When a farmer has to make hard decisions
If you read my articles regularly then you know I tend to be a bit crazy when it comes to the way I approach a lot of things in life. My attitude? The universe was made out of chaos, and I’ll try anything once.
I woke up the other day and realized there were some things on the farm I had tried that weren’t really working. This revelation came on the heels of the latest livestock guardian dog addition and the added dimension that doing chores with a 9-week-old puppy provides.
People often view farming through the lens of pet ownership because that is what they relate to, but the harsh reality is that farms need to provide. No matter on what scale, the purpose of a farm is to feed, clothe and house us. Decisions on the farm are rarely easy and, at best, are mildly uncomfortable. There are times when I ignore them with commendable skill, or I wake up with the fortitude to set things right, chart a new course and forge ahead.
I focus a lot on input. We raise stock with a high degree of self sufficiency, so that input can remain low and the value of their output will remain high. The level of input fluctuates over an animal’s lifetime and the goal is to have the scales in your favor, or in the case of working animals, have it balance out in the end.
This is where farming decisions get hard — when the line between pet and working animal gets a little blurred. Dogs and horses can make a farmer blurry on the best of days.
People who own pets tend to view farmers as cold and callous. The decisions we make affect the food on their table too, even if they may like to pretend differently.
My farm needs a herding dog — not a hardcore trialing collie, but a low key drover just to help out with the stock when my motivation is low and time is short. I have gone through a number of rescues over the years, both mixed breed and pure — trying to do a good deed, while still having what I needed on the farm. I rehomed the last of them recently.
We’ve added cows to our operation, in place of goats. You can fudge a lot of things with sheep and goats, but cows are a different story. Fudging it with cows is a good way to get hurt, for both of us.
Why didn’t I keep him as a pet? Well, the truth of the matter is I have a pet dog. That’s her job and the sole reason for her addition. I don’t need another one. Resources on a farm are often tight, and I have to eat too. I also need a herding dog, one that will actually work under pressure.
Farmers are not cold and callous. It was a very difficult day, and there was a small selfish part of me that didn’t want to follow through. I share this story in the hopes that you will understand that making a decision and liking it are two very different things. That in those times, the best thing to do is offer a shoulder instead of an admonishing finger.
By Tarma Shena