I grew up with all kinds of livestock from sheep to cattle to chickens. I absolutely loved it. There was honestly nothing better than growing up on the farm, learning life lessons while caring for an animal that depended on you. My dad got me my first sheep, Gizmo, when I was around age 5. I remember playing with him in the house (bless my mom’s soul for what she went through with all of us kids – she even put diapers on this lamb so I could have it in the house with me!) and rollerblading and he’d follow right along behind me. He got a mixture of feed that included the “odd colored” fruit loops that we purchased from a cereal company in the neighboring town. My kindergarten teacher thought it was pretty neat we fed him fruit loops!
I also learned the circle of life with Gizmo. It wasn’t easy when I knew it was time for him to go to market and become meat for our freezer, but I also learned a valuable lesson about what our livestock was for, their role on the farm, and how to respect an animal that would later provide nourishment for my entire family. I learned all of this at a very young age, whether I knew it at the time or not.
The hubs and I have frequently talked about our farm goals and what they include. Three years ago, we raised and butchered a pig for meat for our freezer – it is still providing meat for the two of us, and we gave meat to our family as gifts as well. We also raised chickens and had some for meat and some we kept for egg production. I however, missed cattle the most. The cattle were one of my biggest memories of my family’s farm. I can remember mixing milk replacer for the calves, a sweet smell that always hung in our garage. Dunking noses in buckets, teaching calves to drink from a pail was always a soggy mess. Dehorning and castrating calves was always an interesting time on the farm that resulted in everyone helping, me, my brother and Dad, and if my other siblings happened to be home, yep, they were helping too! Shipping cattle to market or our local butcher was something that always reminded me that livestock were not pets, they had a role in life.
We have been really trying to figure out a way to diversify more, to bring more livestock on to the farm since it something both the hubs and I continue to be passionate about. Luckily for us, we have friends who farm and also believe in helping each other out when possible. We recently purchased this guy, a Jersey beef calf, and were able to work out a deal with our farming friends to have him at their place.
He is cute now, but cute gets big. We named him T-bone since we try to name all of our livestock as one of the products they will become (our pig was the Baconater aka Bacon). In about 18 months or so, he will be going to butcher for beef in our freezer as well as sold in quarters to friends and family. The hubs is learning about things like dehorning, vaccinations and castration since he didn’t grow up with livestock, and I am getting a refresher of it all again since it has been five years since I’ve had cattle.
I think the hubs operates sometimes with the mantra “happy wife, happy life” since I convinced him we needed to purchase T-bone. I keep telling him, our own hamburger in our freezer! I’m also glad that we have farming friends who we can work with to try new adventures and learn things every day. We bounce ideas off of each other, talk strategy and work together to get certain jobs done when necessary. Farming is kind of like a big family some days, one I am thankful for, because I learn something from every single farmer I know. I am thankful for those opportunities when I can listen and ask questions because it can only make our farming operation better, and make us better farmers ourselves.
Now, if I only I could get him to get me those three hens for my backyard…