Editor’s note: Christina Winch originally posted this blog on Progressive Dairyman’s Proud to Dairy network. Join the site for free and share your ideas for keeping calves entertained. Farmers have creative minds when it comes to solving problems. In the fall of 2014, we installed automatic calf feeders, and for the most part, we are liking the results. The calves are bigger and healthier, along with a better quality of life for our family.

Winch christina
Dairy Producer / Fennimore, Wisconsin

There is one thing though that we have been struggling with – sucking. We have noticed more sucking the longer we are in the barn. We already had an exercise ball for the calves to play with.

After talking with our calf nutritionist, we upped the amount a calf could eat at a time to 3 liters with shorter time between feedings, thinking this would help. We saw a little improvement, but still there is sucking going on. A weaner doesn't work real well while the calf is still nursing, so we put our brains to work trying to come up with ways to keep the calves "entertained." It's like parenting a toddler or preschooler. What activity can keep them busy so I can get work done?

We hung chains up throughout the barn for them to chew on. Then my husband had this idea about hanging a tetherball from the rafters for them to play with. With a click of a mouse and an Amazon Prime account, we had two tetherballs delivered in a few short days. Once they arrived, we had to add some rope to them in order to hang them low enough for the calves to reach. Rope attached, it was time for the fun to begin.

My three boys went to town throwing the ball over the rafters. It was fun to watch them take turns to see who could get it over in the least amount of throws. Once it was over, they pulled it down again to give the other brother a chance. Who needs a park or playground when you have a farm? This activity kept the boys busy for at least a half an hour.


Once one tetherball was up, I was laughing watching the calves play with it. So I ran to the house and grabbed the iPad because I had to record this.

Later that evening, I posted the video to my Facebook page, the Dairy Girl Network Facebook page and the Women in Agriculture page. This all occurred May 9th. Before I knew it, this 30-second video blew up Facebook! Within 24 hours, it had more than 100,000 views and numerous shares. As I type this blog, it has been viewed 255,000 times and been shared 3,111 times. A simply funny little video of calves playing with a tetherball!

Since the video was so popular, I went ahead and posted it to YouTube for people without Facebook to watch. Chances are you saw the video and had a laugh. If you haven't, view it below or here's a link to go check it out.

Unfortunately, the excitement of a new toy has worn off. Just like the child who plays with a new toy after Christmas for hours and then it sits, the tetherball still hangs, and we catch calves playing with it every once in awhile. We are still looking to solve our sucking issue with the calves. If anyone with automatic calf feeders has ideas for us, we would like to hear them.  PD

Christina Winch is a dairy farmer in Fennimore, Wisconsin. Email Christina Winch.