A couple of weeks ago I received this question in a message from one of my Facebook followers, “Hey I have a question for you. We had a calf that died 2 weeks ago and I am trying to figure out a way to let H know that he is dead and so I am needing help on how to tell him. How do you let a 2 year old know that a cow is dead? We have about 8 head of cows and we have a long horn heifer that we bought at a sale. She is registered. I would love to bring H over to see your cows an all. Hope all is going well.”
This got me to thinking that maybe several moms out there have the same question. When you raise animals whether it is as many as we have or just a few backyard chickens, death and dying is something that we all have to deal with and if your kids are involved with chores they will notice if an animal is missing.
Calving season is rapidly approaching on our farm. Like it or not, some calves aren’t meant to make it without a miracle and some cows are going to have problems. Just like some people have problems. Our family has been praying for a year for the CDH Cherub Killian who was born with a huge hole in his diaphragm. You can follow the story of this little fighter who was given a 5% chance of survival and just celebrated his first birthday last week here. I am sure there are probably calves born with a similar problem and we never know it.
When our oldest son was probably 2 years old, we had a cow die suddenly in one of the pastures. Instead of taking him to that pasture and listen to the why, why, why questions, we sent him to feed in another pasture with grandpa while we disposed on the dead cow. We were given a hard lesson in don’t try to avoid the situation when we got the phone call from grandpa that THREE heifers had fallen through the ice on the pond and drowned. Needless, to say we still had to answer the questions of why, why, why. Ever since that day, we have been totally honest with the kids if we have had a calf or cow that is really sick that they may die. We are also honest when they do pass on.
When the boys were both older, some of our neighbors left for spring break only to have a ewe have twins in the rain. The ewe had the smallest one in a barrel that was holding water, so he was very cold and almost hypothermic. We took him to our house and tried to keep it warm and fed for several days. One morning, the boys came into the kitchen and asked if the lamb was still alive. When I told them yes, they were excited and went off to see him. At that point, I realized that I had exposed my kids to more death that most kids their age and they could deal with it.
I have found that my kids can deal better with a calf that has died than when we sell one. They know that God made the decision to take that calf from us. They don’t like it when mom and dad make that decision and always try to question us.
I know I don’t have any cut and dried answers that are always right all the time. I have just found that kids like their parents to be open and honest with them and don’t like things sugar coated. In fact, I think my kids respect me for it.