Honestly, there has never been a greater joy for me than to raise animals on a farm. We work with many new homesteaders/farmers and there is often an apprehension of raising livestock. This appears to mainly be due to the fear of knowledge necessary to do it. That response is indicative of our nation’s separation from the fundamentals of farming that was such a normal mode of operation just one to two generations ago. But, THAT IS OKAY. It is okay NOT to know. It is okay to start at zero knowledge and grow that knowledge. I grew up on a hobby farm as a child so raising animals was not completely new to me. However, having babies – as in foals, kids and lambs, was. But, I learned. I taught myself, I became a 4H leader, I emersed myself in clinics and conferences. And mostly, I learned from other farmers. There is a ton of information at your fingertips to teach you along the way. And, there are many farmers willing to help you too; not to mention vets and local cooperative extension personnel.
The most motivating and rewarding part of all is truly SEEING how amazing these mothers are to tend to their young on their own. In truth, mothers take care of their young so well, it is truly a gift to watch. This is the most amazing part of the whole animal raising experience I believe. I want to show you a few pictures that I believe exemplify this most amazing process. Indeed, animal mothers are just as caring and compassionate, aware and skilled, as we are as mothers. It is like watching a miracle unfold before your eyes. Once you witness this blessing, it is nearly impossible to NOT raise babies and love their mamas, on your own farm. Let me show you.
I love Asiago. A coyote killed one of her little kids in this litter about three months later. Asiago grieved. I watched it. She would call for her non-stop for days. She was depressed and in the corner. The loss of the kid was sad. But, seeing the grief of Asiago broke my heart. I had no idea how much a mama in the animal kingdom feels until I witnessed that loss for Asiago. And, it was very interesting too that during her isolation from the rest of the doe herd due to grieve she moved from the top of the pecking order in the herd, to the bottom. Yes, these animal dynamics are truly fascinating to observe.
I love this goat. She is so precious as her heart is true. I witness this day in and day out. And THAT is why raising livestock is so amazing for me. It is a truly personal journey into witnessing great love. I tried to capture this love I have for this goat through a poem I wrote for her. Here it is.
MY PREGNANT DOE ASIAGO ~
Tired and achy, she stretches and yawns
she rubs her head on the stall wall.
The bah of sheep sound so far away
as she drifts in and out …. she’s preparing.
Her udder is filling, her hips displacing
as the dip in her hind tells time’s near.
Tired and achy, she stretches and yawns
she rubs her head again, on the stall wall.
Pawing the ground, a bed she makes
only to hop up moments later.
Dusk slips toward moonlight
painting deep blues on barn walls.
The sheep are now sleeping. The horses down too.
She waits and waits some more.
The babies are moving, but mama is tired.
She rubs her head again, on the stall wall.
I enter the barn, it’s very late now.
My headlamp shines on her belly.
Big she is, I say to her. I softly rub her head.
She leans her body into mine and I lean back to her.
I hold her there in the dead of night.
In reality it is she who holds me.
My favorite doe, she is I say, as I’ve delivered her babies many times.
She struggles with birth as her hips are narrow,
I go in and assist when she calls.
She knows I am there as she is for me.
Tired and achy, she stretches and yawns.
This time she rubs her head on my heart.
I stay with her, and let her rub, as I can do much better than the stall wall.
At last, in the morning with the sun’s first burst,
she delivers three perfect little kids.
Two boys and one girl, I smile as she cleans them.
Tired and achy she stretches and yawns.
Tired and achy I stretch and yawn too…..
I lean my head on the stall wall.