Area students get ag lessons

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By Don Pace

Instead of arithmetic and spelling, area elementary students got to learn about cows and bugs recently.

It was all a part of the sixth annual Kids and Kows and More Expo at Zamora Arena. The event was sponsored by the Southwest Dairy Farmers Association.  

Tonya Collins of the New Mexico Beef Council said during the expo that children rotate to a number of stations where they learn about America’s breadbasket, and about the farmers and ranchers who essentially feed the world.

“We explain to the kids where their fruit and fiber comes from, that everything they eat and the clothes they wear come from agriculture. Whether it be the milk they drink, the beef they eat, and the shoes and clothing they wear all come from people just like them, who work hard everyday to stock the nation’s store shelves with supplies.”

Children gathered around Grace, a 1500-pound cow munching her cud, patiently waiting for the show to begin. The kids watched and listened as dairy farmer and lecturer Cuddy Lightfoot explained the number of steps it takes for Grace to produce milk. He told the kids that dairy cows have four stomachs, which helps cows digest their food, and how it eventually ends up as milk. He said the byproduct is used in everything from ice cream to yogurt. 

Lightfoot’s demonstration included hooking Grace up to a milking machine and explaining how the milk was pasteurized and stored before being shipped.

Local sheep shearer Pat Melendez told the kids how the fleece of a sheep is processed and used to make clothing and other products. Then much to the chagrin of the sheep and the delight of the kids, Melendez expertly gave the sheep a buzz cut.

Steve Reichert’s traveling display showed how water can cause erosion in the environment.

Carol Sutherland, New Mexico State University’s extension entomologist, showed her bug collection and explained how certain insects can be helpful or harmful in agriculture.

Children also learned about food safety, ranch equipment, and how cattle are cared for.

Collins told the kids that 95 percent of New Mexico farms and ranches are family owned and operated, more than any other state in the United States.