We've just wrapped up the third week of our annual Bucket Calf Project, where the kids and families of our community "adopt" and work with a calf over seven weeks during summer while learning about how a dairy operates. This week the kids learned all about the Maternity Barn, where life begins on our farm!
Tips on Leading Your Calf and Preparing for the Bucket Calf Show
Before heading to learn about the Maternity Barn, the kids walk with their calves for half an hour, getting to know them and preparing for showing their calf leading skills at the Bucket Calf Show at the Del Norte County Fair on August 5. There, the kids will demonstrate all the hard work they've spent with their calves in front of a panel of judges at the Bucket Calf Show. Getting the animals ready for fair can be a lot of work. Some of the calves need a lot of training while others are naturally ready for the show ring. It is all about practice!
At the beginning of each meeting the kids spend time with their calf, learning the techniques of leading calves on a halter. The third week is when kids really start to get the hang of leading their calves. The kids broke into age appropriate groups so they could practice walking the cows around. The six and under group spent a little time learning how to hold the halter, and the older groups worked on other techniques, such as leading the calf and how to publicly speak when asked various questions.
Some tips for leading a calf:
- Keep your head held high
- Make sure the halter isn't bunching up around their calf's face
- Hold on to the halter pretty close to the calf, but give them some slack
- Lead from behind your calf, like you're chasing them, and not from the side
- If they don't move, encourage them to step by lightly pressing on their tailbone (right above their tail)
The Maternity Barn
After practicing leading, the kids put their calves away and gathered around the ledge of the Maternity Barn to learn all about how calves are born. Stephanie and Vanessa provided valuable information about the birthing process and reminded the kids that cows and humans are different in their mothering instincts. While humans look forward to spending time with their families, cows are most comfortable when surrounded by their herdmates.
When a cow is preparing to give birth, she will walk around the barn and look for a nice spot to lay down. Most cows give birth on their own, but our Maternity Barn staff is always keeping on eye on them to provide assistance if needed.
After the calf is born, the mother instinctually licks the newborn to clean it. Within an hour of birthing, the mother is milked so the valuable milk (called colostrum) can be obtained to feed to the baby. The momma cow is so relieved to be milked because her udders are very full: the older the cow, the more milk she will have in her udders at the time she goes into labor.
That leads us into Week 4. Next week, the kids will learn all about how cows are milked in the milking parlor!