30 Days on a Prairie Farm: Bottle Calves

My Generation

Day 21: Why bottle calves are good for farm kids, and other tales from the barn.

Published on: November 21, 2012

I've written before about our children and their bottle calves. At this point in the game, Jenna has had two calves - Buttercup and Dorothy - and Nathan has had two calves - Don and Buddy.

Jenna was 7 when she got her first calf, and Nathan was 6. We have been reasonably adamant in our household that they would not have a calf until they were old enough to go out and care for it themselves. All the calves have come from our cows, and were either twins the cow couldn't care for, or was a calf the cow wouldn't claim, or we lost the cow at calving.

In general, this means the calf has joined the family on or around February. From February until about June, Jenna or Nathan gets up every morning before school and gives it a bottle, fills its water and offers up a little hay. They do the same thing in the evening. On the weekends, they spend a little time cleaning out their pen. With a pitchfork and a wheelbarrow. They do good work.

Jenna and Dorothy, offering up a bottle during a little ag education tour at her elementary school.
Jenna and Dorothy, offering up a bottle during a little ag education tour at her elementary school.

And by the time June rolls around, it's time for show season and bottle calf classes. I take a fair degree of pride in knowing that the calves my kids show really are their calves - they have fed and named and cared for them, as opposed to us grabbing a calf from the pasture and letting the kids show it for a day. And there's little that warms your heart like watching your child develop into an animal lover; when I can't find Nathan, there's a sure bet he's hanging out with his calf.

The upshot of all this? The start of a showing fund, sure, but also the chance to manage their money. To learn to work. To learn animal husbandry. To learn to feed their animals before they eat their own breakfast.

This is the stuff little farm kids are made of, and bottle calves help them get there.


The archives: 30 Days on a Prairie Farm

Kickoff: 30 Days on a Prairie Farm

Day 1: Working Kids

Day 2: Biotechnology

Day 3: Harvest Eats

Day 4: Church

Day 5: Biotechnology, Again

Day 6: Long Haul

Day 7: Hormones

Day 8: Weather

Day 9: Milk

Day 10: County Fairs

Day 11: Harvest

Day 12: Technology

Day 13: Show Ring

Day 14: Leave the Farm

Day 15: Dialogue

Day 16: Store Grain

Day 17: Love

Day 18: Kid Love             

Day 19: Straight Rows

Day 20: Antibiotics

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This Land, This Life, This Farmer's Wife: 30 Days of Thankfulness on a Family Farm

Farmgirldays: 30 Days of Farm Kids Trapped in the City

My Cows and Pigs: 30 Days of "What's that?"

Dennis Olmstead: 30 Days in a Row

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