Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Our First Livestock Harvest

We decided some time ago that we were going to harvest Spike. It wasn't an easy choice. We did not get into goats for the meat, but for the milk, fertilizer, shrub-trimming and companion aspects of livestock ownership. That being said, Spike wasn't really helpful in any of those areas except for the pooping. He was ornery, mean to the little goats, constantly escaping and destroying his pen, his house, bins and cans of various critter foods, etc. He was a sneaky little tornado of smash. And so, it was decided that we would harvest Spike, rather than pass him and his many issues on to a new owner. It wasn't a decision undertaken lightly. We've been seriously contemplating it for the better part of 6 months now.

After Spike's last escape, during which he went on a tear smashing feed cans, binging on and spoiling the girls' grain (and in the process giving himself a wicked case of the trots) and just generally destroying everything that held still, we decided with absolute certainty that the time had come. The arrangements were made with the kill guy and the butcher, and today was the day.

Fortunately, the man who dispatched and field dressed Spike was an absolute pro and did a mercifully quick and clean job of it, which is a great comfort to me, knowing that Spike did not suffer unduly and was treated with skill and dignity to the very last.

Unfortunately, the job had to be done early in the morning, and near the front of our property, lest our other goats see/smell the goings-on and become unsettled.

This meant that everything took place within view of the road, and may have been witnessed by some unsuspecting passersby.

Having been in this very same situation myself as a child, I can't help but feel badly for anyone having to see that first thing in the morning.

In spite of us having formed something of a callus when it comes to the less pleasant aspects of farming, like culling, harvesting and euthanizing our animals, chalking it up to being part of the reality of growing-your-own, it is still hard when that moment comes that you must make the final call about whether an animal lives or dies. We never take it lightly, and we never feel good about it, but we recognize that as stewards of livestock, whatever their intended function may be, end-of-life decisions are part of the package.

And so we said goodbye to Spike today. We pray that his spirit is free and at peace, that what remains of him here on earth will nourish the families that it feeds, and that my children will take from this experience an appreciation for the circle of life and the sacrifices made along the way.

Sometimes navigating this simple life feels extraordinarily complicated.

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