The facts of (farm) life
WORTHINGTON — Worthington Middle School fifth-graders received an attack on their senses Tuesday morning as they petted the soft hair of Boer goats, watched a large bolus for pain relief get loaded into a pill dispenser and took big whiffs of silage, haylage and distillers grain.
They tried to guess the age of a baby calf — some believing the young female Holstein was 60 years old — and hefted up a pair of baskets, one containing a watermelon and the other a cantaloupe, to experience the difference in weight between a turkey and a chicken.
The students learned that chickens can run 9 miles per hour and can jump at least 7 feet high, and one lucky class got to see that firsthand after a chicken escaped from its cage and spent a few minutes on the lam. After being chased between vehicles and across a portion of a parking lot by half a dozen FFA members and teachers, it was finally captured.
The educational program — and the unplanned entertainment — was all part of Ag Day, an annual presentation by members of the Worthington High School FFA Chapter.
FFA member Carson Hagen has been one of the students teaching fifth graders about agriculture for the past four years during Ag Day.
“I hope they learn a lot more about ag and how cool it is,” said Hagen, who was leading a presentation on dairy. At his feet were two heifer calves that were less than 24 hours old. Hagen said it’s important for today’s youths to learn what farmers do and how they feed the world.
“A lot of kids don’t know much about where their meat comes from, so we kind of try to show them and teach them,” added FFA member Ben Ahlschlager. He and Nick Newman tag-teamed Tuesday’s beef presentation for the fifth-graders.
The FFA members talked about beef cattle production, how the animals are cared for and what they eat. The same information was covered by Cody Gravenhof, who brought in a pair of Boer goats.
“That way (the students) know the animals are taken care of and we care about them,” Gravenhof said.
Meanwhile, Morgan LeBrun and Kourtney Bauman led a presentation on pork production. They explained that baby pigs weigh about 3½-pounds at birth and are raised to about 285 pounds.
“We treat them good and they do live a good life,” LeBrun said.
Bauman added that Ag Day is important “for some kids that don’t know what animals are like on a farm to have the experience and learn about them.”
Judging by the responses, the fifth-graders learned a lot in their outdoor classroom Tuesday morning. Perla Chicas-Cordova said she was surprised to learn that eggs come in several different colors — from white to green and brown.
“I learned that they use those giant clippers to cut off the horns,” added John Paul Jiminez after watching the presentation about beef production. “They also shove a magnet down the throat (of a beef animal) so that if they swallow some metal it won’t hurt as much.”
Jake Ahrenstorff, while admitting the cow exhibit was his favorite, was most impressed with the weight of the 27-pound turkey.
FFA member Mackenzie Williams talked to students about the bronze turkeys and was surprised by how many students thought Worthington’s famed bird, Paycheck, was in the cage on display.
“Every single group, I think, has asked if this is Paycheck,” she said with a laugh.
Listing off some fun turkey facts for the kids, Williams said turkeys can run up to 25 mph, and wild turkeys like to sleep in trees.
Williams’ younger sister, Alyssa, spoke to the fifth-graders about chickens. The sophomore shows them in 4-H and has constructed a garage on her family’s farm for the birds to roost.
“Some of these kids don’t have a chance to interact with chickens,” Alyssa Williams said. “They can go to the fair and see them, but they can’t really touch them. I like to get the chickens out and let (the students) pet (them). Chickens are a big part of my life and they’re important.”
Williams brought a Bantam Cochin mini and an Americana chicken for the presentation.
“I love being on the farm and raising animals,” she said. “If kids get to interact, they’ll get more interested.”