When my husband and I were anxiously awaiting the birth of our eldest, we did what many in our situation do. We took a basic parenting class at our hospital. There we learned and relearned the basics of newborn care. Between overwhelming looks and nervous laughter we were shown umbilical cord care, basic needs and basic first aid. We ended the class with a tour of the facilities that left us with wide eyes and an understanding that we were really doing this. Parenthood.
Parenthood has great meaning to us as humans but can sometimes be different when it comes to the animals on our farms. To us it means constant love, attention and care. We have a strong desire to see our children grow up healthy and nourished. As we raise our children from infants, we make sure they get the medical attention they need when they need it.
With farm animals, and in our case cattle, this can sometimes be difficult. You see, cows don’t take parenting classes. They don’t have lactation specialists they can turn to when their calves won’t nurse. They don’t go to high tech medical facilities to deliver their babies. It is our job as caregivers to make sure everything goes as planned.
Farmers and ranchers will check on their cattle on a daily, twice daily and sometimes even more frequent basis to make sure that they are okay. When a cow has recently had a calf, it is reassuring to see them be protective of their baby, nuzzle and smell them. Sometimes, however, things don’t work out right. A cow may not be giving enough milk for her calf, and we have to supplement with a bottle. A calf may be sick, and we have to bring it in to give it the medicine it needs to survive. It is our job to give the calves the vaccines and boosters they need to remain healthy.
Cows don’t take their calves in for two-month check ups, so we as farmers and ranchers have to make sure that everything is okay. This is part of our job, part of who we are and what we do. We take it very seriously and can be very upset, hurt and defensive when it has been suggested that we don’t put our animal’s welfare before our own. (If you don’t believe me, ask my son. The cows get checked and fed before Christmas presents are opened at our house!) Animal husbandry and welfare are extremely important to those of us whose life and family are built around the raising and care of animals.
I pledge my head to greater thinking…
My heart to greater loyalty…
My hands to larger service…
My health to a better living….
I’ve said the 4-H pledge thousands of times as a youngster growing up, but somehow the words have more meaning now for me as a mom. I strive every day to help my three children believe in themselves, to understand the importance of volunteering to build a strong community, and instill in them the values of hard work, dedication, and perseverance. 4-H is helping me do just that.
There is no thrill greater for me as a mom than watching my kids succeed. I’m not talking about when they win an award or place first in a competition. I’m talking about when you see them start a project from the beginning and dedicate themselves to its successful completion. But one area has helped then more than any other and that’s raising lambs for their 4-H sheep project.
Their work starts when a baby lamb is born. It’s their responsibility to provide the animal with love, food, and training so it’s ready for show day. It’s a big responsibility and one they don’t take lightly.
But, it’s easier to understand if you see them first hand. They love living on a farm, being in 4-H, and caring for the animals. The following video shows my family hard at work preparing for show day, together:
I think the pledge and the 4-H program mean more to me as a mother because its helping me shape my children in to wonderful, productive people. Thanks to this program and living on a farm, I’m seeing my kids gain skills and abilities that will benefit them forever.
“My Baby” was the squeal that all heard as there was a lull between classes at the elementary music concert this Spring from my almost 2 year old, Katerina. As all of those surrounding us looked feverishly around the floor for a dollie, blankie, or stuffed animal; other Mom’s began to wonder why I was playing on my phone. No, I didn’t think it would be funny if the cries of “my baby” continued so they would drown out the third graders. I was trying to quietly turn on my phone which had respectfully been turned off for the concert. I was not planning to call for help or tweet about the concert, not even trying to get the camera ready for the first graders-I was trying to calm Katerina down. You see, Miss Kate has a rather unusal baby, it is the picture of the first calf born on our farm this year that is my screensaver. This picture is her baby which she carries around and kisses quite often.
Odd, you might say, I also thought so at first. Then, as I thought back to all of those parenting books I had read years ago before my first child was born, I recalled that little girls carrying dolls, is often their way of copying what their Mom does. Since Katerina is the youngest of 5 kids and all those aunts and uncles haven’t yet started families, we don’t see a lot of babies being carried around on this farm.
What Katerina does see everyday and especially in the Spring when her fascination with my phone photo began is Mom and Dad carrying calves into the house to get them dried and warm in a blizzard and her big brothers bottle feeding baby calves whose Mom’s aren’t giving enough milk. In her short life, Katerina has seen everything in the world stop to take care of a calf that might need the help of us farmers. She has seen us stop all other work and miss other kids’ concerts because a cow may be calving, she has had to be rocked by Mom in the middle of the night when she really wanted Dad but he was out caring for a baby calf, she has seen Mom cry her eyes out when I couldn’t save a baby calf, and seen Dad bruised up from when a protective Moma cow decided to run him over as he checked on her.
So, really Miss Kate is just copying what she sees everyday. She sees a family that loves and works on the farm. As a toddler, she knows what so many adults have not had the chance to learn: that farmers and ranchers give the best care humanly possible to the animals that the Good Lord has entrusted into their care.
Next time you hear a little one squealing at church or some other inopportune time, think about just what their “baby” may be and help out if you can. Just don’t get mad if I am feverishly searching for my phone. For now, I will be proud that my toddler has a wonderful vision of what “my baby” is!