KIDS, COWS AND COLLEGE FUNDS

I’m Sara Prescott. My husband, Michael, and I -- along with our children -- own a cattle farm in Lincoln, Illinois. Our girls might only be 8 and 6 years old, but they’re raising two special cows to fund their college tuition. From calving to market and everything in between, follow along as we work together to raise kids and cattle.

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    The Show Ring

    Our show career has officially started again.
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    Happy Birthday!

    Peek-a-boo finally had her calf! Baby is healthy and mama...
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    Calf Watch 2017

    She is the one and only cow who surprises us.
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    KIDS, COWS AND COLLEGE FUNDS

    We’ve set up their “herd” as a college fund.
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    200 COWS, 3 KIDS, 1 FARM

    Between 200 cows, 3 kids and a farm, there's never...
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    Always learning

    A lot of what we need to know is second...
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    Happy Cows, Happy Farmer

    Just like humans, beef cattle thrive and grow best when...
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The Show Ring

I think it is official to say that our show career has officially started again for this family. My little girl, who isn't so little after all, showed her first heifer calf (a female who has not given birth) in May at the Logan County Fairgrounds. To say that she enjoyed every second of it would be an understatement. There were some nervous moments, high levels of anxiety and moments of tears (all mine mostly), but at the end of the day confidence prevailed and the look on her face after she won Reserve Champion Hereford Heifer said it all. I couldn't be more proud of Madison and loved watching her follow in her mom and dad's footsteps today. I think her and Autumn are going to have a wonderful rest of the summer together.

Happy Birthday!

Peek-a-boo calved on April 9, 2017 and had another baby skunk! This calf has a white circle on his back and a nice white tail with a black tip at the bottom. He also is all white underneath. The bull calf weighed 75 lbs., which is the size we often hope for – a healthy weight that’s not too big or too small. Baby is healthy and mama is happy enjoying lots of green grass and sunshine with her brand new calf.


Calf Watch 2017

Each year the excitement and anticipation grows as Peek-a-boo gets ready to calve. She is the one and only cow on our farm who surprises us with a calf that we don't already know what color it is going to be. Since 99% of our cattle are black, we know the calves will be all black or black with a little white on their faces. Peek-a-boo is the exception. She has had red calves, black calves, a black calf with a tail like a skunk and last year she surprised us with a beautiful white baby who looked just like her. That was also the first year she had a heifer (a female calf), so we kept her on the farm, named her Paisley and gave Madison the opportunity to expand her herd.

The girls and I have talked several times about what color we think the calf will be. They are convinced it is going to be another white baby and I hope they are right!

I checked Peek-a-boo for the final time last night and I knew it just wasn't the day for her to have her sweet calf. But at nine months pregnant, and as a mother myself, I can relate to how she’s feeling. She’s not her usual self –she sighs often and is moving slower than normal. She is ready for that baby to come - and honestly we are, too!

We’ll continue to check on Peek-a-boo often and make sure she knows we are here to help bring that baby into the world if she needs it.

 

KIDS, COWS AND COLLEGE FUNDS

Our kids (to find out more about them read 200 cows, 3 kids, 1 farm) aren’t the only personalities on our farm – our cows are characters in our family farm story, too. Ninety-eight percent of our 200 cows are black. The other percentage is represented by “Peek-a-boo,” the white Charolais, and “Bob,” the red-and-white Hereford. 

Of course, there is a story here …

On Madison’s first birthday, we decided to buy her a different colored cow so when we went to the farm she could easily pick hers out. Enter Peek-a-boo. We did the same thing with Emma – Bob belongs to her. (Yes, we have a female named Bob). The plan worked. Peek-a-boo and Bob are both easily identifiable for the girls and, because they both technically own the cows, we’ve set up their “herd” as a college fund. Each year, Peek-a-boo and Bob have a calf. If we choose to sell the calf that year, the money is put into a savings account. Just like our kids, Peek-a-boo and Bob both have personalities.

Peek-a-boo

Peek-a-boo is an adventurer. She’s always moving around and checking things out – she’ll cover every inch of the pasture. She also takes every advantage to get dirty, which is more noticeable than any of our other cows since she’s the only white one. She will be having a calf in the next 2-3 weeks, so stay tuned for that update.

Bob

Bob is mellow. That’s really about it – she lies in the pasture, observes everyone else and loves to eat. The only thing she moves quickly for is hay and the feed bunk. Oh, and how did she get her name? Her identification number is “808,” so “B0B” stuck.

Our family farm means the world to us and the ability to grow and involve our children in the succession of that story is incredibly important. We hope you enjoy learning a little more about our farm this year and can laugh along with all the crazy that comes with raising three farm kids. 

200 COWS, 3 KIDS, 1 FARM

Michael and Sara

Our story started as two kids from LaSalle County who met as 12-year-old 4-H members. We both showed cattle in 4-H (you’ve heard of the Westminster Dog Show – showing cattle is the same concept) and shared a lot of the same friends. We both graduated from Illinois State University with degrees in agriculture and after graduation went our separate ways. A few years after graduating we reconnected. Now here we are today, married with three kids, sharing a passion and dedication for agriculture and raising our children to learn what it’s like caring for livestock.

Michael and I both had off-farm jobs when we were first married, but always felt a strong desire to be a part of the beef business. Around 10 years ago, we bought our first heifers and developed relationships with local farmers and landowners to lease pasture land. Today, our herd has grown to raising 200 mama cows. Michael and I are definitely a team, as he still travels for work on occasion and I’m often at the farm caring for the cows. So naturally, our kids come along to help with the daily livestock chores.

Madison

Our 8-year-old, timid and very observant child, Madison really wants to be a part of the farm. She takes no issue with getting up at 5 a.m. on a Saturday and hopping in the truck to check cows with her dad. This will be her first year in 4-H and I think being around other 4-H members her age for the first time will really help bring her out of her shell. As the stereotypical oldest child, she loves any activity where she can be “in charge.” When the kids play, she always wants to be the teacher, the doctor, the babysitter, etc. She’s also very creative and loves to dance and draw.

Emma

And then there’s Emma. Emma HATES mornings. She stays in her PJs as long as possible. But, she’s also my go-getter. At 6 years old, Emma is really into finding her own way. Madison likes to think through situations and get a clear understanding before she tries anything new. Emma goes into everything head on and doesn’t worry about the details. Now there’s always an exception to the rule and the one detail Emma does worry about whenever we go to the farm - snacks. She always makes sure we have snacks packed, and may even throw extra in the bag for good measure.

Carter

Carter turns 2 years old this month. He goes wherever his sisters go and is fearless. He’s the gate-opener on the farm and will do it all day long if I let him, and he climbs on everything. He’s also found his voice and really likes to be heard. With two older sisters, you can bet he’s figured out how to yell loud enough to be heard over them.

 

As far as the girls are concerned, caring for the cows and doing chores with Michael and me definitely has its perks. They’re both learning to drive the Gator, and filling the feed buckets has always been their job – it’s something they take great pride in.

So between 200 cows, three kids and a farm, there never seems to be a dull moment. That’s why we invite you along to learn about this adventure we call raising kids and cattle. Until next time!

Always learning

With only about two percent of Americans actively involved in farming, it’s natural that people will have a lot of questions about what farmers and ranchers do to put food on everyone’s table. I’m happy to offer the best answers I can based on what I’ve learned from my life in agriculture.

Michael and I have been around farm animals all our lives, so a lot of what we need to know is second nature to us. But that doesn’t mean we don’t keep learning. A lot of people don’t realize how many farmers today have college degrees, with expertise in areas from animal science to crop and environmental technology. When we hear about new research into animal behavioral science, we’re serious about finding out how we can apply it to our own herd. More and more, we’re finding out about how important it is to allow cows and calves the opportunity to perform natural and instinctive behaviors essential to their health and well-being. So we make provisions to ensure social interaction, comfort, and physical and psychological well-being.

Happy Cows, Happy Farmer

One thing I know for sure is that every mom feels the way I do about what she provides for her children. We all want to be sure we’re giving them the best this world has to offer and that we’re passing on the best of everything we’ve learned. For us, that includes keeping our kids involved in the day-to-day running of our farm, from the time a calf is born to the day it's shipped off to be raised before going to market.

People who live off the farm may wonder whether farmers and ranchers care about the animals they raise. The short answer is yes. The longer answer? It turns out doing what makes cows happy and comfortable also makes good business sense. That’s because, just like humans, beef cattle thrive and grow best when they’re not experiencing stress or anxiety or discomfort. So ensuring our animals have healthy, comfortable conditions is satisfying in two ways. As people who grew up around livestock, we care about the welfare and comfort of the animals we’re responsible for. And that in turn helps us to be successful, and to continue raising healthy, happy calves. If our animals don’t thrive, then neither can we.