Monday, November 26, 2012

There IS a Difference

One of the barn kitties went missing a few days ago. 

There are a number of cats on the “farm team” that help keep the rodent population somewhat under control. While the barn kitties aren’t exactly pets, we enjoy their company and this particular one has always been a favorite.  Missing for a few hours, a half a day, overnight…no real worries…they all come looking for a handout on the back porch with some regularity.

However, it’s been more than three days.  I think it’s time to stop expecting him to come yowling when I walk through the gardens, or that I will see him up on a haybale when I walk into the barn. I don’t think he’ll be showing up from nowhere expecting a ride back to the barn. His fate is a complete and utter mystery.  He was healthy and acting in an acceptable feline manner.  He was neutered, so he’s not off lookin’ for love. I have searched high and low...and called him countless times.   He’s just gone…very gone.

…and we are sad…very sad. We’ve known this cat since he was just a little kitten in the kitty nest.  He was cute and cuddly and incredibly friendly.  And, yes, I cried when I realized he just isn’t coming back.  It’s really sad…even the Boss is sad.  As this is the second cat that we have lost this year, the loss is even more poignant. We lost Miss Kitty to old age after nearly fifteen years here on the hill.

I’m sure there are those folks who would question my deep emotion over any sort of animal when we raise animals for food. Some would assume that farmers that have little feeling for animals in general.  That is not true.  All animals in our care receive the best possible care.  And I know that we are not alone in our caring attitude. But, there is a difference…

There is a distinct difference. There is a great difference between wanton death and harvesting a healthy, abundant crop.  There is also a difference between granting loving care to your furry companions and providing healthy nourishment for your fellow humans. There is the difference between a keen sense of loss and the satisfaction of a job well-done.

LAMB on the grill
The animals used in food production, domesticated farm animals, are not at all pets.

They have a distinct purpose in life---to make or become food, or to make babies to become food. They are well cared-for and when processing time comes, they are treated humanely.  This provides delicious, nutrient-dense protein in an efficient and eco-friendly manner.  Mankind has been dependent upon animal proteins for thousands of years. Domestication simply made procurement slightly easier. While we form a certain bond with the animals kept back as breeders, we do not allow ourselves to forget the real purpose of all the animals on the farm.

Farm animals are not snuggly and friendly like pets.  They cannot thrive while living in human housing.  There are times when they are smelly and loud…and they will attempt to procreate whenever and wherever “the mood” strikes. In the case of large animals, this can be dangerous.  Male farm animals can be quite aggressive, and the females are incredibly protective of their offspring.  The young animals are very cute, but grow out of this stage quickly and most need outdoor space in order to thrive.  They also do not have the need to please that dogs do, nor the adaptability and attitude of cats.

 I realize I probably just offended animal lovers and possibly vegetarians everywhere. I truly apologize.  But, all animals were not created equal.  All sorts of problems will become apparent when attempts are made to either make pets of the farm animals or allow them to live “wild and free” in an unprotected environment.  The animals depend on the farmers and ranchers for food, care and shelter.  In turn, the farmers and ranchers depend on the animals to grow and thrive in order to provide food, clothing and housing for people.

So while I eagerly anticipate the lamb crop of 2013, it is not because I am looking forward to incredible cuteness.  I want to see if my instincts were right. I can’t wait to see if the ram and ewe combinations make the awesome lamb crop that I have predicted.  The antics of the growing lambs grant us many moments of entertainment, but serve a more serious purpose of allowing us to assess the growth and vigor of the new crop.

When we harvest farm animals, it is after a lot of work and consideration.  Thought and care go into every aspect of animal husbandry.  The dynamics of the farm change with each crop that is born or raised and then harvested. Tears are never shed over broiler processing or even the lambs' trip to the processor. Sometimes, the barnyard seems a little empty, or it takes a while for the flock to adjust.  But, it is the expected end of the project.

 But in the case of Booooyyy, the lack of closure makes the whole thing hard. I can only wish I knew what happened to my little furry gardening/farming/working companion. I must say the farm will be a little lonelier without his odd little habits and fuzzy snuggles.

In of Life’s odd little ironies, we will be picking up the last of the "lambchop crop of 2012" at the processors in the morning. My sadness over the missing cat is tempered by the eager anticipation of stocking the freezer with the best lamb we have ever produced.  The delicious, nutritious meat will make both our customers and me (and the Boss) very happy.

Proving once again that there IS a difference. 

                                                …and farm life does indeed go on.

                                Although we will miss Booooyyy and his shenanigans for a long time.

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