Rural children might take raising a pet calf for granted, but for twenty-one children from Flaxmere primary, a decile one school near Hastings, the chance to look after their own calf has been the experience of a lifetime.
It’s been an experience that Rural Women New Zealand members from Korokipo branch have enjoyed sharing with the children, as they spend one day each week at the farm of Eliot and Mary Cooper at Takapau, learning to feed, groom and lead their calves.
Eliot Cooper came up with the idea of giving children from lower decile schools the opportunity to have a hands-on experience of rural life as a way of giving something back to the industry.
Mary says at first some of the children were afraid of the animals and worried about getting dirty, but with encouragement from the Coopers and the Rural Women volunteers, they have blossomed.
“The children’s development in leading the calves has been amazing,” says Mary Cooper. “If you saw the children your heart would melt.”
During the farm visits the children also help feed pet lambs, and see other aspects of the farming operation such as the pigs, horses and farm dogs.
The Rural Women members prepare hearty farm lunches for the children and help them groom and lead their calves.
Fonterra has also supported the project, giving milk for the children’s lunches and providing halters for the 23 calves.
Next the calves will be heading off to Flaxmere school for a calf club day organized by the Coopers. With two show rings, the children will parade their calves and compete for cups and ribbons for leading, care and attention and champion calf.
At school the children have kept calf diaries and decorated their calf covers, which will also be judged.
Now Eliot hopes to make the calf rearing project an annual event and expand it to other schools.
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