I have become accustomed to butchering animals. Poultry were the easiest to get used to. I think it’s in part because they die so easily, but also they are raised in large groups, so you don’t “get to know them” individually as much as other animals, and they are adults, for the most part when you butcher them.
Rabbits are also a pretty simple and quick process. The dispatch is a little more personal than the detached kill cone method we use with poultry, so they were a little more to get comfortable with, but I did, and pretty quickly.
This year has had some interesting changes for me. The pigs were a bit more difficult. I was out there with them when they died. I wanted to be there because I wanted to see and understand the process, but I wanted them to be surround my familiar caregivers, too. I wanted the months we put in, caring for them, to carry through a sense of peace when they passed. I am sure having us there helped, but they were smart, and large, and capable of showing they weren’t okay with what was going down, when their field mates were being taken.
We opted to have a very skilled and wonderful man come out to the house, so they didn’t endure the stress of travel, or the stress of being in a strange environment. He was fast and humane in how he dispatched, them, but they were harder for me. I decided, after much contemplation, the issue was that they went more dramatically, due to their size, and they were more social with us than the other animals. When we were building Nellie’s barn, in what was their area to roam, they would come by, knock over boxes of screws, rub up against our legs, and scratch their backs on the walls that were up. I was very glad to have someone else handle the butchering, and will likely not take that piece over myself , anytime soon. I still didn’t feel “bad” that we butchered the pigs, I just felt more invested in their death, if that makes sense.
But the bull…I’m not looking forward to this. I’m really not. And this is the first time I’ve felt like this. Declan is going to be butchered at 6 months old, which is about 1 1/2 months from now. We opted to butcher him at that age because we didn’t want to over winter him, we didn’t want to castrate or dehorn him, and young beef will be plenty for our family. We don’t want a freezer just for the bull, that will take a couple years to work through. This really does seem like the best option. He will be hay and milk finished. Great.
If it’s great, what’s the problem? I think I figured it out yesterday. I think it’s because he’s got a mama. Nellie is his mama. They hang out together, she looks after him. All the other animals we butcher are independent from their parents for months before we butcher them. Declan will be hanging out with his mom, be brought away, and not return. She’s going to miss him. This would happen whether we kept him, or not, because he has to wean sometime and she would miss him when he did. I know this. But there is something about the bond that cows create with their young that is different than any other animal we have on the farm.
I will work through this, and we will be having the same wonderful man who processed the pigs come back to butcher Declan, and I know that it will be done well, and with great care, low stress, properly and with Declan’s caregivers right there to lend him a sense of peace. It’s what needs to be done, and am thankful for what he will provide for us.
Nellie has been bred again. We had an AI technician, who came over on Wednesday. It went well. She was in what the tech described as “good heat”, so we are hopeful that around July 4th we will have a new calf on the farm. Maybe this will be a heifer so she can go on to be a lovely little family milker, like her mother. There are some interesting things about raising kids on a farm. The things they understand, and the ages they understand it. We would not really consider speaking to our just turned 6 year old daughter about sex, but clearly she’s figuring out some aspect of it, which is apparent after this conversation…
Me: Nellie was bred today.
Christopher: Great, did it go well.
Me: Yes, went great.
Eowyn: Did you bring a bull over?
Me: No, a guy who breeds cows came over.
Eowyn: <confused facial expression> Was he a cow man?
Me: He was a man who knows how to breed cows.
Eowyn: Did he wear a cow outfit.
Me: No, he didn’t try to pretend he was a cow.
Eowyn: Then how did he do it?
Me: You can breed cows by having a boy cow, or you can take stuff from a boy cow and put it in the girl cow, and the guy knows how to do that, so that’s what he did.
Eowyn: Nellie didn’t mind that he wasn’t a cow?
Istra: < in all knowing voice> Nellie just kicked him.
Me: No Nellie didn’t kick him, and it all went well.
Eowyn: Oh, well I’m glad that it all went good. <Tone of voice indicating the idea of breeding a cow without a bull didn’t make a lot of sense.>
Eowyn has figured out some aspects of breeding, enough to know you need a member of the species in the opposite sex, and that they need to be together for it to work. It was, of course, very difficult to keep a straight face through the whole conversation, but I did it, and Eowyn seemed satisfied with my answers, though still a little unsure of how we convinced Nellie to be bred without a bull in the mix.