Two weeks ago was a tough week on the farm. We lost 3 animals in the span of 3 days, and that…. that was really hard.
I’ve been raising livestock for 13 years, and have had animals since the day I was born. And, throughout that time, there has been loss. It comes with the territory. Some of those losses have impacted me more than others, but no matter what animal it is, it never gets easier.
The other week we lost two goats- Tres and Nala, and our barn cat- Sassy. Tres was unexpected. She was fine one day, and gone the next.
Nala, lost her battle to a raging infection, despite 3 visits to the vet, several antibiotics, and meds to control the fever.
Sassy was 13 years old, and we knew his time was drawing near. He lived his last days as a house cat.
Nala was the the third one to go, and at that point, I was ready to throw up my hands. It was entirely frustrating and emotional. You work so hard to keep these animals healthy. When they get sick, you do everything you can to make them better, and sometimes it isn’t good enough. When your best isn’t good enough, that can cut deep.
Nala went into premature labor. Not only that, but the baby was not in the proper position. After trying for 40 minutes to realign the baby, we decided that we couldn’t do it. We knew the baby was already dead, so we loaded Nala up to go to the vet. Those vets worked for more than an hour to deliver that fetus. Everyone was tired, especially Nala. She was registering a temperature of 105. The next few days was a series of banamine for the fever, antibiotics for the infection, oxytocin for a retained placenta, and more trips to the vet. We were hoping that it would clear up. We were hoping that we could try again for a baby next year, but it wasn’t meant to be. Nala was my best doe. I was the most excited for her baby. It would be her first and the first off our new buck. I put a lot of hopes and dreams into them, and it went up in smoke.
When you raise livestock, they have a purpose. It may be for breeding stock; it may be for showing; it may just be to go to market. Whatever the purpose, you put hopes into that animal. Sometimes you get your hopes up.
Losing an animal isn’t about the money spent at the vet. It isn’t about the money lost in the investment of the animal. It isn’t about having to dig a hole. It is about heart. I may not shed a tear for every animal that dies, but they all hit me. They all are a life, and that affects my heart. It doesn’t matter how many animals you have, or the scale of your farm.
I recently heard a story of a hog farm that had the PED virus. This virus caused 100% mortality in baby pigs. Although there are thousands of pigs in those barns, the farmers wept. Not because they were losing dollars, but because that life was gone, and that was devastating. The hope and potential of that animal was gone. Their best efforts weren’t always good enough.
After hearing that story and thinking of my week last week, one word came to mind-bravery. Raising animals takes bravery. You have to be brave to put hope and dreams into an animal that does not have a 100% guarantee. Even if it has a totally healthy life, the lifespan of animals is not the same as ours. You are choosing to love and care for a ticking time bomb. When that animal does pass away, it takes bravery to continue. You have to be brave to care for another animal.
When I was on the third day of losing an animal, I wanted to walk away. I didn’t want to put expectations or hopes into yet another animal that might not make it, but then… then I saw the other side of the spectrum. I saw little Pluto, only a week old, braving the cold weather to explore his world, and I smiled.
Raising livestock is hard. It is frustrating. There are tears. There are also smiles, joy, and heart. Raising livestock takes bravery. In spite of loss, in spite of sadness, I choose bravery and to hope once more in an animal, because that is what it is all about.