Teetering on the vegetarian fence.

I must say that when my family heard I was dating a cattle rancher and was coming to Saskatchewan to help him, they were worried.  Why?   It’s because if there was ever a person who could be vegetarian or even a vegan, it was me and I was dating a man who raised cattle.

When I was little we had some chickens. They scare me. Well at least they did back then. I am taller now so maybe a flapping, pecking, squawking bird wouldn’t be as frightening at knee level as it was at face height.  We had them for eggs, or so I thought.

I arrived home after school and got off the bus. I heard voices in the back yard and went around the house. There in the back yard was a makeshift slaughter house. Dead chickens, blood, feathers, and my mom, grandmother, and aunt.  I went into the house and stayed there.  I hated the chickens but they didn’t need to kill them!  I was sickened. My dad told me when he was little he would have to go out in the morning and put a chicken under a pot for the day, so his mom could ring it’s neck that night for supper. It is just how it is.

From then on, I did not eat chicken if it came wrapped in brown paper.  Once our supply ran out and mom bought it from the store I was all over it. Something about the pink foam tray and grocery store sticker made it ok. It doesn’t seem logical, but in my mind it wasn’t a bird that had lived here, it was just meat.  The same thing happened when I came home and saw a deer hanging from the clothes line pole. Nothing wrapped in brown paper for me, Thank you!  That was the last time my dad ever hunted.

I even stopped eating KFC after finding veins in the legs too many times. The first time I had to stuff a turkey for a family dinner I wouldn’t eat it. Apparently it was very good and moist, but I just couldn’t do it. That was probably because I saw my grandmother in her house dress and rubber boots, wielding an axe, chasing after a headless turkey and then hanging it from my swing-set. If something made me feel too close to being a carnivore (animal) I didn’t like it.

So, as you can see, they did not know how I would ever handle being around the cattle.  I will confess that I did grill hubby about exactly what happens to the animals he sells. Did he actually send the animals to slaughter? Would I see anything like that?  Thankfully he said no.  He runs a cow/calf operation and he sells the calf after it is weaned to other people. That is all I needed to know. I didn’t want to hear anything after that point.

What I found at the ranch was not at all what you would expect if you listened to all the very vocal opinions of the animal rights groups.

I did not see animals stuffed so tightly into pens they could not move.

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The cattle in the distance are in one of the “pens”

I did see during the winter and spring, the cows in pens to keep them separate based on their feeding needs. They had enough room that all could lay out on fresh bedding, plus room to roam around, and a feed bunk big enough to all eat at the same time.  Was there manure in the pen?  Well of course.  Did the cows stand in it?  Yes, and they even poop on each other and poop while laying down. I think it keeps their butts warm in the winter.  Just my opinion.  Is all that gross?  Yes, until you realise that that is how it is even when they have acres to roam.  In the summer they are roaming thousands of acres of native prairie grass, trees, and streams along with the deer and moose.

I did not see animals suffering or malnourished.

I did see during calving season, a man wake every 4 hours after working all day, to jump on a quad no matter what the weather, travel about 1/2 km to check on his heifers. These first time moms need help sometimes or they will loose their babies and sometimes they will die.  No matter what needed to be done, how little sleep he had, or what the weather was like, hubby was there for that mama and calf.

I did see during bad weather when the rest of us would be curled up on the couch for the weekend, he was outside spreading straw and setting up shelters. Lunch time would pass and sometimes even dinner because the animals always come first.

I did see a man who in snow storms would bring new calves into the house to be wrapped and warmed so they would not freeze. A man who could tell you the history of his cows and could tell them apart.  A man who has cried when a calf has died and felt guilty because if only he had…

I did see  a man who vaccinates his cattle so they don’t fall ill. A man who uses antibiotics to treat his animals so that they do not suffer with an infection and recover instead of just killing them.

I did see that although these animals were being bred and their offspring were raised to be consumed, they were very well taken care of and loved.

Even now, raising the cattle myself, I still do not like being a carnivore sometimes, but I realise that it is life.  I know times are different now, but we started out eating meat and I believe that is something that is going to continue.  Wildlife could not sustain the population growth so we had to start raising our own meat, the same as we could not rely on mother nature to grow our wild fruits and greens and farming began.  I think of the stories of people who where lost and how they say they survived and it wasn’t from gathering. It was from hunting and eating meat from what ever they could catch.

I will say that I still do not think at this time in my life I could be the one to kill and process the animal, but thankfully there are other people who are able to do that.  When I do take an animal to the abattoir, I am thankful for the nourishment it will give me in exchange for the nourishment I gave it.  It is the circle of life.

I do understand those who do not want to eat meat. What I don’t understand is those that bash, condemn, ridicule, spread lies and try to undermine those that do.  Everyone has a choice and that should be enough.  Let your opinion or choice be known, but do not try and force or scare others into believing lies.

I am proud of our ranch. I see a place where the animals are raised with care, respect, and love to provide the best nourishment they can for people.  The land we use is also respected, loved and cared for. Without our animals or land, we would have nothing. So why would you believe we would do anything to harm either one?

 

Splint on Angus calf.

Mom stepped on her leg. 6 weeks of a splint and helping her stand to eat a few times per day, a year later she is out with the rest of our girls.

 

Perception, not always the truth.

I received a message from my sister the other day, it was a link to a video claiming to be a real heartwarming story about a cow rescued from the meat industry. My first thought was “Oh my gosh, what happened? That is awful!”  Any animal having to be rescued brings me to tears. So I watched this video prepared to cry and be outraged at the awful human that could do something bad to an animal.  Well I was outraged, at the people who produced the video!  What a bunch of crap!!

If you were to take the audio and written speech off, then the video is of a cow who does not look injured or malnourished and when approached by the camera man “moos”. Then it shows her standing in a pen with a full udder “mooing”. A trailer pulls up and they have a calf on a harness and try to lead it to the pen. It flops to the ground, they pull it up and get it through the gate where it flops again. The final shot is of the calf drinking from the cow.

So without all the audio and speech, and with first hand knowledge of how a cow reacts when she has lost her calf, and I mean lost like she can’t find it,  my impression of this video is that they have moved this cow and are just bringing the calf to her. No big deal. The mom doesn’t look stressed like she is missing the baby, she is not pacing the fence like an anxious mom would. She doesn’t have that “look” in her eye like the look even a human mother gets when she can’t find her child. The calf looks healthy and when it flops on the ground, I kind of chuckle because it is being like a typical…well anything, that doesn’t want to go where they are being made to go. My daughters cat will throw herself on the ground repeatedly when she has her harness on like we are shooting her or something.  It is actually quite funny and dramatic looking.

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Ky, the drama queen when wearing a harness.

My point is that once they add the sad music, the commentary is that this cow’s baby was taken from her, how she cries for it and how sad that is, how starving the calf is and it collapses from stress and exhaustion, they completely lead people astray from the truth.

Yes, cows do bawl (moo) for their calves, all the time. Even when they are right in front of them. They also bawl when they see the feed wagon coming, or just because that is how cows communicate.

In Canada we have an ad on tv for the visually impaired and why there is descriptive tv. It shows us a blurry picture and we hear the sounds of what is happening. Based on those sounds we develop a perception of what we believe to be happening. This is based on our experiences in life which means that each of us could come to a different conclusion about what we are seeing. Then as the picture becomes clearer, we see what is actually happening and it turns out that it does not match what we had assumed.  That is the exact premise that these people putting the video out are counting on, that we will assume things based on what they choose to show and tell us. They don’t give us the whole picture.

I am seeing this more all the time and it is very frustrating.  For instance, A&W saying that their chicken is raised without hormones. That wording makes you assume that other chicken is raised with hormones right?  Well fact is, no chicken contains hormones. That is the law in Canada. How do I know? I researched it. I was led to assume what they wanted me to, but I wanted to know the truth so I looked it up.

With this amazing connection to everything in the world, do yourself a favor and educate yourself before you assume things. Pass on the “truths”, don’t be so quick to hit “share” unless you know it is true because then you are just helping spread the lies. Everyone is free to have “opinions” but that is different than expressing a false fact that people will then believe.

Has anyone else came across something that made them say “That is just so NOT true!” Educate us, please. 🙂

The little things.

I have been trying to learn as much as I can about the cattle business and part of this process led me to Medicine Hat’s Beef Pen Show in December for my second time. The event grew by about 100 animals this year and it was quite amazing to see all the cattle. I really enjoy seeing the 4H calves and it is really hard for me to not go up and pet or hug them. Hubby told me the first year that it is not something people do and besides I would wreck their hair-do.  They are just so cute!

The first year I took 2 pens of bred heifers and this year I took one pen of breds and 2 pens of heifer calves.  A pen consists of 3 animals. There are purebred and commercial cattle classes and my girls were in the commercial cattle class.  I do not get to pet, hug, wash or brush my girls, they are ranch cattle and after watching the 4H people, I am ok with this. I will love them from a distance, it is far less work.

The first year we purchased small bales of hay to take for feed and bagged up some silage. Then hubby brought out his buckets and tubs (I think they are just big bowls) from his days of showing cattle and loaded me up. He helped me set up and then I was on my own because he had to come home to feed everyone else.  I swore that year I would bring big tubs for water the next time.  Between the amount of water the cows drank and all the cattle being washed, all I did all day was stand in line for a hose and carry buckets back and forth.

So this year we got out the buckets and tubs and bagged the silage but we didn’t buy the small bales of hay. Hubby said we will just cut one of our bales open and re-bale a couple flakes by hand. Well let me tell you that I don’t care how much small bales are, I am buying them next year. It is very awkward, tough, and itchy to wrangle a flake from a 4′ x 4′ bale and tie it up again.  I did however take big tubs for their water. Hubby filled them when we arrived so I only had to keep them topped up.

I was very lucky the second morning because I was close enough to the building to be able to take the hose outside and fill one of the tubs.  Well it turned out that one of my girls thought this was very interesting and came over to see what I was doing. She stuck her nose under the water first, then her forehead, and then she figured out what it was and out came her big grey tongue. She started lapping at the water falling from the hose. I don’t know why I found it so intriguing, but it made me smile watching this big creature. I tried to get a picture but it was a little difficult with one hand. 20151219_105821.jpg

During the down time when hubby came back after feeding the rest of the herd, we wandered around the exhibits. There are some very talented people around.  One such person is my cousin and her husband who had a booth there. Deb has always done work with leather and wood but her latest is silk scarves. Her husband Bob also works with leather and makes saddles.

While we were chatting and I was showing some of my many pictures of the ranch, I happened to come upon the picture I took of a porcupine sitting in a bush. That was very exciting for me and my enthusiasm came out while I was telling the story of  how I came to take the picture. Apparently I was the only one who thought seeing a porcupine up close and personal for the very first time was  exciting.  When Deb and Bob looked at me with weird grins, Hubby said “I know. It’s like working with a 4 year old every day. Everything is exciting and new to her.”

Well I do try to take pleasure out of the small things in life every single day. Life is too short and amazing not to.

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