Sept. 5 2023 10:45 AM

Just like with calves, the patience needed with babies is soon replaced by other challenges as they age.

My parents taught me about calf bottles from a young age!

I think baby calves are adorable and sweet. If I see one, there is no doubt that I will walk up to it with my arm outstretched, palm up, to let it suck on my hand with all its slobber and sandpaper-feeling tongue. I will be delighted and smile, every time. And yet, feeding them has always been my most dreaded chore.

Feeding baby calves takes such patience, especially with the newborn ones. Some latch right on to a bottle just fine; some take what seems like forever to drink their first feedings. It is always when you are running late to something or terribly behind on your chores that you get the ones who require the extra patience and persistence. And then, of course, that is the same day that the bigger ones kick over water pails and make a general circus of your tasks. Murphy’s law — “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong” — likes to make a statement in big ways sometimes.

Calves and children both learn about their world early in life.

But the calf will soon learn to take a bottle without being coaxed. She will turn into a heifer that makes sure to challenge you in other ways. She may try to jump the fence or run out as soon as you open the gate. Corralling her from down the street will make you wish for the days when your problems were only a few extra minutes feeding a bottle.

It is not so different with children. It seems I learned a lot about parenting by feeding baby calves. The babies will soon sleep through the night; the toddlers will soon walk without falling. I do not yet have teens, but I have no doubt they will push the boundaries just like my heifers challenged the fences.

Erin Massey

Erin Massey is the product development manager at Prairie Farms, a farmer-owned cooperative based in Edwardsville, Illinois. She is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the development process, from concept to commercialization. Erin grew up on a Florida dairy farm and has a deep-rooted passion to invigorate the dairy industry. Erin earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of South Florida. Her personal mantra is "Be Bold."