I packaged and put up 21 rabbits in the freezer yesterday and I killed and processed 25 and put them in the refrigerator to dry age along with the 18 that I killed and processed on Monday. Over the next few days, those 43 rabbits will be processed and packaged. I kept back four young replacement does because I’m pretty sure some of the mature does that are in the barn now will end up in the freezer as many of them are on second chance.
Being a livestock farmer has its joys. Animals are beautiful, engaging and well, darn right cute sometimes, but we cannot keep them all. I have been raising rabbits for meat since 2011 and with all the rabbits I’ve killed, you’d think that it would get easier, but it does not.
I still kill rabbits the way Animal Welfare Approved requires: with a captive bolt pistol and nine and a half times out of ten, it is a quick, clean kill. It’s that half-time that it does not work right that kills me. I hate killing an animal that I’ve held in my hands when it was almost hairless and blind.
But, that’s part of being a livestock farmer and I am glad that I am able to do the killing rather than cart them to someone else to do it. We cannot kill and process our pigs or cows here, we just are not set up for that. In pinch I know we could, but at this time, we take our pigs and cows to a small, local processor. We can resell pork processed by this processor, but not beef unless we sell the whole cow. We went back to this local processor because we trust him more than the one that is approved for resale of both pork and beef.
Ethics. Maybe I have too many ethics. Maybe I care too much. If I were to bite the bullet and carry my rabbits 80 miles one way to a processor, I could resell them to President Obama if I wanted to, but I chose to do it here where there is less stress to the animals and to my aged vehicle. Back when I got into meat rabbits in 2011, we were able to process up to 1,000 rabbits on farm, then the USDA decided to hand rabbits over to the FDA and the FDA decided that they needed to be done at an inspected facility.
So now, all but two tractors are empty and there’s empty space in the barn and that’s the way it will stay. I will never, ever breed rabbits to the extent that I have over the past year or so. I will sell them to anyone that wants to get them off the farm and rest assured, they will still be raised the same way, with the same care to their welfare and fed a healthy, whole food diet. I do not care if President Obama himself wrote me and asked for me to supply him with rabbits on a monthly basis. Not doing it.
Maybe I am not strong enough to buck the system and abide by the regulations and requirements. Maybe I should bite the bullet and do what other farmers do in order to be successful, but for me, as it always has been, it is about the animals. It is about Wally and me as well. We will continue to farm and if you want our products, just contact us and we will do what we can to help you out.
Meanwhile, Wally and I are going to continue to live our happy life up on the hill as far away from the craziness as we can get.
“There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.”
~~~~~~~~~ Howard Thurman
Until later …