Over my Christmas break, I spent a lot of time feeding calves. And by “a lot” I really mean A LOT!
Don’t get me wrong, I love farming! I’ve written time and time again just how much I enjoy the satisfaction of putting in a long day of work caring for our livestock.
That doesn’t mean that at 7 A.M. on a snowy day I’m really excited about bundling up and feeding calves.
Much to my dad’s dismay, getting four of his five children to feed the livestock in an amicable mood when its below freezing is nearly impossible.
For as tired and grumpy as we teenage Laurent’s were, there was always one kid at our house who could hardly contain their excitement when it came time to feed: my four year old brother, Daniel.
Now that Daniel is getting big and strong enough to help out on the farm, we’re starting to give him some responsibilities of his own.
Since its been below freezing we can’t keep our above ground water lines hooked up without them freezing. Consequently, we have to fill up water troughs by hand twice a day.
Daniel has become a professional hose holder and makes sure both the troughs get filled.
Since he could walk, we’ve been putting Daniel in the pens with baby pigs. Now that he’s four, Daniel is finally getting big enough to start being around the cattle.
Since cattle are more skittish than pigs so we’ve had to teach Daniel to stay close to one of the adults and not to make sudden movements.
He’s also learning to use his “cattle voice” (a little louder than a whisper) so that he doesn’t scare the calves.
Daniel’s newest job is to pull the hay string out of the square hay bales we feed the calves during the winter.
He collects all the string and is supposed to put it in a bucket next to the feed bin.
Even growing up around a bunch of teenagers, Daniel still tries the same tricks most kids his age would.
Sometimes he tries to leave the hay string on the ground, sometimes just plays with the hose and doesn’t just fill up the water troughs.
With all of the sneakiness a four year old can muster, Daniel tries to get away with only doing half of his job so that he can go play with the barn cat.
Instead of just fussing at him, my parents stop what they’re doing and take a few minutes to discuss with him why its so important that he do his job correctly.
My mom explained, “Would you like it if I didn’t give you anything to drink with your supper? We can’t do that to the calves either.“
Even though he’s only four, Daniel understands that our livestock depend on us to take care of them.
He knows that running a farm takes a lot of hard work and he understands that he still has a lot to learn about taking care of the animals he loves.
Daniel knows that we raise pigs and cattle for people to eat.
What he doesn’t realize is that at the end of the day, farm families like ours aren’t just raising food, they’re raising responsible kids.