Jersey Calves on an Organic Dairy
Each year I volunteer to be an on-farm guide for the "baby calf station" for all the 6-year old children in our local area. Nearly two hundred and fifty children show up on a sunny day in early June to spend three hours on a small dairy farm.
Yesterday, June 1, was the day for 2016. The dairy had the youngest calves in individual fiberglass hutches (ages in days = 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, and 9). Once the calves are drinking well from a nursing bottle and a larger super hutch is available they are moved into one of these in groups of four. Yesterday they had four of these super hutches with calves about four, eight and ten weeks old.
These 6-year olds had questions mostly about:
1. age - how old are they?
2. food - what do they eat?
3. mother - where is her mother?
4. activity - can she really walk around when she is only 1 (3, 4) day old? (probably related to experience with kitten and puppies?)
Most popular calf to look at? The one-day old - all 40 pounds of her.
The eight and ten-week old calves were up and walking about their pens so they attracted attention as well.
The children also visited the milking parlor (double 10 parallel swing design), milk room with plate cooler and milk tank, free stall barn with sand stalls, feed alley with TMR, milk tanker truck (with air horn) and the haylage harvesting equipment. This was sort of a guided tour where the whole class moved along as a group. They completed the tour with a visit with the Genesee County Dairy Princess and her helpers where they all had an opportunity to churn (shake a 30ml bottle) heavy cream into butter and eat the butter with pretzel sticks - anything that involves eating is popular.
In addition, after the tour, there were sixteen more "learning stations" where small groups of children with an adult could visit as they were interested.
They had a chance to sit on the shaded lawns and eat their bag lunches (along with donated cheese and milk from a local dairy cooperative).
Each year I am impressed with the commitment of a mostly volunteer crew that supports the event. The teachers always comment on how good it is for the children to see where their milk (and milk products) come from.