Friday, April 11, 2014

Deadstock

Sometimes it feels like on the farm we experience as much death as new life, and I suppose that's just how it has to be, but it can be difficult to deal with at times.  Some of the deaths are intentional, and some are just bad luck or bad management.  I can accept animals dying to provide us with food, it feels like it has a purpose.  The other deaths are harder.  I don't share them all with you because I don't want to burden you, unless I think you might learn something from them, I just keep them to myself.  I get to see all the living animals all the time and so the occasional unfortunate death of a nameless chicken or cow is just part of the farm, its the lifestyle we have chosen, it balances the good times and reminds us that life is precious.

Donald in full roar before he got sick
I don't want you to to think its all baby animals and sweetness on the farm, but I don't want you to be sad every time one of our animals dies either.  It is sad for us, we usually take a moment to say goodbye to the animal, and then we get on with the day, because you can't grieve for every single animal.  I want you to know the reality of farming though, I never want you to think that I try to cover up our mistakes or misfortunes.  And I don't want anyone to think that they would like to keep animals, only to be devastated when they realise they have to regularly deal with deadstock as well as livestock.

This week we lost Donald after weeks of sickness with lantana poisoning.  Its amazing how a single event can completely change your perspective.  Before Donald got sick I was ready for him to leave, he was being a total pain fighting the neighbour's bull, roaring all night, mooing that he was hungry when he was in better condition than any of the other cattle and generally being a nuisance every time Nancy (his daughter) came on heat.  I had advertised him for sale, I was willing to give him away if someone wanted him, and we had even discussed having him butchered, but we weren't sure what to do with all that mince.

And then we realised that Donald was sick and all I wanted was for him to get better and be healthy again.  I suppose it was the guilt more than anything, knowing that we could have prevented him getting sick if we'd spent a hot afternoon digging up lantana or just fed him hay instead.  Now that he is gone I miss him, I miss the roaring and the head tossing and the snuffling.  He wasn't the most friendly little animal, but he did have personality.  We were very lucky to find such a tame little bull to mate with our Jersey cows, and he has produced three healthy small calves, with one more due soon.

Really our property wasn't big enough to keep all these cattle through the dry summer we just had, and now we will use AI for the house cows until we move to Cheslyn Rise and have the space for another bull.  If you have Jerseys, I can recommend using a Dexter bull, as we never had any trouble with calving.

How do you deal with deadstock at your place?  

5 comments:

  1. I agree it is hard to deal with a loss, especially if you've raised your stock from birth like we have with our sheep. When I have to pick up and bury an almost perfectly formed but aborted lamb I try to focus on nature's processes but it does cut me up when mama ewe keeps calling for her baby for the next day or two.

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  2. I feel the same about blogging about everything that happens on the farm...I have take into account that children that have visited have real affection for the animals they met . And also, I really don't want to upset anyone. At the same time , we go through all the ups and downs that you have had , sometimes we mention it for a purpose ( for instance I didn' t know lantana was poisonous to cattle till you mentioned it).
    I love your honesty in your blog and I also think it is really important for people to understand that it is not all butterflies and skipping around with the animals having fun.So much in this post... I could nearly write a whole post back to you because I connect with what you are saying so strongly.

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  3. well said, good on you. and i think hearing about deadstock is just as important as livestock. i think folks need to be prepared for this. sometimes it's hard not to think of it as a failure - but you are just right - it's just part of the process.

    onward and upward!

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  4. We lost a cow who had trouble calving with her first calf. We both were preoccupied with family matters and forgot that she was overdue and we should have gone and looked for her the previous day. Easily just about the worst day of my life as I could not get over the fact that I should have looked out for her, even if I couldn't save her. We also lost a calf to ticks in winter. We just didn't check closely enough, thinking winter was a pretty safe time from ticks and the calf was nearly a year old. I like to think we have learnt from our mistakes. We just do our best and never hesitate to bring in the vet if need be. We have lots of lantana on our property and no one has ever mentioned it being poisonous to cattle. I also cant recall seeing them eating it either. We learn all the time, dont we? Joy

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  5. You are so right! And I often struggle with 'what should I have done differently'. It's easy to feel at fault. There are also the horrible times when sick animals or deformed ones need to be euthanised. That's pretty tough to deal with but has to be done if you keep lots of animals.

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Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, if you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com

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