It's nearly time to send the first two cattle "up north". We're not entirely sure which two will take the trip first - more than likely the two larger steers: Ivan and Doug. They are the two with the white bands on thier shoulders. The small little heifer calf that never grew (Sassy) and the bull calf that we didn't steer (undescended testicle) will probably be the two given an extra week. Who knows. That could all change depending on how easily they are corralled and loaded into the trailer!
Yes, we name our cattle. Is that strange? "Blackie" was our first attempt at raising our own meat, and to be honest, I don't think I ever finished a meal without choking down the last few bites or handing it to the dogs. You go into this KNOWING they aren't pets, but the first few were still hard. Then we had White Foot, Black Foot, Lollipop, BJ, Stringboy, and Bucky. While we are learning what works and what doesn't, it really does help to know which ones were small, which ones had certain characteristics, steers/bulls/heifers etc. Each year we are given different challenges to deal with and sometimes the stress and anxiety of trying to save a calf is difficult. So far, we haven't lost a single animal, and the reward of knowing exactly what we are eating is worth it.
So it's nearly time to say goodbye to these fine cattle. The timing couldn't be better though, really. Our meat freezer is nearly empty and our supply of hay is dwindling. The pastures aren't doing so well after a very long, dry summer and with the cold weather coming it's time for the big mooheads to move on.
We tried to overwinter animals a few years back and it was definately NOT worth the hassle. Frozen water lines, cracking ice in the water bin when the heater couldn't keep up, trudging through snow on bitter cold mornings and brisk evenings to feed them day in and day out. I bet they didn't gain a pound despite our best efforts that winter - infact, I imagine they actually fell backwards so we were just throwing away money on feed and adding to our daily chores for nothing, really.
Our hearts grow heavy knowing their time is nearly up on this great green earth, since we've nurtured them for months now. At least they have had a truly exceptional life (though short) with plenty of pasture, treats of molasses, apples and garden produce, free of hormones, and spared the unneccessary pain of dehorning. To Ivan, Doug, Oatmeal and Sassy, we are thankful.