Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Why? A Child's Guide to Animal Husbandry


We might have heard that question more than a time or two from a small helper as we worked baby calves last week. With her daycare center closed for the day,  Jake's 5-year-old daughter, Miss E, was our official helper. She had lots of questions. 

Why? Because questions and a 5 year old go together like peanut butter and jelly (or in this case, a hamburger and ketchup).  

When a 5-year-old is around, a sorting stick becomes a magic wand. Then it transforms into a stick horse. And there are more "why" questions than at any press conference I've ever attended as a journalist.
Miss E: Why do they get numbers?

Me:  Each of the numbers begins with a 3 this year. That way, we know they were born in 2013. We also can pair the babies and the mamas by writing down the numbers that go together.

Me again:  Can you help tell me the numbers? (Note to the preschool teacher: We got a LOT of number review done while we were working cattle. You're welcome!)

Me again:  What's your favorite number?

Miss E:  It's 5 because I'm 5. (This little calf  - above photo - got a pretty important number, according to Miss E!)

Miss E to Randy: Why are you giving those shots? 
Me:  Remember when you get shots at the doctor's office? It's to make sure you don't get sick or, if you are sick, to make you better. And even though it might have hurt for just a second, it didn't hurt after you were done, right? See, these are the ones that are already done. They look just fine, don't they?
Miss E:  What's Randy doing?

Me: He's making that bull calf into a steer.
Miss E:  Why?

Randy: So we can sell him some day, and people can buy good meat at the grocery store.

Miss E: Why is he bleeding?

Me, pulling my glove off my hand:  See my finger? I cut it last night when I was cutting up vegetables for Randy's salad. It's not still bleeding, is it?

Jake:  It will scab over and quit bleeding soon.

Miss E to her Dad: Which one are you going to get next?

Jake:  Whichever one decides to go down the lane.
Miss E:  Can I help?

Jake:  I thought I'd save this little one for the last, and you can help me.
Miss E:  Why did we take them away from their Moms? 

Me: Well, we need to separate the babies and the Mommies for just a little while so that we can give the calves their doctor's appointments. But we'll take them back to their mamas when we are done, and they'll be back together again.
The little calf that Miss E helped usher down the lane became "her" calf. She was glad to see it reunited with its mama when we hauled the babies via trailer back to the corral where their moms sniffed and called out to their babies.
Why did Miss E get to touch this baby? Because it was brand new that day and it cooperated. Plus, its Mom was out dining on green wheat and was otherwise occupied, away from curious girls.
It was a pretty good bonus for a pretty good helper. Thanks Miss E!
Why do we give the shots we do? For a more technical explanation of why, click here.


  1. That is just awesome. Miss E was talking about it when she came to our house. Thank you taking your time to help explain the "why's" of a farmer!

    1. I really enjoyed her! She is a sweetie!