Teaching Kids About Ag, Livestock Is Reward of Its Own

Kansas Viewpoint

Taking grandkids to experience how livestock agriculture works has rewards in all sorts of ways

Published on: December 12, 2013

One of the great things about being editor of Kansas Farmer is the opportunity to take my “city kid” grandchildren along  when a trip promises to offer some excellent education about Kansas agriculture.

This week, I took Jaime, almost 9, and Michele, just-turned 8, on a trip to see a feedyard, meet some top-notch FFA leaders, visit a dairy and make a stop to check on cotton harvest – two days of education about some pretty diverse aspects of Kansas agriculture.

Going in, I could have predicted the highlight of the trip – getting to see the baby calves at the dairy. Something about 8-year-old girls and baby animals is bound to resonate.

It wasn’t an easy task at Royal Farms Dairy near Garden City to get to the babies.  Lots of ice and snow has created a pretty wet, muddy barrier between the parking lot and the barns where the new moms and the newborn babies hang out.

QUICK PET: A quick touch to the head of a baby calf and a decision to name him "Prince" have memorable consequences.
QUICK PET: A quick touch to the head of a baby calf and a decision to name him "Prince" have memorable consequences.

So dairy employees brought one hour-old baby out to the edge of the grass for a quick visit, a pet on the head and and speedily returned him to his warm, cozy straw pile. But that was easily enough for the girls. When informed that the first person to pet a newborn calf has the awesome responsibility or choosing its name they quickly conferred. If it was a baby girl, it was “Princess.” If it was a baby boy, it was “Prince.”

This one was a boy, so it officially became Prince.

About halfway home, I realized that some of the lessons of the previous day’s visit to Midwest Feeders at Ingalls, where we interviewed the new president of the Kansas Livestock Association, Jeff Sternberger, had sunk in.

A little voice from the back seat said “Grandma, most of the feeders are boy calves, right? Do all boy calves go to the feedlot and get turned into meat?”

Give me credit for experience.

Well, yes, I said. Most, but not all. Sometimes, boy calves are exceptional and they become dads to lots of calves instead of going to the feedlot.

“Grandma, do you think Prince is exceptional?”

Oh, yeah, I saw that one coming.

“Well, probably,” I said. “I think he might be very exceptional.”

Miles go by.

Then comes a little voice. “Grandma, if Prince isn’t an exceptionally good dad, do you think he’ll be exceptionally good steak?”