Sunday was a busy day. I picked up Wally at his house at about 6:20 AM. We had breakfast then drove to the mountains to get Kitty’s sister Rose. They were milking while we were there so we hung around and watched for a while. I went home with a gallon of fresh milk which I plan to make yogurt out of.

We got home and Rose had made a horrible mess in her crate.  Wally held her while I hosed her off and washed her with some peppermint castile soap.  She became a bucking, squealing bronco, but the soap killed the large population of fleas she had on her.  We then put her in the ElectroNet with Kitty who was very happy to see her.  Unfortunately, Rose hit the ElectroNet and got shocked.  Poor puppy had a rough day, but she’s now flea-free and knows not to touch the ElectroNet.  Last night she and Kitty were playing and having a good time.  As I write this, both puppies are lying under the big oak tree with the sheep and goats.

Once Rose was settled, we loaded up my dogs and headed over to Wally’s house.  We needed to worm a sheep who had developed bottle jaw (again!) and move them to a different pasture.  Moving sheep is normally no problem, but this time, we had the llama to contend with.  When Gel and I brought them into the barn so we could catch the sheep to worm her, the llama came in too.  I quickly shut the door so she couldn’t go back out.  We wormed the sheep, then opened the gate and prepared to move the group through the barn and down the road to the new pasture.  The sheep went out easily and headed in the right direction.  The llama went in the opposite direction.  I tried to catch her so I could lead her out, but couldn’t.  Meanwhile, the sheep are heading to parts unknown.  Wally was with them, but he had no dog to keep them to him.  I sent Fern to him and she kept the sheep with Wally while I went back to try to catch the llama.  Before I got to the barn, however, the llama came out with Gel moving behind her.  Good boy!  We’ll add herding llamas to his portfolio.

We put the sheep up, washed their buckets and gave them fresh water and then we had to deal with the undesirable task of shooting the sheep with CL (Caseous Lymphadenitis).  While it is possible to lance the lump and drain the bacteria, humans can catch CL and it’s extremely contagious to goats and sheep.  Given that this St. Croix has never looked healthy, we decided it would be best to go ahead and shoot her and get what meat could from her.  In looking closely at her though and thinking about the work involved in butchering an animal of that size, I considered just bringing her down to the back fields and letting the wild animals have her, but I couldn’t ignore the opportunity for free meat.

Shooting an animal is not pretty or easy.  We gave her some grain so she’d put her head down and Wally shot her.  I know the bullet killed her instantly, but the residual muscle twitching is disconcerting at best.  It’s bad enough with small animals, but with large animals, it’s much worst.  Yes, we can take our animals to a slaughter house and have them processed there and avoid the unpleasantness of shooting them ourselves, but the butcher adds a $40 to $50 kill fee plus $.30 to $.40 per pound for processing.  Then there’s the hassle of taking the animals there.

I was going to hang her from a tree at my house and process her, but by then, it was in the mid 80’s and just too hot to be outside cutting up meat.  I put a tarp on my kitchen floor and Wally and I brought her in and I got to work.  As expected, there wasn’t much meat on her.  Before we do our next sheep, I need to get a pulley system set up on a tree so I can hang the carcass and get an electric saw which will be appropriate for cutting through meat and bone.  A hand-held saw just doesn’t cut it.  Also, it needs to be done early in the morning and preferably during the cooler months.

After I was through and had all the meat cut up and in the freezer, I sat on the couch and thought about how most people get meat for themselves and their animals.  They go to a grocery store or butcher shop and pick up meat all cleaned and packaged.  Most people probably don’t even think about what the animal was like before it ended up placed on a Styrofoam tray and wrapped in plastic wrap; what is involved in the raising of the animal and the ultimate butchering process.

There was a time when most everyone raised and butchered their own meat.  Now it doesn’t happen very often.  Things are changing, humans (and animals) are loosing their connection to the earth and nature.  I’m not so sure that is a good thing.

3 Replies to “Choices”

  1. Hi there, This is really interesting. I just posted on my blog about how we don’t feel that we could kill animals to eat – but how I support people who do. I sometimes feel that by buying my meat from the butcher all clean and packaged, I am the worst kind of meat eater! I would love to hear your comments on the subject and I’ll be reading your blog more indepth now!

  2. I’m still troubled by it, but it’s something I’m going to need to get a handle on because this is the direction I am going and I cannot waiver from it. Especially now that I’ll be feeding two 100 pound dogs meat. I don’t want to resort to feeding them primarily chicken because I know red meat is healthier for them. I can’t afford to buy beef at a grocery store. I told my friend Wally that the next time I’m going to have to shoot the animal myself.

  3. I completely agree with you. Most of my friends think it’s absolutely awful to raise something and eat it. A woman who owns a butcher shop contacted me about buying a lamb for her boyfriend’s (a chef) birthday party. The boyfriend is also and avid hunter and she has access to cold storage so they’ve asked to slaughter the lamb here. She will also be bringing her butcher shop employees along because she wants them to be connected to what they do for a living. I think it’s an incredible idea and couldn’t be happier to allow them to do this. You’re absolutely right, the average American thinks meat comes only from the grocery store.

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