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Raising livestock is a very different world from caring for pets. It takes a very special kind of person to devote themselves to raising animals for more than just the pleasure of their company. It’s certainly not for everyone. There’s an investment of money, time and strength of character that not everyone can muster up. Sometimes when they do, they change their mind, usually within 1 -3 years.
A lot of people assume that when you raise livestock, you have to be hard and heartless and not form any attachment to your animals. While it’s true you may develop a thicker skin, it doesn’t mean you harden your heart. Livestock are farm animals that are for use or profit, but never do we consider them deserving of anything less than then the very best treatment we can provide. While all of our animals have their job, it doesn’t stop us from caring about them deeply or being able to enjoy their company.
When you do decide to take the plunge and commit yourself to raising livestock, whatever your animal of choice may be, there are a few basic truths you will discover:
Your livestock will be your life.
Period. There is no half-assing it. Once you really get into livestock proper, there’s no turning back. Your social life will revolve around the feeding, watering, milking, birthing, and care of your animals. Vacation? Pft. Everything from your reading material to your Facebook feed will slowly begin to shift and your friends and family will do their best to follow your most recent rant on the sanctity of raw milk or your latest hatch rate.
You don’t get a day off
Ever. You can’t stop throwing up and don’t want to move off the bathroom floor? Tough, it’s breakfast time for the barnyard. Broken arm? Going to have to figure out how to milk one handed. It’s -20F and you don’t want to step foot outside? Too bad – the water buckets are frozen and you need to go change them out.
You will learn some basic veterinary skills
…such as administering shots, drawing blood, basic wound care and more. You will be able to identify basic diseases and ailments. Though you will always need a good veterinarian that you can call when needed, you will try to learn to take care of as much as you can to avoid hefty vet bills.
Your life will be shit.
Literally. You will “read” poop to determine the health of your animals. You will have in depth conversations about it with your partner. You will have faced the challenge of cleaning up a variety of messy butts, sometimes in sub-zero temps, sometimes with animals on the run. You will collect it and send it labs and photograph it. You will wade through it, shovel it, compost it, and often time, wear it.
You will makes mistakes
Ones that hurt or even kill one of the animals you care for. You’ll miss something important, make the wrong call on a treatment, not call the vet in time, dose a medication wrong – the list of possible mistakes is endless. Sometimes it will all be your fault, and there’s no avoiding that. And you will have to learn to live with that and how to forgive yourself.
You will mourn.
Anyone raising livestock knows that death is a part of the package. But to know a thing is different than to feel a thing. Your heart will be broken time and again, but you won’t let it stop you from caring about each and every animal in your life.
You will rejoice
Some of your proudest moments will take place birthing a baby, hatching chicks, or saving a life. You will feel a joy like no other watching your goats play, your cow graze, or your chickens chasing bugs. The satisfaction you feel eating an egg from your chickens, or having a glass of milk that your worked for with your diligent care of your animals is priceless. Eating a hamburger or a roast chicken that you know wasn’t pumped full of growth hormones, antibiotics and a plethora of other chemicals feels like a victory.