May 4, 2015

Shipping cows

As most of you know, my brother and Dad have beef cows. After selling our dairy herd fourteen (!!?!) years ago, Dad bought a few beef cows. Owen has been adding and subtracting cows, until they have a combined herd of about... 134. (I had to call Tori for that number.) That is cows, yearlings, and calves. For quite a few years, they only sold a few cows here and there, at auction or to individual buyers, who wanted a side (or two) of grass fed beef. Northern New York is not the best market for specialty meat though, since most people are unconcerned about the make up of their beef. So the majority of the beef was sold at auction, which worked, but was inherently volatile. Some days, they sold well, other days, they didn't. Then a few years ago, a buyer approached them to do large scale buys for a farm that supplies Whole Foods. They agreed, which streamlines the process enormously.

This morning, a truck came to pick up 30 yearlings. Justin went over to help and Elsie, Gilbert, and I tagged along to take pictures and be general nuisances. 

A cow out the barn window

Tori getting the calf milk ready. One of the cows didn't produce milk after calving, so the calf has to bottle fed. 

Dad heading out to the barn

Heading out to feed the calf


The truck doth arrive

And everyone went over to help direct it

The cows 

The truck driver, opening the gate. 

Tori being tough

Owen had to have a corral for loading, but he didn't want something permanent on that part of the farm, so he got creative with feeder wagons, panels, tractors, and trucks. 

Backing up to the loading chute

Which Owen built.

And I had my zoom, so a close up of spring woods. See the reddish at the bottom there? Trees are beautiful in the spring.

Loading the first batch

The driver hovers up here, ready to drop down as soon as the allotted number of cows have entered. 

Driving them in

Ashley (who is having a baby this week) and Hoyt arrived to watch too

I love this boy

The final bunch. It went pretty quick actually. Some years, the cows head every which way but in. This year, they were pretty well behaved.

A full load

One of the condemned.

I admit it, I felt a little awful for them, having to leave in the middle of such a beautiful spring. Owen and Tori know them all, and were saying goodbye to the good ones. I felt teary. But these cows have had the best life possible up until now. Green fields, abundant feed, open air, and lots of company. I feel sure that Whole Foods demands humane slaughter, so life is better for these ones than countless others.  

Gilbert saying goodbye

Owen and Dad have to follow the truck to a local farm that has a scale, so everyone is sure they have accurate numbers.  

Heading out. 

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