Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, July 9, 2001

Jersey calves brighten the day for St. Mary's residents

By Patrice Waldron

The faces of the residents and visitors at St. Mary's Care Center, in Winsted, were a bit brighter Tuesday, when members of the Matt Stifter family of Victor Township visited the center with two, one-month-old Jersey calves.

The beautiful, soft brown calves stood quietly while the residents petted their soft heads.

Handling the calves were the sister and brother team of Mandi and Rick Stifter. The Stifter farm currently has 12 calves.

It is Mandi's job to take care of the calves, while Rick performs other farm chores.

The family milks 44 cows, and is looking to add another 10 more to the herd.

For years, the Stifters have brought calves to the nursing home for the residents to see.

They haven't made it every year, Mandi said, but she remembered visiting the nursing home even as a little girl.

The soft hair, gentle manner, and big eyes made the calves appealing to the residents.

Also making the hot, humid, day special, were root beer floats made by Mae Stifter.

What started out at one time as a promotion for dairy month, has become a tradition for St. Mary's.

Every June, Michele Muller calls Mae to see if she'd like to arrange to bring the items for root beer floats, and to see if her son and grandchildren will bring the calves.

The supplies for the floats were donated by the American Dairy Association of Wright County.

Mae said other family members have participated over the years, but they can't always bring calves along.

"It's probably been over 20 years," said Mae, when asked how long she's been participating.

She used to be involved in other dairy promotions, but now she's down to just the floats.

Time goes on, things change, people get older, and health problems can all lead to participation in fewer activities.

Mandi also explained that she has brought calves to different area events.

She's been in a kiddy parade with her brother, shown the calves at other children's events, and has, along with her brother, been active with the cows in 4-H.

It was a special treat for the residents, staff, and visitors. The hot, humid weather made the floats especially appealing, and neither the Stifter family or the calves were shy around the residents.

The knowledge the family has about the calves, and the care shown to the animals was visible to all in attendance.

It was a good way to spend an hour, have a treat, and see the residents enjoying the activity.

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