Feb. 19 2020 08:55 AM

Many life lessons are learned when young people train animals to lead.

A few months ago, I had the bright idea that it would be great to start my kids showing cattle and invite their friends to do the same. I thought, “Hey! We can house them and all work with them together!”

Holy moly. Fast forward a few months and as of right now, I have five heifers at my house being worked with by five different kids who have never ever done this before in their lives.

When I say never, I mean they haven’t touched a cow before. Being up close and personal with cattle is a whole new ball game for them and an experience they never dreamed of having.

These boys are anywhere from 5 to 7 years old, and they have a love for what they are doing . . . most of the time. Let’s be honest, it is not all “sunshine and fairytales” when training calves. There is a lot of hard, dirty work that has to be done, and at a young age, the tasks seem monumental at times.

With their hands dirty and brow sweaty, these boys have no idea what they are learning. They think we are just walking cows. These boys are learning at a very young age what it means to be a leader. They are learning that when training a calf to walk, it needs to be sure that you are its leader. The animal needs to know that wherever you go, it is safe to follow. At a young age, they are learning a tenderness and love that cultivates a respect from these calves, which translates into trust and teamwork. At a young age these boys are learning skills that some adults still struggle with.

With the show a few weeks away, I stand with boys who have gained the trust of their animals and have learned that a relationship takes constant work. They have been drug through the dirt, brushed themselves off, and have become stronger and wiser from it. With all the struggles that we have faced and the work that has gone into this so far, I still sit back and think “Holy moly,” but in the end, I remember the experience and impact these moments have.

And I still find it funny that they think we are just walking cows . . .

Tyler Ribeiro

Tyler Ribeiro is a fourth-generation dairy farmer born and raised in California. He is currently partners with his father at Rib-Arrow Dairy in Tulare where they proudly ship their milk to Land O’Lakes. Tyler is actively involved in the dairy industry, holding leadership roles in various organizations locally and across the United States.