By Anna Jauhola
While COVID-19 altered school plans in March, Kittson Central student Aubree Pankratz jumped into some less traditional hands-on learning at home.
The soon-to-be sixth grader went to her grandfather, Roger Pankratz’s place one evening to help with a calf birth. The mother died and the calf needed bottle feeding. While Aubree’s parents, Ira and Francie, own two cows for butchering, they rarely have to deal with bottle calves. But, Aubree wanted to help and, with assistance from her sister Shelby, she got started right away. When she wasn’t bottle feeding him six times a day, Aubree worked to make the calf docile.
“We started halter training him right away,” Aubree said. “The first day we got him, we just put a halter on him for a little bit to make sure he got used to it. And we started leading him around the yard.”
Although hereford cattle are naturally a calm breed, the calf is a bull so working with him is essential. Aubree and her family soon found out the calf was very sweet and loving, with a tame nature, which led to naming him Ferdinand, after the beloved story and movie.
“Sometimes when I say his name he actually comes to me,” Aubree said with a smile. “Because every time I went out there I’d say, ‘Hey Ferd, here’s your bottle.’ So I think he’s kind of gotten used to that.”
Ferdinand is definitely spoiled, she added. Aubree brushes him a few times a day, gives him a bath when he’s really dirty and plays with him despite his occasional roughness.
Aubree brought Ferdinand out of his corral last week for a walk and their fondness for one another was evident. Ferdinand spent much of his time butting his head against Aubree, testing his limits, as she gently pushed back and patted his back. In return, Ferdinand will allow Aubree a certain concession.
“He lets me sit on him for a bit,” Aubree said. “Then after a few seconds he realizes what’s happening and moves backward.”
Her favorite part of raising Ferdinand so far has simply been spending time with him.
“It’s something different,” she said. “I’ve tried to tame a cow before, but it didn’t go that well.”
While the Pankratzes raise a couple cows each year for meat, they didn’t have the heart to make that Ferdinand’s fate.
Instead, they plan to find someone to purchase him as a bull.
Ferdinand was certainly a special case and Aubree said won’t be repeated unless another similar situation arises.
By Anna Jauhola