Monday, December 29, 2008

Suck it up and Toughen up....

This is what I told myself today driving home from Branson....

I am reading in the car, thinking about what I am reading and looking out the window. Pasture after pasture is flying by....Then there is this one black "spot" that catches my eye. Funny that things moved slowly then as I realized it was a tiny black calf. No other cows were near - they were across the pasture - acres away.... I figured the little guy was dead and it had been that way a bit as his mom was no longer near, crying or trying to get him up. I couldnt imagine him being alive and not being close to his mom, so I figured he was gone. See what I did there - "gone"....

I felt sad after that for a bit - mostly sad for the mom who will start produce milk and knows that something is wrong, but not really the loss of the baby. "Baby" - see I did it again....

Something that has been lost from people these days is the sense of life, things happen, inevitability, being able to throw off loss and hardship. There is a callousness even in raising a garden - some seeds dont make it, some you thin and some are eaten by birds. Raise baby chicks and your heart can break when a fuzzy little guy just doesnt thrive. Just having a dog in the backyard does not prepare people for the potential coming loss.

We (and by we, I mean ME) need to toughen up. Spending valuable time, energy, foods, funds trying to nurse animals and plants back to health just cant be done in hard times. Spending valuable emotional energy regretting these choices also cannot be spent. To allow something to struggle for life that will not be quality or ultimately just will not survive is not kind, its cruel.

Mentally walking through "what ifs" - reading how to butcher humanely - learning what can and cant (or shouldnt) be cured - telling myself that I can and will do some unpleasant things is my job today.

Later, I will make myself do some of the unpleasant stuff and not leave it all to the Bug Killer - that just not fair - not fair to him or to me....

I will suck it up and toughen up....


Sam Adams said...

Very thought provoking! People are usually anthropomorphic when it comes to the family pet. I can imagine that being an unwanted luxury on a working farm where tough decisions are frequently made.

When times get difficult, other tough decisions will need to be made. Do you help strangers, refugees, neighbors? How many? Does helping a stranger compromise your operational security because he will tell others of your generosity? Will someone use force against you or your family? Will you use force against them or capitulate? You may have a means of self-defense but are you mentally able to use lethal force? These questions are better thought about now than after TSHTF.
Bad things usually happen to good people and trouble sometimes beats a path to your door despite your plans and good intentions.

Cygnus MacLlyr said...

i'm often guilty of much of the same... hard not to want to nurse a sick critter.
death... the word nor the concept bother me much. it's the inevitable... i won't say conclusion, because i believe the soul goes on, but physical presence-- simply can't. not designed to.
not that i'm calloused-- i loath to see anyone or anything suffer; long to help when i see it b/c i've been there done that and help is (or in some instances would have been) nice.

But where does one draw the line? S.A. brought up some poignant thoughts.

Thanks for listenin' to my $.02


Brad K. said...

There must be a balance. When funds or other resources are scarce - you have to choose. Do you nurse one pig or calf, when it likely means you can't feed some of the rest?

Owning livestock, including pets, carries a responsibility, I think, to sell or put down the creature when the time comes. When you don't need that horse, when the brood cow is too old to safely breed - that is the time to sell (or butcher the cow). There are people today that still butcher horses for food, although some have demonized the practice. Selling a horse gives it a chance at finding another, useful place in someone's life. We all deserve to be useful.

Actually, the calf might not have been dead. Cows will regularly "hide" a calf after the first couple-four days. The cow may rejoin the herd for short periods several days before bringing in the calf to join up. I believe the instinct is about the calf smelling of blood - of being a predator attractor. So until the calf is well dried and the scent is 'calf' not 'newborn calf', the cow keeps the calf away. Whether today the scent is the factor, or mere instinct, I don't know.

When the grass is 10-12 inches or higher, you often won't see where the calf was left. Since most pastures are overgrazed (a blade is bitten off a second or more times before regrowing to it's first, initial growth), you may have just seen a calf laying there, waiting patiently for Mama to return.

Cows also baby-sit. You may see one cow grazing near 2 or 6 calves, when the herd is in another part of the pasture. And the cow might not be Mama to any of the calves. Pretty soon they will all merge back into the herd.

Horses sleep laying down, too. It can be scary seeing a horse laid out on it's side, legs straight, just laying there. Horses sleep about an hour a day, more as foals and when younger. My Belgian Draft filly often conked out about 10 am. I have a series of pictures I took as I walked from the house, to her pen, to right beside her - and the shot as a very sleepy looking filly rolls her head up to look at me.


It is easier to see when your neighbor's dog is at the end of his joyful days, than to recognize when your own dog faces a bleak future. And I think that is the way it should be.

I drive my tractor in pearls... said...

Brad - I think you are just trying to make me feel better :)

Brad K. said...

uh - which part? The cows and calves behavior I have seen on and off in my neighbor's herds (he moves them around) over the last six years I have been helping him.

The responsibility part, and the attachment and reluctance to let something you have raised for food, or to be a companion and partner, to go, that oughta be tough. Our chickens and pigs and cows and horses and dogs and cats and children cannot thrive if we don't feel compassion, and care for them. And when it comes time to let them go, we harm ourselves as well as those in our care if we aren't responsible then, too.

I don't know that the calf you saw was alive, and resting. I just wanted to point out that I have seen just what you imagined would never happen - that a cow could hide her calf (even if not well hidden by our lights) or leave it with a caretaker for a time. I have also seen a cow decoy away from a newborn calf, to prevent us checking that everything is normal and well. Many times when she hides that calf - you have to actually stumble on it to find it. And either mama or a caretaker is almost always keeping watch over the calf.

Well, until the calf gets bigger. Calves seem as resistant to paying attention to safety and instruction as any other young.

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