GTPulse: Bratschi Brothers Prepare For First 4-H Showing
In 4-H, the H’s stands for head, heart, hands and health. The four-leaf clover signifies luck and achievement, and the Bratschi boys are hoping for both with their 4-H animals this year. Though it’s not their first time raising animals for the 119-year-old youth program, this year will be their first time taking their animals to show and auction at the Antrim County Fair.
The three brothers Jack 11, Kody 13, and Kenny 8 are no strangers to farm life. They’re being raised on K&M Ranch in Antrim County, where they’re learning skills in farming in between school, extracurriculars, and time spent playing in the vast peach orchards. Parents and owners of the farm Kevin and Michelle Bratschi do most of the heavy lifting with pruning the peach trees, but the boys know the time-consuming work that goes into it. Pruning trees may not be their favorite thing to do, but when asked if they like peach pie Kody was quick with a smile and a yes.
Bratschi Orchards has pivoted from a sweet cherry farm to a peach farm. Kevin plans on focusing on grass-fed beef as well. 4-H is a great program to not only teach his sons the responsibility of raising a farm animal but also to prepare them for the realities of farm life.
“We had three lambs last year,” Kody said. This year, Jack and Kenny each have a pig of their own to look after. Twice a day they’ll go out to the barn where their pigs are and mix a dish of feed with milk for breakfast and dinner. They’re also in charge of keeping the pigs stable clean.
Kody will get his first bottle-fed calf. He’s been responsible for a weaned calf before, but never a bottle-fed.
“I’ll get him sometime in April. I’ll have to feed him three times a day. Once before school, once after, and once before bed,” Kody said.
He’ll also start training his calf to walk on a halter as soon as he can.
“When he’s smaller I can guide him more than if he’s bigger and yanking me around,” he said.
Jack and Kenny’s pigs won’t be trained to walk on a halter. With a few thwacks on their side or rear, the pigs will walk next to the boys respectfully. As babes, the pigs are comically fast.
“Once they’re big they don’t run,” Kenny said. “They’re calm around you.”
Showing is important for pride of work, but also to get their animals to sell. By fair time, the pigs should weigh between 250 to 290 pounds, and the cow should be somewhere between 900 to 1400. They’ll be judged on things like their proportions, muscular structure, and ease of motion. Also, how well the cow walks on a halter.
The boys are especially excited about this year’s fair because of the cancellation of last year’s. They had lambs for their project that they ultimately ended up getting rid of after not having luck selling on the fair’s virtual market. And though it was a relief to get buyers, it was hard on the boys to see their pet projects go. Despite the emotional aspect of having to eventually say goodbye, Kenny still named his pig this year.
“The brown one is Coco.”
He and his brothers are learning the same lessons his dad learned from his dad before him; farming is tough but rewarding work. In a world of instant, small-scale farming has managed to stay intentional and not cut corners. In August when the Bratschi brothers go show their livestock for the first time at the fair, it’ll be a culmination of all of their hard work, dedication, and patience.
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