Farmers today are often accused of not caring for their animals. Many groups will argue that animals raised on “factory farms” spend their entire life in a state of terror and pain. YouTube has countless videos that have been posted that depict utterly horrifying images of animals enduring cruelty and abuse. Animal rights groups use media like this to sway the general public, leading the average Joe to assume that farmers view their animals as machines, not caring about anything other then the bottom line. While I don’t have the media budget to go toe to toe with groups like the HSUS I want to talk about something that happened this week at home to try and give some insight to the emotions that farmers experience when caring for livestock.
This past weekend it was my turn to do chores and as I was doing my rounds in the farrowing barn (the place where our female pigs give birth) I came across a sow that was having difficulty during labour. After collecting the necessary supplies I went back into the room with her and attempted find out what was causing the trouble. I worked and worked but nothing I seemed to try was helping the sow get her last few piglets out and as time went by I realized that there was nothing more that I could do. I got Dad to take a look and see what he could do but he came to the same conclusion as I, there was nothing that we could do and unless there was some sort of rapid turnaround, the sow was going to die.
It is hard to describe in words the feeling that you have when you know that an animal that has been entrusted to your care is going to die. It is a profound sadness coupled with a feeling of personal failure. While the my relationship with that sow was not as personal as a relationship you may share with a pet; I still feel responsible for her death and I spent Sunday afternoon trying to figure out what I had missed the day before: could I have done something different that may have led to a better outcome. The reality is that every so often, no matter the species or the setting, complications will arise during the birthing process and very rarely things can go wrong.
The take home message of this story is that farmers care for their animals; yes I am running a business but at the end of the day I have chosen a profession that requires me to CARE for animals. If I fail to nurture my animals then I will have failed as a farmer. Next time you see or hear something about farmers not caring for their animals remember who gets up at 3 in the morning in the middle of January to go check on calving cows, remember who makes it to the barn by 6am on New Years Day after a late night out on the town, and finally, remember the emotion of sadness and failure that I spoke about in this post.
Farmers care, we wouldn’t be farming if we didn’t