In order to satisfy Todd ‘s ongoing need to eat more meat as a PA German as well as provide sustenance for his growing college co-ed son, Bryce, he raised two grass-fed steers. And butchered one of them himself- using a hand cranked meat grinder that he asked his wife to purchase from Cabela’s – after taking an entire day and night to grind the burger, reducing him to sweating like it was August heat, his wife asked “WHY DID WE NOT GET THE ELECTRIC GRINDER?” We saved some dollars. Wrong choice. Especialy since his wife was fighting sickness and after only a few cranks, she had to fling herself onto the sofa to recuperate.
BUT- there is 180 pounds of meat in the freezer- 200 burgers which Bryce has already made a dent in (Sierra too, although she cried when she ate the first one- she decided not to be a Wegetarian anymore)- That was only one cow- the other was taken to the Leesport auction. I will attach am opinion/editorial that I had published through the Bay Journal News Service- circulating to 75 newspapers around the Chesapeake Bay. Todd says it was not completely accurate. But that is artistic privilege. He needs to write his own blog if he wants to be heard!
The New Backyard Animal Husband
There are two baby steers in the pasture that have just learned to eat grass. Up to now, they’d rather suck- fingers, pant legs, each other’s ears. A dairy farmer friend gave them to us when they still had their umbilical cords dangling from their abdomens- the age they’re sent to auction. We purchased two months of milk replacer, bottle-fed them, taught them to drink from a bucket, and eat grain from our hand. Without a mother to watch, it took them awhile to figure out the grass step.
My husband, Todd has successfully raised chickens and turkeys in the past and didn’t think the leap from poultry to mammals would be a big jump. He figured, “You hear how great grass-fed beef is so I figured I’d get a couple of male calves, put my good grass to use and get some free meat.”
There’s a growing trend to reconnect with your food and save money while doing so. A few friends got into chickens because they heard that “you just throw them a little grain and water and you get free eggs,” but we are finding out otherwise.
Todd took on the task of castrating the calves using a borrowed rubber band stretcher tool. He did the deed while they were eating and occupied. But the second calf finished early, freaked, kicked the tool off, resulting in getting the half-on-band snipped with a wire cutter and starting over.
In a few days, that calf’s private parts became sore and infected and the vet needed to be called after all. He deduced that one of the testicles receded up into his abdomen and that his disposition would get very nasty in about 4 months. So nasty that Todd could not wear a red T-shirt without enraging him and our daughter could not walk by while menstruating without the “half-bull” going ballistic.
As I write this, my neighbor calls to tell me one of our baby steers is in his front lawn and had to pause to capture it. Todd purchased a solar collector ($100+) that was rated up to 5 miles to electrify the ½ mile high tensile fence but it only slightly tingled his fingers when wrapped around securely. Until today, he merely hoped they’d be content inside the 4-acre pasture. Now, the boys are locked in their shed until Todd purchases an electrical charger ($100) as well as 600 feet of wire ($200) to send electricity from our home to the pasture. I don’t want to do the math to discover how much per pound this beef will cost.
In his defense, he added, “But I’m learning a lot and that is worthwhile in itself.”
As back yard chicken farmers, even urban farmers are sprouting up, they can easily make the mistake (like Todd, an experienced animal “husband”) that this lifestyle is easy and cheap. But we need to go into this animal husbandry business being as realistic and educated as we can so we don’t mistreat our animals once we grow tired of the work and challenges or, try to unload them. Animal rescue shelters get chickens dropped off a few times a month.
Popular media doesn’t help. In a woman’s country magazine, a recent article encourages even urban dwellers with only a porch or balcony to keep chickens. The editor shows how to sew diapers (nappys) for your “cute” chickens so they can roam inside the house, lining it with cotton balls, coffee filters and menstrual panty liners. Directions are available to make an “adorable” hen house out of a baby crib so they can sleep in your bedroom, and how to pamper your pet chickens with a “day at the spa” by painting the tips of their toes with pink polish.
In reality, chickens can be destructive, cannibalistic, sickly, and are always vulnerable to predators. If you hatch peeps, some will be roosters and more than one causes trouble. Are you willing to kill the unwanted boys?
Laying slows down after only 2-3 years resulting in “pets” for another 7-8 years if you don’t want to turn the girls into soup. My softhearted friend can’t kill his senior citizens so his increasing flock of 25 hens consume $75 a month in feed and lays up to 60 eggs a week, which he just gives away free
Well, OK. It has to be about the experience. Great tasting eggs, a flavorful stewing chicken, and hopefully for us, some tender sirloin tips. Never mind the expense. Never mind the time. Just go into this animal husbandry endeavor with a grounded realistic approach. It isn’t about saving money and it isn’t easy. But is certainly can be worthwhile. But please, forego the nail polish.
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