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July 2018

Lessons from Farm Mothers and their Babies

Jersey cow and calf
Pixie with her baby, Star

Meet Star, the last calf born to our Jersey cow, Pixie.  She was born Nov. 17, 2017.  One of the privileges of being a farmer is being surrounded by the miracle of new life, whether it is a new calf, baby chick or seedlings reaching up to capture the suns rays for the first time.  Though I've lived on our farm almost 50 years, I still get excited, like a child waiting for Christmas, anticipating the birth of a new calf, a new litter of pigs or watching a new garden come to life in the springtime.  The farm has taught me many lessons over the years, not the least of which is the role mothers play with their babies in the natural world.

Farmers experienced in animal care know to approach a new farm baby with care least they be charged by a mother cow, or flogged by a mother turkey or attacked by a mother sow.  Nature has created a beautiful bond between mother and baby.  These mothers will cautiously watch over their offspring and immediately react if they perceive a threat to their baby.  

A number of years ago my husband and I experienced first-hand this innate characteristic of our mother turkey.  At the time we had a turkey hen who had one baby.  We decided to move them to another lot.  As my husband and I were walking them along, my husband decided that the baby turkey was too slow so he reached down to pick up the baby.  Big mistake!  Even though we were daily in the lot with them, mother decided this was a threat to her baby and she immediately flew up  hitting my husband in the side of his head, feet first with all the strength her 25 lbs. could muster.  He didn't know what hit him until I explained what I had seen. 

We humans consider ourselves smarter than animals, however, I think we can learn a lot from these farm mothers.  They personally stay with their young, protecting, nurturing and teaching.  Generally speaking, we as a society, have decided that women are too valuable to waste their talents on nurturing, teaching and protecting their own children.  If we spend years and a lot of money getting a degree in order to care for the children of strangers, teach the children of strangers, cook for strangers, or advise strangers on financial or health issues, we are considered successful.  Isn't it a little strange that if we devote ourselves to doing this for our own family it is frowned upon by many?