With the help of some barn yard friends children will recognize that mammals are born alive, get milk from their mothers and grow to adulthood. Students will visit a working farm and learn about cows, sheep, pigs, horses, chickens, ducks, goats, and even cats and dogs. A perfect introduction to farm animals, this video explains what the male, female, and baby of each species are called, and recognize that baby animals always grow up to be the same kind of animal as their parents.
Find out how animals that live on farms help the farmer and the community.
- Students will know about some of the animals that are found on farms, and describe the contributions they make.
- Horses: An adult female horse is called a mare; a young female horse is called a filly; an adult male horse is called a stallion; a young male horse is called a colt; and a baby horse is called a foal. Most mares have one foal in the spring. Horses eat a lot of grass; in fact, they spend 11-13 hours a day grazing. During the spring and summer there is plenty of grass for the horses to eat; however, in the winter no grass is available, so horses eat hay instead. The strength and speed of horses make them an important addition to a farm. Before the advent of tractors, horses were used to pull wagons and plough fields. Today, many farmers use horses to drive cattle. Horses are kept in stables when the weather is poor.
- Chickens: A female chicken is called a hen; a male chicken is called a rooster; and a baby chicken is called a chick. When chicks hatch from eggs, they have a soft feather covering called down; soon, they will grow their adult feathers. Chickens eat grains and insects. Farmers raise chickens for meat and eggs. A single hen can produce about five eggs each week, that's about 260 eggs a year!
- Cattle: A full-grown female is called a cow; a cow that has not given birth is called a heifer; a full-grown male is called a bull; and a baby is called a calf. Calves are born in the late winter or early spring. They get their nutrition from their mother’s milk. Calves stay with their mothers until they are 7-8 months old. From that point on, cattle get their nutrition from grass or hay. Cattle graze on grass in areas called pastures. Since they have no cutting teeth, cattle must tear the grass from the ground. Grass is not easily digested, so cattle belong to a class of animals called ruminants, which means they chew their cud; that is, they eat grass, digest it, bring it back up, and chew on it again. This process breaks the grass down into a usable form. There are two main types of cattle, dairy and beef. Dairy cows are raised for their milk, which is used for drinking and in the production of yogurt, cheese, ice cream, and butter. Cows produce the most milk of any farm animal (about 8 gallons a day, or 2300 gallons a year); however, they need to eat a lot grass and drink about 16-20 gallons of water every day to do so. Beef cattle are raised for their meat. People get steaks, roasts, ribs, and hamburgers from beef cattle. Their hides are used to make leather for shoes, wallets, belts, and furniture. In addition, film, glue, soap, and paint are products made from cattle parts.
- Sheep: A female sheep is called a ewe; a male sheep is called a ram; and a baby sheep is called a lamb (they are fully grown at 6 months, but they are still called lambs if they are less than 1 year old). Older sheep spend much of their day in large groups, called flocks, eating grasses in the pasture. Unfortunately, too much grass can make sheep sick, so farmers let them eat grass in the pasture for part of the day and then keep them in a dry lot, which has food and water, but no grass, for the rest of the day. Sheep have a fleece coat that keeps them warm in the winter. During the summer, however, the coat can be hot and it attracts insects, so farmers shear the coats of their sheep in the spring. The fleece coat is then cleaned and made into woolen clothing and rugs. Sheep are also raised for their meat and milk. In addition, sheep are used to produce soap, lanolin, and glue.
- Goats: A female goat is called a doe or nanny goat; a male goat is called a buck or Billy goat; and a baby goat is called a kid. Goats are herd animals, which means that they need to have the company of other goats. They have a special 4-chambered stomach that allows them to eat many plants that other animals cannot eat; goats can even eat twigs and branches. The ability to eat many forms of vegetation makes goats very useful for land clearing. More people drink the milk of goats than any other single animal; it is easier to digest goat’s milk than cow’s milk.
- Pigs (Hogs or Swine): An adult female hog is called a sow, and male hogs of any age are called boars. Sows have two litters of piglets each year; each litter has 8-16 babies. After about 4 weeks of drinking their mother's milk, piglets are weaned; from this point on, pigs eat only solid food. It will take 4-5 years for piglets to mature into adults. Pigs are fed a well-balanced diet that includes corn and other grains. They also eat meals made from soybeans, peanuts, fish, and meat scraps. Pigs only have sweat glands in their snouts, so they have to wallow in the mud on hot days to keep cool. Still, pigs are very clean and smart animals. They have poor eyesight but an excellent sense of smell. Pigs are usually raised for pork; it is used to make sausages, bacon, and ham. In addition, many other products come from pigs including lard, which is used for cooking, and pigskin, which is used for gloves and footballs.
- Dogs: Dogs have good hearing and a great sense of smell, and they respond well to commands. These characteristics are put to good use on the farm. Herding dogs are efficient at moving livestock into pens, and guard dogs protect the farm animals from predators.
- Class research report: Have the class research a farm animal that was not mentioned in the video. The students should get information similar to the information provided in the video (i.e., female/male/baby names, where it lives, what it eats, special features, and the contribution(s) it makes to the farm and to the world). Then, the class should write a paragraph together reporting the information. The teacher can write the paragraph on a large piece of butcher paper, and the students can copy it. This activity is good practice for developing, researching, reading, writing, and comprehension skills.
- Field trip: Having all the information learned in the video would provide an excellent background for a field trip to a real farm. Contact local farms and ranches to make arrangements.