barn - Birth of Baby Calves, etc.
Week 4 - July 12 or 13
Milk Barn - How do you Milk a Cow?
Week 5 - July 19 or 20
Feed & Pasture - What is a “Grass-Based” Dairy?
Week 6 - July 26 or 27
Branded Milk & Egg Business
Week 7 - Show at Del Norte County Fair
Friday, August 5. Ace Livestock Building at 11am.