Thursday, February 18, 2016

Reflection on Comet's Last Day

I watched Comet the Jersey/Dexter calf being born sixteen months ago. For the past fifteen of those I have let her in to her mother Hailey each  morning after milking and escorted her out with a shout of "Hup" in the late afternoon. I have watched her grow from a bundle of legs trying to stand within minutes of birth, to a heifer about three-quarters the size of her mother.

I loved the idea of having a second cow so that we had no period of time without milk and that the two mothers could keep each other company. Rationally, we don't have enough grass for two cows, especially through winter and if they both have calves. Realistically we get enough milk from Hailey for our domestic needs and the milking process already takes enough of my day.

So Comet had to become a welcome freezer filler. The cost of feeding and growing a milking cow makes the price of the milk produced about the same as buying the second cheapest brand in the supermarket.   The real financial benefit in having a house cow comes in the cost of the meat from the calf grown with a share of that milk.

Loading Comet onto the stock crate was easy. She is trained like her mother to follow the red bucket and has a taste for the beef nuts it contains. It was the movement of the trailer on the windy and corrugated road that must have been very stressful for an animal that had never been more than 400m from where it was born. 105 kilometres of bends and bumps to the nearest abattoir was a long way to be of unsure footing.

The abattoir was clean and well organized but the mental understanding of what is done there and what it means to an animal you know so well was hard. My 27 years of vegetarianism was given up by an understanding that eating meat you've met - that has had as good a life as possible - is better than eating alternatives created far away with unknown practices. The actual slaughter part is still stressful.

Comet was quietly encouraged into a holding pen and I left. I will enjoy the bounty that she will provide not just because of the taste of healthy organic beef, but because Comet was special, our first calf. It is a necessary part of producing your own food that some life has to end.

1 comment:

  1. I've just found your blog. Nice to read an Aussie " homesteader " voice as another Aussie. I have so much respect for your choice in this post. I hope comets sacrifice sustains your family for many months xxx