Raising animals is beautiful (most days)...

by Placerville Newswire / Jan 13, 2017 / comments

Talia Cormack in the southern part of El Dorado county wrote: "I remember a post a year ago on here about how not enough people list the sorrows of homesteading.You see a lot of the rosy perspective and very little of the tragedies. Im posting to share a sad event on our farm. 

A couple of days after Christmas we did as we always do and fed some scraps to our hogs who were energetic, healthy, bright eyed. We came home six hours later to two stiff, dead, year old, 200 lb gifts. We were very confused as they were so healthy when we left. 

It was surreal, felt a little like a bad dream that we were waiting to wake from. We struggled to understand the event, we thought food poisoning or secondary poisoning from a dead barn rat (found a dead half eaten rat in the muck). We couldnt explain it or wrap our brains around it as nothing had changed from our normal care. 

We thought about how to handle the bodies, (we dont have a backhoe here), we called the dump to ask about disposal ($35 per body) and we called UC Davis animal hospital who charges $70 per autopsy and include disposal. Well we wanted answers and were willing to drive a bit to gain some understanding and insight into what we had done wrong and pay a little extra to learn. 

A few hours after we returned home from UCD we were told that both pigs died the same exact way. It wasnt toxins, or poisoning. The answer was so random even the vet who did the autopsy was confounded and said she'd never seen it before. 

Both pigs died of aphyxia. She stated that chopped corncobs (appx 2" long each piece) were found at the trachea of both gilts which explained the marks in the mud that looked almost like they died seizing. Its a little difficult to try and process the meaning of an event like this. 

Death is part of farm life and we are learning that relatively regularly. With all the animals on the farm chickens, turkeys, pigs, goats we have seen our share of explainable deaths. This felt even more tragic to us because of the sheer random nature of the deaths, and the waste, and the lost year, and the investment of emotion in our farm. I wanted to share before the new year to leave this in 2016 and start the year fresh. We are grateful for UC Davis Animal Sciences program for helping us learn from our mistakes. We will try pigs again but in the meanwhile we'll take a little time off and let the space lay fallow until we can muster up the gumption to start over."

A friend asked me to respond to Talia's story. I thought this response by Kate Lambert to a different story was most appropriate: "A friend asked me to respond to this article, written by a PETA volunteer. 

At first, I wanted to paint a picture of my boys playing with a newborn baby lamb, or a girl sleeping in the pen with her steer after a hard day in the show ring in an attempt to prove her wrong.  

But the problem is, on her main point, she is not wrong.  

She claims FFA and 4H are not teaching the romanticized version of raising animals to our kids.

We aren't.  

Organizations like PETA love for us to tell the romantic stories of livestock.  Because the more we do, the more they can profit from spinning our stories.  

But the reality is, raising animals isn't romantic.  She talks about a mother pig singing to her piglets while she nurses them. I wonder, has she ever witnessed the same mother pig eat one of her piglets for reasons unknown to us?  Has she ever watched that 500 pound sow roll over on half her litter, killing them instantly and then push their little dead bodies out of the way to get to her food?

Has she ever watched a ewe relentlessly paw a newborn lamb until she kills him?  

Has she ever dried off, warmed and comforted a baby calf whose mother delivered him on the back side of the pasture and then left, not looking back once?

No. She hasn’t, because she doesn’t raise livestock.  In fact, her organization doesn’t even run a single animal shelter.

Kids in 4H and FFA have seen this.  And they develop compassion for their animals in spite of the reality of animal nature (which often is very cruel).   Raising animals is beautiful most days.   But sometimes it's the exact opposite and our kids know that.

She is also right that most animals will end up in the food chain. And as she laid out so well, there is nothing kind about eating animals.

There is nothing mean about it either.  The bear is not considered mean when he invades a rabbit den and consumes an entire litter of week old rabbits.  A tiger is not considered cruel when he starts eating his prey before she has even died.

I take pride in the fact that humans show more compassion in our protein consumption than animals do (another thing that serves to remind us animals and humans are not equal, not the same).  

We work very hard to raise animals in a clean, healthy and safe environment.  We bond with them while they are here, we provide everything they need.  And when the time comes, we kill them in as humane a way possible and consume them (after they are dead of course).  

Is that kind?  No, not really.  Is it cruel?  No.  It's a fact of life. 

 As long as God keeps giving us two rows of teeth, I will take that as a sign we are supposed to consume our protein as a steak (or preferably a lamb chop).

So yes.  Our kids are probably hardened from raising livestock.  When my boy has to say goodbye to the lamb he showed all summer, his heart will toughen a bit.  In the same way it will when he has to bury his first dog, when he suffers through his first breakup, and when he gets his first paycheck and realizes how many dollars are taken for taxes.   

Life isn't romantic and neither is raising livestock.  Which is exactly why kids leaving 4H and FFA are more prepared to succeed on the road ahead of them than their counterparts, who are often spoon fed a fairy tale version of reality."

Kate Lambert.