I have had some nice afternoons and mornings lately, watching the newly born lambs cavort on my neighbouring paddock. My neighbour breeds sheep for meat and I often get to watch them as they explore their home. They certainly are curious and a little adventurous, although like most sheep they are also quick to run away at the slightest threat.
I made a video a few weeks ago, showing the laborious efforts, I had to go to in order to free a sheep who had stuck its head through the wire fence at my house.
It is strange to see these animals, which are a great source of meat and other products, act in a way which shows their personality. I don’t know if I am alone in my thoughts on this (I would be interested to learn if anyone else does this), yet sometimes when I look at an animal which is a food animal (chickens, rabbits, sheep, etc.), I think about them as a food source. I visualise which parts come from where and what they would look like cooked. I don’t think of this as a freaky behaviour… I think it is important to know where your food originates and it makes me respect the animals in a different way. Yet, seeing lambs with distinct and different personalities can be very confronting to a meat eater. When you see two lambs fighting, and their mother come over to separate them… it can be pretty confronting.
This is part of the dilemma of being a homesteader. On one hand, you want to produce food which is healthy, ethically produced, and is economically achievable. On the other hand, you can easily become attached to the animals and once that happens it can be hard to go through with the slaughter/butchering/eating. I should say that if you name an animal you may find it much harder to go through with the process, purely for psychological reasons.
I have had many experiences where having a connection to the animal makes the processing of it much more difficult. A very strong example of this was with my pigs. Whilst I could do all the processing on them, when it came to eating them the meat tasted like dirt. Other people who tried the meat said it was delicious and the best pork they had ever had, it only smelt and tasted like mud. It took me years to get over that phycological barrier.
Another example is with my rabbits. I have named the breeding bunnies, yet the ones which we eat are never named! It is something I have kept to since the pigs. Unfortunately, one of my older batch was not sold, and when I made a decision to eat it, it turned out my children had named him Snow. The name rubbed off on me and now it is impossible for me to eat him.
This is a problem as I can’t breed from him (he is related to the female) so he is not really doing his part for the homestead.
What I am getting at the it is important to keep a distance between yourself and your food source. This is easy to do with vegetables, not so easy with a living, breathing animal. I want to make sure that if you are new to processing your own meat, don’t make the same mistakes I made… keep yourself distant from the animals. Care for them, take joy in having them, yet make sure that when it is time to kill them that you don’t feel so connected that you can’t complete the process.