Oh, Farm Fair…

The past three days, I helped with the Gallatin Farm Fair, which is organized by the Gallatin Valley Ag Committee. Over 1,000 fourth graders attended over the three days, rotating between 16 different stations, going on a horse-drawn hay ride, and having a tasty lunch. My job was to present at the beef cattle station. A rancher in the valley brought a cow and calf for me to use.
I promise they aren’t the devil; it was dark in the back of the barn when I was taking photos. Of course I heartily approved that they were red cattle!
The same general script was used for each group. We talked about the cow and the calf and how much baby calves and baby humans weigh when they’re born. Then we talked about what cows eat, and how their digestive system is different than ours. My trusty 4-compartment stomach diagram poster helps me with this part. 

As you can see, it’s traveled quite a few miles with me. No one made any comments about the cow standing on top of the other one this week, though.
One of my favorite parts is to tell the students about how cows chew their cud. There are looks of disgust and wonder in the audience when they learn that cows regurgitate feed they didn’t chew very well the first time and chew it again.
In addition to learning about different cuts of beef, we also talked about the products we get from beef cattle that we don’t eat. The hide is often the first non-edible part that students identify. I use a fun little guessing game about sports equipment made from leather. Did you know 144 baseballs can be made from one cowhide?
We also talk about other byproducts that might not be top-of-mind. I have a handy tote that lives in my office that helps me with this part of the presentation. More looks of disgust and wonder ensue when they learn about gelatin… 

Although the script exists, the questions that the students ask really shapes the discussion. There are always some great questions that send us off on strange tangents. Here are some examples:
  • Is it true that Kobe beef drink root beer and get massages?
  • Which stomach compartment does the baby calf grow in?
    • Two groups of 4thgraders learned the word “uterus” this week.
  • Why does her tail come off of her body there?
    • Um…
  • Shouldn’t there be a buck with that cow?
    • Maybe a bull, but probably never a buck…
  • Are you going to kill a cow?
    • Not today.
  • Why does pineapple juice make tough meat tender?
    • Good one. How the crap does a 4th grader know that?!
  • What is the strongest bone or muscle in a cow’s body?
  • Are all bulls mean like the ones in the rodeo?
  • Bulls are the ones with horns, right?

 And last, but certainly not least, this exchange:
  • What would happen if you left a bull with the cows all the time?
    • You would have calves at all different times during the year.
  • Why?
    • Because the bull would breed the cows at all different times of the year.
  • *dazed and confused*
    • OK. If you had intact male and female dogs who were together all the time, you would have puppies at all different times during the year, right?
  • Yes. But I have four dogs, 2 boys and 2 girls, and they’re fixed.
    • We can do that with cattle, too. When we neuter a bull, then they’re called a steer. We can also spay heifers.
  • Cool.

At every program I do involving small humans, I reaffirm that I made the appropriate career choice by not majoring in elementary education. God bless you, teachers!!!

Yours in travel,
The Asphalt Cowgirl

“Now our windshield’s a painting that hangs in our room, It changes each mile like the radio tune” —Rodeo Moon, Chris Ledoux

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