One of the hardest thing about the drought is the shortage of hay for the animals. With a food shortage the farmers and ranchers have no choice but to sell off their animals to meet the level of food they have available. Given the fact that most of the hay meadows and paddocks look like the dead of winter- the food is very limited! And what is available is very expensive.
Today, Tony and I took 6 of John’s cows to the sale in Emory. I am never really crazy over being at the sale and I really don’t like taking animals to there. However, there is not a better outlet for the beef cattle. The buyers for the slaughter houses come to the sale barn to buy the stock that will become beef for the supermarkets. Generally, this is made up of stocker calves- calves bought young and then grown with the intent to sell them for beef in 6-12 months. Now,the great majority of the cattle are going to become beef for you and me including cows, bull, heifers, and stocker calves. Knowing that the animals there were somebody’s herd and they are having to sell of their cows due to economic hardship makes it really hard to watch.
To be honest, the cows don’t bother me as much as other animals. I find cattle to be the most dull of all the animals we have ever had. They will lay in their own poop and never seem to be able to remember a gate from one day to the next. Now, a lot of folks would disagree with me. Mama cows are some of the best mamas and the animals can be really sweet and personable so some feel the same way about their cattle as I do my goats. Regardless of which side you are on, none of us want to see the animals go to the sale due to the fact that their owners can no longer afford to feed them.
I did find it especially sad today. Simply knowing that so many of these animals were there because the owners can’t afford to keep them made it very different than our other trips.
Then there are the horses, I hate to see horses go through the sale. If you have never owned a horse, you may not understand the way I feel, but a horse has a soul different from other animals. They are majestic and powerful. A horse doesn’t have to submit to us as their masters, but they do. All that strength and they let us control them. I saw more horses at the sale today than I ever have. The horses were just standing there in the pens looking sad. A couple of years ago the horses you found at the sale were often problem horses. Now, people are having to take perfectly good horses to the sale. It breaks my heart. I only hope that they go to good homes.
When you decide to take on animals for whatever reason- pleasure or food or income- you are in essence making a promise to that animal to take care of them, feed them and keep them safe. These animals wether dumb or smart are dependant on their humans for their needs. As you care for them you do develope a bond with them. Everyday I see my dairy goats, brush their coats and milk them. Salsa turns and nuzzles my neck and hair when she is done with her food and would like more. She is very affectionate. I hate to think of her in the strange barn with a bunch of animals she doesn’t know, hearing sounds that scare her, being herded through the clanging chutes and yelling men- scared. I can’t stand to think on it.
I know I am not alone in the way I feel. Lots of good folk feel the same as I do. That is one of the hardships of the drought. Folks are forced to sell their animals and make the hard choices that break their hearts. I pray the rains come soon so that the field green up and the animals can stay in their homes.
So when you are fussing about the heat and the drought and looking at how pitiful you lawn looks, remember what the people who produce the food you eat are dealing with right now. Remember them in your prayers. By the way, if you have the ability to keep a steer- I recomend you get you one. If you think beef is expensive now, just wait. Texas produces the majority of our nation’s meat. With all the animals going to feed us now and ranchers not raising more right now, the demand will outweigh the supply. You will be in much better shape raising one steer per year to put in the freezer for you and you family. Not to mention that the meat will taste better.