Farm Day on the WW Ranch
How do you add some excitement to a sunny December afternoon? Try taking forty-six teenagers, pile them in with sixteen Miniature Herefords in a 40 X 40 pipe pen and watch the mix! That is what we did recently here at WW Ranch. It started when an FFA girl, Leah Stroud, who bought and shows one of our heifers, decided to take Advanced Animal Science at the Borger High School. The new teacher for the program, Mrs. Lamb, was raised on a ranch and was interested in hearing more about Miniature Herefords. She decided our operation would make a good field trip for the classes and set it up through the school’s administration and, via Leah, with us. When the day arrived, the junior- and senior-aged kids and their teachers got off the bus and walked down to our barn. There was a variety of cattle experience represented, from people that had never been closer than a pass on the highway to a cow, all the way to people who had been born and raised on large, commercial ranches. We were blessed with a clear, warm day, and so we stood outside the house for a minute to review the origins of Miniature Herefords. We went from the Bos Taurus species description, down through the source of all Herefords in England, to the development of the breed by the Largents of south Texas, and finally to the decision to bring some to a small ranch in the Texas Panhandle.
Then came the moment everyone was waiting for – meet the cows! I had penned a variety of sixteen animals to allow for good comparisons, including old cows, steers, heifers, and calves. The only bull was an un-weaned baby, Tom Thumb. Everyone came in the barn to check out the hay and the cats and the piles of feed bags and equipment. As directed, a couple of boys grabbed some bags of cubes and poured them into buckets where everyone who wanted a handful could get some. I suggested that we go feed the cows. Somehow, I had imagined in my head that everyone would stand outside the pipe fence and feed them, cows and kids separated and protected by a steel barrier set in concrete. But you can’t predict what will happen, especially if you are talking about teenagers or cattle, let alone both. All of a sudden, the gates were opened and the flood of kids ran in.
Now, some of my cows are not dehorned and about half of my animals have never been shown, and have not been around more than a few people at a time. How would they react? Would someone be trampled by a frantic cow stressed by all the close contact? Would a kid be speared by a horn as an animal turned its head in the crowd? A number of horror scenes zipped through my brain, but within seconds it was clear that all was well. The cows were too interested in the free treats to be worried, and as I have found over the years, they know exactly where every inch of horn is and carefully kept those away from the kids. A few were ready to leave after just a few minutes, so I let them out through the head-gate, which allowed everyone to see how that operates as well. And in general, everyone was happy giving or receiving pellets of food and attention.
We briefly discussed how to choose breeding stock and used examples in the pen for comparison of characteristics such as structure and function. Leah walked her show heifer to demonstrate good conformation, and we compared her to a cow that has some flaws. We finished the tour with a visit to the herd bulls, Sam and E, and discussed the qualities that kept them out of the freezer, unlike many of their siblings. Then it was back on the bus, and the whirlwind was gone.
There were some heart-stopping moments,like when a boy leaped the fence to avoid the snotty snort of an old cow – and some heart-warming moments, like when the baby bull snuggled up to a girl and nosed her gently for a treat. But, either way, it is well worth the time and exposure to allow young people the opportunity for a new and educational experience. And you can’t pay for better entertainment! the freezer, unlike many of their siblings. Then it was back on the bus, and the w