Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Like Lambs to the Slaughter

Now is the time of year when I have to step down from my role as Nurturing Farm Mom, and become the steely and implacable Grim Reaper.

It's the time of year when we send the lambs to slaughter---and I have to be the one who chooses who lives and who dies.

I feel very fortunate that our breeding stock lambs tend to sell very well, because all of our best lambs are usually gone by October anyway. I hate to have to send a really high-quality ram to slaughter just because we had more rams than we needed!

Today we sent three ram lambs: one that was a runt, one that just wasn't built wide enough to meet my criteria for a breeding ram, and one that actually had an excellent build. I was reluctant to send him, but we just didn't need another ram.

I also sent a yearling ewe, Sally. She was the only living offspring of my favorite ewe, Portia, that died last year after she got her horns caught in our hammock ropes and hanged herself overnight.

Portia had horrible heat and parasite susceptibility, so losing her was probably a good thing for my flock genetics. Sally, though more resistant than her mother, still ended up having a very hard time with heat and parasites this summer, so I made the decision to cull that line completely.

We do have one more "extra" ram lamb that may end up going to the butcher eventually, but for now we don't have any more room in our freezer, so he gets to stick around for a while longer.

The one bright side to all these death decisions is that as soon as slaughter season is done, breeding season begins, and I can turn my attention toward the new life we'll be creating for next spring.


farmer, vet and feeder of all animals said...

Sorry about Sally Nancy.
I think you did the right thing even though I know it was a bummer---and just think next year will be less stressful for it since you won't have to "baby sit" her through the weather.

Nancy Chase said...

Yes, I know you went through similar choices with your flock earlier this year, so you know what it's like.

Some bloodlines just don't do the flock any good, and as breeders, we'd be doing the breed an injustice to keep passing on those bloodlines.

Sally, Sally's son, and Sally's cousin were 3 out of the 4 who went to slaughter today. The 4th one was Peri's son---also a line that isn't the best in the summer heat.

Little by little, we'll weed out the weaker bloodlines and keep the stronger ones.

Think how wonderful and robust our flocks will be when we get ALL the flock to be as good as our best ones!

Meggie said...

Nancy: I'm sure this part of your job isn't easy. But, none of the work you do on the farm is easy. I'll be eager to hear about the new lives come spring.

Mark said...

This is where I would really suck as a farmer. I don't think I'd be able to do it. I too will be looking forward to your springtime stories.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness the balance in farming is such that you get to be the Nurturing Mom for about 364 days of the year and the Grim Reaper
for (usually) only one or so! It's hard enough even so!
"The Woman Who Live Under the Hill"
aka: your sister. :-)