Each year at the fair I’m asked the exact same question. How can you eat that cow after you have raised it? I’ve pondered that question over the years. I was not born into a cattle family, I would have to say it was just a calling that happened.
I have grown up with dogs, cats and horses my entire life. I call them pets, although the horse lives in the pasture with a barn. I didn’t start raising cattle until I was an adult in my early 20’s. We bought cattle to raise and feed our family but not to feed the public. I didn’t start raising goats until 10 years ago when we bought a whether for Amanda to show as a 4H project. What I have found is that no matter what animal I raise I care for them the same. I give them all my time and attention. But I know that the Bovine and Caprine have a purpose and that is to feed people.
In 2009 I expanded the herd to start selling meat (beef and goat) to the public. They deserve a good life not one of living in fear. The cattle and goats are able to walk around in the pastures and nap whenever they want to. We check them twice a day when being fed to make sure nothing out of the ordinary happened to them during the day or night. They are only provided antibiotics when medically necessary. But I do believe in providing antibiotics when medically necessary. If an animal is raised organic and gets sick it has to be culled from the herd and sent to slaughter because it can not be given an antibiotic. Medically necessary means just that, the veterinarian has said the animal is sick and needs medical attention. I think that is being a good steward when you care for your herd in that manner.
The cattle and goats are raised on the farm until they are ready for processing. I explain each year at the fair that I have chosen this life and am the best steward of the cattle and goats I can be. They are treated with love and care each day in a stress free environment. I know exactly what that animal has eaten since it was born. In reading A Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, it says we are each called to be of service to God. I think being a farmer is a calling from God, you are chosen. It is a hard life meaning that no matter the weather you are outside caring for the animals (rain, sun, snow, hurricane). You care for them when the are healthy and care for them when they are sick. You rejoice when you have a healthy one born and you cry when you have a loss at birth. You met wonderful people along the way that share your passion which is a plus.
The fairgoers that say they could never do it are right. But that is okay they weren’t meant to raise animals for the food chain. Not everyone is. There will always be farmers that raise animals for food production and that is a privilege to care for that animal from beginning to end. When I explain my story in this way the fairgoers seem to be more accepting to learn about where their food comes from and how it is raised. It is a responsibility we all have to know where our food comes from and to know the difference in what a sheep is, a pig is, a cow is, and what a goat is.
I always thank the animals when I take them to be processed for feeding all the people they will feed. But in the end I always take a moment and thank God for choosing me to be a steward of his flock. I call it being of service to God and doing what is asked of me.