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Katie Pinke's Christmas presents to her daughters was Hereford heifers so that they can experience caring for and showing livestock, like these participants at Western States National Hereford Show. (American Hereford Association photo)

Christmas cow creates a connection back to the farm

For a few years, I decorated a bathroom in our home with cow art, a variety of prints and pictures I loved.

My husband said to a cattleman friend once to our home, "Those are the only cows we're buying," pointing towards the bathroom. My non-livestock raising husband has always known though that our youngest daughter, Anika, age 10, has other plans.

Every year, Anika puts some type of livestock on her Christmas list. Pigs, sheep, cows, horses. This year the bottom of her Christmas list stated, "And most of all, a live cow, horse and dog" with details of breeds of the animals she most desired.

Could her Christmas dreams come true this year?

Early one December morning, I stopped by my grandma's farmhouse and my cattleman uncle greeted me with a Hereford (that's a cattle breed for the non-livestock folks, white faces, brown bodies) sale catalog. He said my cousin and another uncle would be attending this sale, showing me a few show heifers that would be sold at this sale. He said any of them would be a good starter heifer for Anika to learn to show and use as a 4-H project. I said I needed to talk it over with my husband and have him agree to it before we set a budget and decided to bid on a heifer.

I said to my uncle, "She's 10 now and I think can handle it. Plus, I feel like she might lose this passion she has for livestock if we don't give her a chance with it."

My uncle's next words will stay with me forever. "Yes, and it gives her a connection back to the farm," he said.

A connection back to the farm is important for all of us to have. To know how and where our food comes from, to learn to care for and raise livestock, to experience agriculture firsthand are values we teach and instill into our children.

Nathan agreed. This could be the year Anika gets a heifer for Christmas. We decided not to bother Santa with the details as his sleigh is too full to deliver a heifer.

It would be a gift from us, thanks to my uncles and cousin for their behind the scenes work, who bought a heifer at the sale within our budget.

As I write this column, Anika doesn't know yet of her gift. But her intuitive 12-year-old sister, Elizabeth, caught on to Uncle Jim watching heifer videos while she was nearby and declared she also has interest in showing a heifer and would like to try if her sister is going to get a chance to do it.

On Christmas Eve, cattle showing starter kits will be the gift both Elizabeth and Anika open from Nathan and me. Additionally, the girls are receiving the book, "Before the Banner: The Complete Guide to Show Cattle" by Jon Gevenlinger, recommended to me by a friend and Hereford cattle breeder, Crystal Blin of Iowa. It will be winter reading for daughters and then in the early summer, we plan for them to attend a 4-H Livestock Showing camp through North Dakota 4-H.

Neither Nathan or I have ever raised livestock or shown cattle. But if our girls are interested in it enough, we want them to create life experiences from it, learn new skills and share in their connection back to the farm. We also are grateful for uncles and a cousin willing to direct them in their learning process.

As we enter a new decade, it's a perfect time to start new. The cattle prints aren't hanging in the bathroom any longer. Instead, in the new decade, we will have a couple of head of cattle in a pen for our girls to work with and show at the county fair in the summer.

I am going to take a cue from our daughters and learn a new skill or set a fresh goal for myself. While mine won't be showing cattle, I am excited to watch our girls grow from their new cattle showing venture and, most of all, deepen their connection back to the farm.

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