altOccasionally, a circumstance becomes an opportunity to teach valuable life lessons in our household.

We lost one of our cows in this winter weather. When my husband found her, her calf was bawling relentlessly. He loaded the little heifer up in his pick up and brought her home to bottle feed her. Our 11-year-old daughter liked her immediately. After watching her dad fix up a bottle and teach the calf to drink it, she wanted to help. The next feeding, she was in his hip pocket making the bottle and getting the calf to take it. Together they determined the best feeding times would be 5 o’clock in the morning and 5 o’clock at night.

It’s been wintry and cold in Fayetteville, Ark. My husband and I have been amazed as we have watched the lesson in responsibility unfold before us. Our daughter lays out her coveralls and work clothes every night before heading to bed. She has to set her alarm extra early to make sure this calf is fed on time. She makes the bottle back in our laundry room and takes her time in getting the water temperature warm. During the week and on the weekends, this kid is out the door early feeding her bottle calf. After she feeds her, she takes the bottle back to the utility sink and cleans it up to prepare for the calf’s next meal later in the evening.

Last weekend, they fixed up a special pen for the heifer who has been affectionately named, “Cookie.” Over the last few weeks, Cookie has been thriving, drinking water from the bucket and starting to eat calf starter. She’s a pretty cute addition around the farm – I just hope they don’t decide to bring her inside the house!

The other night my husband and I talked about how proud we are of our daughter’s effort to take care of this baby calf – basically on her own. She is up before we are in the morning and out the door to take care of her. She reminded my husband when she needed more milk replacer long before she was out. We are kind of in awe at how incredibly serious she has been about her obligation.

As parents, we are constantly on our kids about their academic responsibilities at school. We make it a point to have a serious “house pick-up” at least once a week. This includes having them put away their laundry and clean up their rooms, bathroom along with their daily chores. They don’t love this, but they will thank us someday, we hope. We continually strive to find new ways to teach our children about hard work and accountability – Cookie the calf has been a lesson on autopilot.

As we talked about how cool it was to watch her take on a new chore, we toyed with the idea of going to the sale barn to get a few more bottle calves to continue this experiment. She liked the idea of building up her own little herd of bottle calves to sell. Her little brothers have been in her shadow watching and helping her along the way. I don’t think it will be long before the other kids want a calf to take care of too, neighbor.

Jody Harris is a freelance communications specialist, gardener, ranch wife and mother of four. She and her family raise Angus beef cattle and other critters on their northwest Arkansas ranch. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Jody, go to and click on ‘Contact Us.’


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here