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Farm Fun Day Camp cultivates understanding

July 20, 1998

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

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Farm Fun DayBy LISA GRAYBEAL / Staff Writer

SHARPSBURG - Daisy, a large red and white Guernsey cow, stood patiently in the milking parlor chewing her cud Monday as small hands squeezed, pulled, poked and prodded at her full udder to try to extract a stream of milk.

"I can't get it out," yelled one frustrated boy.

"Start at the top, squeeze, and pull down," directed Jeff Semler, Cooperative Extension agent.

First time cow-milker Kaitlin Green, 8, of Hagerstown, was able to get a few drops of milk from Daisy then backed away, wiping her hands on her shorts.

"I thought it felt kind of weird to do it," she said.

Learning how to milk a cow and make butter capped off a full day of activities at the first annual Farm Fun Day Camp held this week at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center on Md. 65.

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"We found out that the kids really don't understand where food comes from. They think milk comes from the grocery store," said Mary Ellen Waltemire, Cooperative Extension educator and a camp organizer.

"I'm learning about living on a farm. I think it might be a little hard," said Carlton Spriggs, 9, of Williamsport.

Livestock was the topic for the first day in which 35 Washington County children, ages 8 to 10, participated in everything from sheering sheep to witnessing chickens hatch.

For most of the children at the camp, it was their first time to get a close look at farm animals and how to feed and care for them.

"I learned how to cut the fur off the sheep," said Sarah Schubel, 9, of Hagerstown.

The day started off at 9 a.m. with the children rotating to different animal sessions - swine and hogs, poultry, rabbits, and beef.

They also made ice cream and leather book marks.

After lunch, the children sheered sheep and then pulled up straw bales in the barn to sit on as they listened to a presentation given by Veterinarian Matt Iager, of Mid-Maryland Dairy Veterinarians.

Displaying from the compartments of his pickup truck a variety of medicines and equipment used to treat primarily dairy cows, the children bombarded Iager with questions ranging from how a calf is born to whether it's possible to tip a cow.

The head and front feet are supposed to come out first when a calf is born, Iager said.

About 50 percent of the time, cows needs help from the farmer or a veterinarian to have their calves. In those cases, small chains are hooked on to the front feet of the calf and it's gently pulled out, he said.

"Do they have blood on them when they're born?" Spriggs asked.

Calves usually have some blood on them like most newborn animals and humans, Iager said.

As for cow tipping, Iager was hard pressed to answer that question from a girl who insisted that she knows some teenagers who have tipped sleeping cows.

"Cows don't sleep very long - only about 15 minutes a day - though they may look like they're sleeping," Iager said.

Several local 4-H members then gave presentations about their dairy cows, representing four different breeds, to the children.

But attention spans wandered to petting the docile animals and trying to feed them hay.

"I think by the end of the week they should know the depth and the scope of agriculture," Waltemire said.

Through the rest of the week, the children also will learn about food production, natural resources, crop production and horticulture, and aquaculture, among other topics.

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