Today was the hardest day we've had to date on the farm. Part of what makes it hard is that it was a conscious choice made by us...
If you've followed the farm for any length of time, you've probably heard a 'Billy story'. Billy is our Jersey steer who was a surprise purchase at the livestock auction by my step-dad. Billy came to The Hollow when he was just a day or two old. He was all legs and big, beautiful Jersey cow eyes. Billy also came with his name. He had a tag in his ear that just said, "Billy". Billy it was. We bottle fed Billy with milk from the goats. He grew like, well, a cow.
Bottle babies become quite friendly. Billy was no exception. We equaled food and family to Billy. Billy grew up with most of our goats. Our alpaca, Ivy, always looks over the babies. She and Billy developed an interesting relationship. Even though Billy was a steer (castrated bull), he seemed to have romantic interest in Ivy. He would occasionally try to get too friendly with her. Ivy would just spit at him and bite his ears. I told you the relationship was interesting. They always looked out for each other and liked to graze together.
If you've followed our story, you probably also know that we try to give our animals as natural life as we can. We make sure they're healthy and happy. We built a teeter totter (I mean see-saw Lyndsey) for the goats. Billy was too big for it and broke it. We try to make life fun for the animals. They get our Christmas trees every year when we take them down. They devour them like piranhas.
As Billy got bigger, he could make life difficult at times. He was like a 700 pound puppy. Billy enjoyed attention and didn't like to share it with the other critters. We mostly stopped going into the pasture with the goats. Billy would get rambunctious and while not meaning to do harm, it would be easy for him to do so. He still got lots of love from the safety of the other side of the fence. Billy was a licker. And his tongue felt like 60 grit sandpaper. He would stand comatose for hours if anyone was willing to scratch him for that long.
All along, we knew Billy's purpose on the farm. He was going to feed us. We tried to always keep that thought in the back of our minds. It didn't change the way we treated him. We didn't try to not get 'too close' to him. We treated him like any of our animals. We loved him like any of our animals.
That brings us to the reason this is the hardest day so far on the farm. Today, Billy left to go to the butcher. There were tears and cow kisses. We often hear from people that they don't want to know the animal they eat, or that we shouldn't name them as it makes it too hard to eat them. I'm here to tell you that it should be hard to eat an animal. We will think of Billy and be thankful every time we fix a meal that he provides. We gave Billy the best life we knew how to give him. And then we scheduled his death. We know everything that he ate. We know that he never received a drop of medication. He never needed it.
If you don't want to 'know your food', I urge you at least to get it from someone who does know your food. Ignorance is not bliss, especially for the animals raised in factory agriculture and feed lots. Not wanting to know about how your food is raised is silent approval for inhumane methods. 99 cent hamburgers are not a good thing. The only way to get meat that cheap is to add things to it that most people wouldn't want to eat and cut every expense possible in raising the animals.
We are better from having known Billy. He made us better people and better farmers. We thank him for that. We will remember him always.