From the Farm: Calves are the counselors at cow camp

Nine weaned calves make good use of the “milk bar” at Miles Smith Farm, where they get their daily fill of milk replacer. These adorable calves are at the farm for Cow Camp in July. 

Nine weaned calves make good use of the “milk bar” at Miles Smith Farm, where they get their daily fill of milk replacer. These adorable calves are at the farm for Cow Camp in July.  Courtesy photograph

Published: 06-02-2024 11:00 AM

Last year, on the second day of camp, the kids stowed their backpacks, ran into the barnyard, and waited anxiously to learn which calf would be theirs for the week.

That was 2023. This year, we have a new slew of calves for campers to claim. Will it be adorable white Cloud or Bingo, the all-black Angus steer? And who will get year-old Jerome, an “Oreo cookie” steer and graduate of last year’s camp?

Twenty children (ages 8-14) have signed up for one of two weeks of calf snuggling, horse riding, and stall cleaning at Cow Camp at Miles Smith Farm, and we have room for more. All of the children were there because they loved animals, and there were a lot of animals for them to love – bunnies to hold, goats to feed, and horses to brush, but the main attraction was the calves. This year, we have 18 calves for the campers to love. Some calves are four weeks old, and some are a year old, but all will enchant the campers.

Fifteen-year-old Rose, one of last year’s campers, likes working with cows so much that she’s coming to camp as a counselor-in-training this year.

Cameron came to the camp to be with cows and horses and told me, “I love cows.”

On the last day of camp, campers will get wet when they scrub and hose their calves in the “cow wash” to get them looking their best for the cow show.

At Cow Day Camp, it’s not just about fun and games. Your child will learn responsibility as they scoop, brush, and train their calves. They’ll also develop confidence as they show off their clean, fluffy calves in a judged show. This is a chance for your child to demonstrate what they’ve learned. It’s a unique learning experience that they won’t get anywhere else.

The camp weeks are July 8-12 and July 22-26 this year, and if last year is any indicator after the judging, chaos, and laughter will reign during the animal relay race as three teams coax and prod mini-pig Tazzy, goats Dixie and Trixie, and donkey Eleanor around an obstacle course. Each team will navigate its animal around cones, cross a little bridge, and race for the finish line. Tazzy can be counted on to grunt a lot (as pigs do) and do her best to keep up.

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Shyness is mostly left at the sign-in table on day one as the kids forget their nervousness and begin learning to “de-kick” their calves, reward them for good behavior, and get them to look their best, an exercise in building self-confidence.

I wonder who will learn more – the calves or the kids?

Do you know a child who loves animals and doesn’t mind getting dirty? Cow Day Camp sessions are open from July 8-12 and July 22-26. Sign up at learningnetworksfoundation.com/summer-camp/. Scholarships are available.

Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm (www.milessmithfarm.com), where she raises and sells beef, pork, eggs, and other local products. She can be reached at carole@soulecoaching.com. Carole also coaches humans, helping them achieve the impossible a little at a time.