Everybody Has a Story: Potatoes lack appeal for some livestock



I grew up in the San Luis Valley, a high mountain valley in southern Colorado, where our main effort was raising potatoes, usually about 100 acres per year. Because we had an abundance of potatoes, they were used for everything — from eating them ourselves to feeding the livestock with them.

There were a few rules you had to follow. If you fed the potatoes to horses, you had to be very careful that a horse didn’t get one that had been frozen, because it would paralyze the throat and the horse would die of thirst. If you fed potatoes to your pigs, you had to cook the potatoes first or the pigs wouldn’t eat them. Therefore, we had a potato cooker for the hogs that held about 500 pounds of potatoes.

If you fed potatoes to cows, you had to be very careful and feed the cows only large potatoes requiring chewing, or small ones that couldn’t get caught in their windpipes if they swallowed the potatoes whole.

One day, a neighbor from about a quarter-mile away called and needed our help. A yearling calf had swallowed a potato and it was stuck in his throat. We rushed down to help. The standard treatment was to tie a stick inside the calf’s mouth to hold it open. Then using a long-necked wine bottle with a mixture of cream and kerosene, you proceeded to make the calf drink his “medicine” and burp.

We worked for a few hours with this calf to no success. About two hours after we returned to our farm, one of the neighbor’s small children came to play with my younger brother and sisters. We asked him how the calf was.

“Oh, we got the potato our of the calf’s throat,” he replied.

We asked how they did it and the kid replied, “I don’t know, but the hide is out behind the barn.”