Remember this little guy?
Good golly, was he ever cute. Long floppy ears and the most playful personality I ever saw in a baby goat... granted, he was also the first baby goat I ever saw.
I won't ever forget that night. 7:45 on a frosty cold evening in late January, we knew Justice was getting ready to kid. By the time we went back out, there were two tiny baby goats on the ground. And this li'l guy, being the oldest, walked right up to us. I actually shed some tears that night - the awe of a perfect birth, the beauty of a mama goat instantly loving her babies, the smell of a newborn kid... it hit that emotional soft spot in me and made my eyes well up.
But reality does have to set in here up on our little farmstead. And reality dictates that we don't get to keep every cute little furry animal born in our barn.
Here's the thing with milk goats - if you want to milk them, they have to give birth. Every. Year. And they don't often just have one baby. We've got three milking does in the barn right now that are all due in about six weeks, and each one will very likely have two kids... which means six new baby goats to love... and feed.
When you're trying to live the way we are, sometimes not-so-fun decisions have to be made. Decisions that involve animals that are really cute and fun to have around, but don't serve any other real purpose. It was time for Phillip to serve his purpose as a wethered goat.
Come to find out, though, The Daddy and I are a little more sensitive than we might readily admit. And slaughtering the goat that we and our kids have loved for the past year just wasn't something we were looking forward to. So for fifty bucks, we let the local butcher take care of that job. As I type, Phillip is awaiting his fate in a pen behind the local gas station. (Because apparently in small towns, gas stations keep pens in the back for animals waiting to be slaughtered, and no one finds this odd.)
When we get him back, it will be in the form of hunks of meat, which I will then grind and make sausage. My hope is that once the soft, floppy ears and fuzzy winter coat are left behind, I'll be able to see it only as meat, and not as an animal that we once watched romp on the mountain (or jump into a freezing water trough.)
Will I still feel sad? I'm sure I will. But here's the thing: there's something so ultimately valuable about watching an animal grow up, feeding and caring for it every day of its life, and then eating it. There's nothing that can make you appreciate your food more than that. So yes, while I'm sad, and feeling pretty darn guilty, I'll be glad to know that he had a wonderful life full of fresh air and sunshine and ear scratches and animal crackers. I'd rather have that sustain me than meat from the grocery store that never had a face. I think every meat eater should have to experience these feelings a time or two in their life. If that were the case, we'd have a lot more folks who really appreciated the fact that an animal died for their sustenance. (Or, we'd have a lot more vegetarians.)
So today we'll keep ourselves busy, probably stay out of the barn for the most part, and try not to think about what had to happen. And we'll look forward to the birth of new animals this spring - a calf and many kid goats, along with a few batches of poultry. And we'll look forward to having sausage with our eggs for breakfast in the morning, and homemade pepperoni on our Friday night pizzas.
Nope, not the best day we've had our our little farmstead, but one that dutifully reminds us that this crazy life we're living isn't always going to be emotionally easy... and also one that puts life into very real perspective. I'll take the value of that lesson over 'easy' any day.