Thursday, 19 March 2015

Lieutenant Lamb

When you grow your animals for meat production – it’s hard. You are in close contact with them most days, see them grow from sweet little babies, learn their unique behaviours and fall in love with them. Some a little more than others.

This is Lieutenant Lamb’s story……..
2014 was our second year keeping sheep, and our first year lambing. The experience was a new one for us.

Lt.Lamb was born Winter 2014, one of a set of triplets – 3 brothers. After a few days it was obvious that he just wasn’t keeping up with the others, he would cry all the time and though his mum tried to keep him fed she had to keep moving to feed and look after her other lambs, too. We kept a close check on him and on a cold morning a few days after he was born, he was lethargic and so obviously struggling that we decided to bring him to the house and start bottle feeding him. He took to it like a trooper.

For two weeks he slept in the laundry and through the day followed me everywhere I went, a high maintenance boy he would bleat whenever I was not within sight. He befriended the cats, and hanging out on the verandah in the sun was his favourite pastime……aside from drinking milk.
These first two weeks were honestly like having a new-born baby, if not even more exhausting. Fortunately we had great weather and Lt Lamb and I could spend most of our time outside.
Eventually we moved him out to spend his nights in a cosy, straw-filled pen in the chicken shed, and by week four he was introduced back into the paddock with the other sheep during the day. He was still being fed three times a day and would start bleating for his food at least an hour before feeding time. The boy had some serious vocal power.

Lt. Lamb was eventually weaned and reinstated full time into the flock where he was just like all the other kids, though his mother never acknowledged him again.
We timed the flock reinstatement pretty well as he blended in easily and eventually regained that natural, slight wariness that most herd animals have – he wasn’t as keen to be petted and if there was no food involved he was more interested in being with the flock than the people. He was always more forward than the other lambs – making escapes if possible, pushing in if there was a bit of extra food to be had, or if I was in the vegetable garden and there was a chance of scraps being thrown over the fence – he would let me know that he was, of course, the most hungry of them all.
And yes, even though we loved him, we always know that Lt. Lamb was destined for the freezer and made his final journey there this weekend.
It’s a heart-wrenching process, but these are the things that I keep in mind:
  • Our animals are happy – they are born on the property, are well-fed and loved, do not have to go through the fear involved in the process of being shipped to market, kept in sale-pens, shipped again, starved for a day or two before being put into a process line to be slaughtered.
  • In a commercial operation an animal who can’t keep up would likely be missed, or the time involved to keep it healthy wouldn’t be deemed worth it, it’s death an accepted economic loss.
  • Even though our meat animals have what we term “one  bad day” the fact is that is really seconds in which the they have no idea of what is about to happen. I believe if you are going to eat meat, there is no more ethical way that it can be done.
  • Every bit of the animal is valued – we do not have the convenience of being able to purchase a lovely eye fillet of lamb (or beef, or pork) every week in a nice package from the supermarket that disengages us from the fact that this was once a living, breathing animal. It’s a sacrifice, for sure and we utilise every bit.
  • Our meat is clean – organic, free range.