It’s so difficult to explain the mind set that develops. As you start caring for animals, they are part of the brood you watch over.
In the Bible, Genesis 1:24, the verse reads, “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind.”
This has always struck a cord with me. Cattle are the only specific named animal of air, water or land in the Bible’s story of the six days of creation. Adam named them all and he was caretaker.
Throughout the Bible, there are references to cattle and livestock as precious and how important each one is to the flock or herd. I’ve always viewed that my purpose is life is as a caretaker to these creations and special animals.
I’ve heard many say, “What difference does it make if one dies if you would kill them for meat anyway?”
I’ve contemplated this many, many times. The short answer is that there are different degrees to death. Let’s think about the Old Testament references to burnt offerings. Many offered livestock, a fattened calf or a pure white lamb. Why would they be chosen offerings above all else?
They were chosen because they are a very meaningful part of the herd or flock. They weren’t born for that sacrifice. They were born to be part of the future. That sacrifice was a choice in death to honor something larger and greater than ourselves.
Would that death signify something entirely different than one for sustaining a family with food? Would one have brought more joy than the other? Would it matter if they were poor and had just a few animals? God never requested sickly animals either. A fattened calf was a very healthy and well off animal.
Now fast forward to modern day…
Isn’t man still entrusted with the care and health of his flock or herd? Would the impacts of a loss impact more or less?
Coming from my perspective, the premises is still the same. It’s my responsibility and purpose to raise livestock. As part of that responsibility, it’s my job to ensure that animals are healthy and happy, the epitome of that fattened calf.
When one becomes ill, it’s still my job to care for it. It’s my wish that none would ever get sick but I don’t live in a utopia of perfection, none of us do.
That means I feel guilt when something goes wrong and they do become sick. That guilt says I need to find answers and a diagnosis to make them healthy again… because I am their caretaker.
Does that differ from one species to another? NO! Does that differ between bulls and heifers? NO!
When one dies, especially one that has been ill, the guilt of failure is a hard one to deal with. It’s not just about where they may end up, it’s an emotional struggle because I’ve been given a purpose that is so much greater than just producing meat. I’ve been entrusted with one of God’s creations, as a caretaker.
That’s just the emotional end. I haven’t even discussed the financial end. For me, that aspect falls way down the line in things that matter. Their health and happiness is ALWAYS the first priority and I take my God given purpose to heart.
The guilt of that loss follows through to the loss of income for the farm too though. A lost bull is potentially a $1500 to $3000 loss, depending upon many factors. A loss of a heifer isn’t just that generation lost, it could have been 15 generations added. It’s a $1500-$3000 loss for all those generations.
It’s the loss of a grass fed animal that is costly and difficult to replace. It’s the loss of the time, energy and funds to figure out the cause of issues. It’s the guilt over missing one small detail that took a life.
Death happens on farms in a variety of degrees. None are any better than the other. Knowing an animal was healthy and happy during its life with one bad moment and knowing it’s providing meals for someone gives a feeling of thanks and gratitude.
An animal that passes for no good reason is one of heart break, heart ache and guilt. It’s purpose unfulfilled. If you are compassionate with animals like I am, that guilty feeling will eat at your insides and make you question everything. Those questions will turn you against yourself and you become your own worst critic.
The one saying goes, “if you have livestock, you have dead stock.” It’s a true statement unfortunately and a part of farm life. What I’m forewarning you on is that guilt will be a bedfellow during hard times, for many reasons.
Just take heart and remember that death comes in various degrees and so long as you’ve done everything you could, sometimes God just has his own methods despite our best intentions.