September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Helping others experience a miracle

By Krista [email protected] | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

I get excited when there’s a cow calving on our farm. When I hear the news I always have to ask a few questions: Is the new calf a heifer or bull? Is the cow feeling ok? Is the new calf healthy and an aggressive eater? Is it a potential show calf?

Last week while helping with evening chores, I checked on Unice in the maternity pen. She had been in labor before milking, but by the time I arrived to see her progress, a fresh, wet new calf was already lying in the corn stalks being aggressively licked off by the infatuated mother. I climbed over the gate and into the pen to check off the first question on my list – bull. That also answered my last question. This baby would not be a potential show calf for the novice calf class at the county fair. (We really could have used another small sized spring heifer calf since Sheeknoll Farms has five kids of family and friends showing our calves this year. But that’s a story for another time.)

After giving the new mother vitamins and minerals or what we call “blue water,” I loaded up the calf into our brown cart with the help from one of our employees. We gave him a new home in his half-circle pen in the calf barn before I returned to the barn to retrieve the mother’s milk. That trip gave me the answer to question No. 2: the mother is doing just fine and had quite a bit of milk for the first time around. As I brought the new bull his first meal, I waited patiently as he wobbled and shook while trying to stand. When he remained in one spot, I held the bottle up to his mouth. After one taste of the milk he wanted more. Yes! The last question is answered! This boy definitely had an appetite. 

Many farmers who read this short story are probably thinking, “So, what’s the point?” Births on a dairy farm are something we’re all used to, and probably something we take for granted (although we always make it a priority to take good care of the new babies). But for many people without a dairy background, watching a cow give birth and watching how farmers care for the new animals once they’re born is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. 

This year at the Olmsted County Free Fair, the public will have this opportunity. The members of the Olmsted County American Dairy Association spearheaded the idea and planning for the AgStar Miracle of Birth Center. Inspired by the one at the state fair, this Birth Center will be a place for people to learn more about agriculture by experiencing the miracle of birth. 

Farmers, vets and others who work in the ag industry will be volunteering to answer questions and chat with people as they walk through. I think this one-on-one interaction with others is the greatest way to educate people. More people want to know what happens on farms and want to personally know the farmers who help produce their nutrient-rich and tasty food. When I’ve been at dairy promotion events, I’ve talked to many people who go to farmers markets because they want that personal connection. 

Now, more than ever, this one-on-one farmer-to-consumer interaction is needed. People are several generations removed from the farm and have no idea what modern agriculture is like. We hope having the Birth Center in the heart of Rochester, a town with a population of 100,000, will give people a little bit of the farm experience and interaction with farmers they need to feel confident in the quality of the food they feed their family. 

If you are involved in the agriculture industry and would like to volunteer your time at the AgStar Miracle of Birth Center at the Olmsted County Fair, send me an email at [email protected] or give me a call at (507) 259-8159. You can help others experience a miracle. 

But you don’t need a birth center at a county fair to educate others about farming. Promotion can happen any time, any where. (Although June is a great time to promote dairy since it is dairy month!) Talk to others about farming when you’re out running errands or host a tour on your farm. Work with your ADA board to have an educational day in your town or bring a calf to your town festival. The opportunities are endless. Happy promoting!

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