If you’ve been following the Show-Me Sisters on Facebook (which you can here!), you’ll know all about how I’ve been not so patiently waiting on Daisy, my heifer, to calve. What you probably don’t know is that Daisy is part of the first cattle that I have ever bought on my own. Most people my age are buying new cars, building new houses or maybe even working the stock market a bit. That wasn’t for me. Instead, I bought five heifers, (three that were bred) and have entered the journey of a cattle owner.
My journey got a lot more exciting this past week when Daisy finally decided that my herd should get a little bigger. While I was hoping to get a Delilah, a heifer that would return to my herd, I can’t say that I am mad that Davy, a bull calf, came instead.
While Davy is only a little over a week old, his life is already planned out for him. The first couple of months of his life will be graced with the beauty of momma’s milk and the occasional snowfall. He’ll also have to deal with a couple of rounds of preventative vaccines, get an official blue ear tag, and (gasp!) get his nuts clamped. When he’s big enough, he will get weaned from his momma and live the rest of his life on the other side of the fence from her. On the other side of the fence, he gets more green grass than he could ever eat and grain once a day. What a life!
Here comes the part that most people don’t understand. When Davy reaches around twelve hundred pounds, Davy will go to slaughter.
Yes, I name my calves and eat them, too.
How can I do this? How can I be such a cruel human being? How can I eat something that I have watched grow day by day?
Because Davy isn’t my pet. Davy is my livestock. As a cattle owner, it is my duty to take care of my animals. Whatever the weather, hail, snow, rain, those cattle are fed. I may be tired, sick or just feeling lazy, but those cattle are still placed before my own needs. It is my duty to make sure that they grow healthy and content. I provide for them so in turn, they provide for me.
Saying that sounds cruel. But it’s a fact of life.
If cattle weren’t slaughtered, many would lose their lives that are filled with green pastures and deep ponds and gain lives of starvation and disease. And that’s not the life I choose for Davy.
Davy will live his life as a happy and content steer. Davy will then be slaughtered in a way that is quick and painless. I will give Davy the best life I can provide and he, in turn, will provide for me. Davy will provide another heifer added to my herd; a down payment on my own farm; maybe even buy my wedding dress.
And you know what? When those calves leave on a trailer to the butcher, I feel it. I feel each ounce of joy that I had watching them play in the pasture. I feel the happiness of finding them alive and healthy, nursing from their momma for the first time. I feel the sadness of letting them go.
But it’s also a part of my life. The life I chose and the life that I have a passion for.
So one day, when my children walk through the pastures with me, I’ll point each cow out by name. I’ll explain to them that caring for our animals means that we provide for them and they provide for us. And that by eating our steak and naming it, too, our beef just has a little more love.