I haven’t worked for the Progressive Dairyman for very long, but they’ve already got me figured out. While they could assign me some hard-hitting journalism, the editors here understand where my heart is.

Story on the intricacies of dairy pricing? Well, I could.

Story on a cardboard cow?  I’m in.

And within in a few minutes of looking over the blog posts on the University of California-Davis website, (http://www.vmtrc.ucdavis.edu/blog/?cat=7)I knew I had to make one myself.

The cardboard cow is the brain-child of Grant Jones-Wiebe, a computer scientist and IT guy at UC Davis’ Veterinary Teaching and Research Center. He and Jennifer Crook, a researcher, use the cardboard cow to teach grade-school age children about what veterinarians do.

The UCDavis cow is known as CC and she consists of packing peanuts and various size balls all organized inside a cardboard box to mimic the innards of a pregnant cow – complete with a stuffed calf, just waiting to be palpated by a curious youngster.

Within the presentation, Jennifer and Grant, show kids what making a vet’s visit to the pregnant cow might be like and allow the kids to reach inside CC. They also have stethoscopes available so the kids can hear their own heartbeat. There are models of cows and clean cow bones for the kids to see and touch.  It’s a good ol’ fashioned hands-on learning experience.

I knew I had a farm life presentation to give at the end of May, so I figured this would be something different I could do for the kids in our local school.  However, since I work better as part of a team, I needed a cohort.

I texted life-long dairy-woman, member of the Idaho Dairy Council and reliable partner-in-crime, Julie Lund.

Karma: “We are going to build a cow.”

Julie: “Ok. Why?”

Karma: “Because we can.”

Julie: “I’m in. What should I bring?

Karma:  “Packing peanuts and duct tape.”

Gotta love a friend who will join you on an adventure with only those instructions.

Julie drove the 30 miles from her house to mine and surveyed the instructions Grant had provided, the photos and the supplies I’d found. I had already hijacked a box from the dairy. The one I found contained a Styrofoam cooler.  I figured the Styrofoam would give the box extra sturdiness.

Julie and I, after looking at Grant’s pictures, organized our box. First of all, our packing peanuts were green. This cow did not look healthy.

“I understand this is supposed to be a vet visit, but I don’t think this is a good message to send,“ I said.

Grant had found various sized balls in his kids’ toy boxes. I sent my kids on a search. They found a flat tetherball, three basketballs, 2 volleyballs, a soccer ball and a purple orb-thing. I think it had hair. Apparently Grant’s kids are younger than mine.  We needed a better variety of sizes to fit our box.

We made a list of what we might need to finish our cow. I would be in charge of painting and decorating the outside of the box. Julie would head out in search of pink (healthy) packing peanuts and appropriate sized balls.

A few days later, Julie and I exchanged another round of texts.

Karma: “It occurs to me that rather than painting a brown box white, it would be substantially easier to go find a white box.”

Julie: “Hmmmmm”

Karma: “The question is, do I give up and go find a white box or go buy another can of spray paint?”

Julie: “More spray paint.”

Karma: I was hoping you’d say that. I have already named the box.”

And a few hours later:

Julie: “I’ve been driving around all day looking for the right size balls. Suddenly I realized I could just go buy Styrofoam balls in whatever shape I want. “

Karma: “Excellent point.  Considering the blonde moments we’ve been having today, perhaps we should have thought this project out a bit more thoroughly. The folks at Davis are scientists. We, clearly, are not.”

Once we each collected our supplies, I drove to Julie’s house to assemble our cow.

She couldn’t find pink packing peanuts, so she was dutifully spray-painting green packing peanuts pink.

Karma: “That looks more realistic.”

Julie: “Of course”

Julie and I are fluent in sarcasm.

Julie plugged in the glue gun and we went to work. Grant had created the birth canal with a clear plastic garbage bag. One might think you can find clear plastic garbage bags readily. Julie and I had independently been to darned near every grocery and dollar store in a three county area. No luck.

We tried a variety of bags. Nothing was just right.

Road trip.

We drove 20 miles into the nearest office supply store. There, we found clear garbage bags.  A quick trip through the McDonalds drive through (we can’t be expected to build a cow without a beverage) – and we were back in business.

I cut a hole in the box and Julie created the back end of our cow. – taping our garbage bag to the edge and reinforcing it with extra duct tape. This area will get a lot of use.

We then loaded our bag of intestines, which we propped up with  a small, empty box. We then used the Styrofoam balls to create the stomachs. They’re held in place by flower plots and a lot --- and I do mean a lot -- of hot glue.

Julie and I had figured the stuffed calf would be easy. Between the two of us, we have seven dairy-born kids. What does everyone give dairy kids? Stuffed cows. Both of us were sure there was a stuffed cow somewhere in our house that needed a good home inside our cow. We were wrong. I went to the toy store and bought a stuffed cow.

We opted to use the top of the Styrofoam cooler as the lid for our cow. We thought it might be fun to let the kids try to find the calf and then open the box to reveal the cow inside.

As for a name, we opted for Lucy Davis. L U.C. y  -- for UC Davis, where the cardboard cow was born. We put a blue and yellow ribbon on her “tail” in honor of the Davis school colors.

I’m still working on a face for Lucy. I haven’t found the design I like, so for now she’s faceless. The event where I’d planned on using Lucy got cancelled, so I’ll have her out during the fair. I’ve also ordered one of the see-through models of a Holstein so I can show kids, the way Jennifer and Grant do, the way a real cow is built. I ordered stethoscopes and will eventually track down some clean cow bones. 

I won’t be able to go as much in depth as Grant and Jennifer do during their presentation, but I figure if the kids meeting Lucy have as much fun meeting her as Julie and I did making her – everyone will have a good time.





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