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.  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 exercise ball for the calves to play with.  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.  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 tether ball from the rafters for them to play with.  With a click of a mouse and an Amazon Prime account we had 2 tether balls 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.  With 3 boys at home they 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 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 tether ball 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 around May 10th.  Before I knew it this 30 second video blew up Facebook!  Within 24 hours it had over 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 tether ball!  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 here's a link 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 tether ball still hangs, and we catch calves playing with it every once it awhile.  We are still looking to solve our sucking issue with the calves.  If anyone with automatic calf feeders have ideas for us, we would like to hear them.

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