Let’s Build a Calf – a Look at Genetics

Author: Sarah Kuschel

Have you ever wondered why you have black hair but your sibling has blond hair? My eyes are blue but my mom’s are brown – why is that? These same things happen with livestock. It is national beef month, so now is a perfect time to take a look at genetic traits in beef cattle with our Build-a-calf Workshop.

In addition to being a regional specialist for MAITC I am a beef rancher. This lesson is one that gets talked about at our dinner table often with our kids. We raise Angus (Black and Red), Hereford, and Charolais beef cattle so we see how different genetic traits cross in our calf crop each year. Farmers and ranchers look at genetics for a number of reasons, including muscling, milk production, docility, calving ease and more. Following genetics can help farmers and ranchers find the animals that can be raised in the most efficient and effective way in their environment.

The Lesson (grades 3-5)

This lesson was a hit with elementary teachers because they could bring science standards into their classroom in a fun way as their students created their own calf. In addition to the build a calf workshop, we can explore by-products that come from livestock that we use each and every day. You will enjoy watching your kids learn that even their baseballs are created from livestock production!


This is a great eLearning lesson because the only item you need from home is a coin to flip to help select your calf traits. To help students gain some background information, you can start with them reading along to the online book My Family’s Beef Farm by Katie Olthoff. This hyperdoc includes the online book, worksheets as well as connections to our online AgMag that digs a little deeper into beef. Students can also learn about different careers in agriculture that support beef farmers and ranchers in the My American Farm game.

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