Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Harsh Reality of the Cattle Farmer

Sometimes life on the farm is a horrible reminder of just how cruel mother nature can be. This morning we awoke to a phone call that one of our cows, who is apparently trying to birth a calf is running around in the pasture up the road with half of the calf delivered, two legs hanging out of her, and the other half still stuck inside. The men folk gathered together as one saddled a horse to try to corral her, while the the others hitched up the cattle trailer to try and pin her up and get the calf delivered.

If you are the squeamish type it would be best to stop reading now. But the realities of raising livestock are often harsh. It is heartbreaking to watch the animals suffer, and the men will do all they can to try and deliver the calf, who is probably already dead. Sometimes they are able to reach in and help her deliver by hand, but many a day I have seen a chain attached to a partially birthed calf and a tractor used to pull it out. It's a horrible thought and a horrible sight, but if the calf is not delivered the mother will die as well.

The reason I write about it is because I often feel as if there is huge misconception about the humane treatment of animals in our society. (often from the same people eating their double cheeseburger on their lunch break) In all the years I have lived on the farm, I have never seen an animal mistreated. Mother nature is hard them, as is the case today, but it is our job to care for them and give them the best quality of life possible. Yes, slaughter is the ultimate destination for them. But from birth to the sale barn they are well cared for. Their needs are always met, their care is first and foremost on the farm...often trumping vacations, family functions, and a full nights sleep. Many a calf has been bottle fed by hand every day of it's life until it is able to feed itself and many a sleepless night has been spent with a sick cow, worrying and nursing it back to health. Sometimes time and effort is put into a cow that ultimately becomes ill and has to be put down, to end their suffering, and also because there is no longer any monetary value to their life. It is a harsh existence. Time, effort and money spent on a living thing, only to have to end it's life.

I know the my menfolk will do their best to save this cow today. Chances are it's too late for her calf. But everything will be done to relieve her suffering and get her back to good health. It's a hard, disgusting, and heartbreaking job. Remember that next time you order your medium rare T-bone....somebody cared for that cow, somebody raised it, and fed it a proper diet to ensure good flavored meat. A lot of work went in to making sure that your steak dinner was tasty.

Remember that. And remember my men, out there doing what most are unwilling to do, to keep us all fed.