Last year Vance decided that we couldn’t name any of our animals that we would be butchering. Any mothers and fathers could be named but if someone was going to be eating the animal in the near future – if they were given a name, it had to be obvious as to what the animal’s purpose was: “Mr. Steak”, “Ham-let”, etc. He was worried that potential customers wouldn’t be comfortable with knowing their dinner had a name.
Then we came to this year and realized that we needed to improve our system of tagging and tracking our cattle. Our herd consists of cows we bought from Vance’s father and a small herd bought from a fellow near Edmonton. Then our calves last year were tagged with some leftover tags so some of the numbers make sense in terms of lineage – and some, not so much. In addition, I am not one for remembering numbers. I am good at math but holding numbers in my brain longer than I need them has never been my strength. I need a pen and paper, or a computer. Which brought us back to the idea of giving our animals, especially the cows, names.
Names seem easier to remember, they indicate male or female by looking at the tag, and we can use the lettering system that is ‘standard’ – just starting each name from this year with that letter.
Which had us rethinking last year’s rule. We invite our customers out to the farm in order to see what we are doing, how we raised the animals, and to feel that their purchase is an investment in us. What we have realized is that our customers come to us because they trust the way we raise our animals and thus, their food. We aren’t making them pets or forgetting that they aren’t human. We never forget the reason we raise them is to produce nourishing food for our community while also building a healthy ecosystem on our land. Yet, using names for our animals acknowledges that they are living beings to be respected and treated well.
With ‘A’ being the letter most farmers will use to mark calves born in 2013, we have now welcomed Alla, Anna, Aly, and Abe to the herd. Luckily we also have a small herd, however when we get to letters like E and K, we may need to run a contest in the newspaper or among our investors to get some help.
***This piece is part of a regular column in the local newspaper that Brenda writes, often inspired by our farm journey and adventures. It first appeared in The Chautauqua in 2013.