Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Should you name your livestock?

This is an interesting question. And one that comes up all the time.

When we first bought this place, and began buying livestock (as til then we’d only had a few egg laying chooks, that were more like pets and a small container garden). We were told many stories and warned “never name an animal you intend to eat”. In most cases the person explained how they had named their rooster, turkey, lamb, cow etc. and had then either been too attached to it to kill it. Or it had been killed but then they just couldn’t eat it and it had gone to the dog or neighbour. [I personally believe that if you have taken the life you have to do it justice, or it was just a waste]

But then on the other hand, almost everyone who visits asks “What are their names?” or “What’s this one called?” And funnily enough usually they have one!

Initially we adhered to the warnings and didn’t name anything unless it was staying such as our breeding stock- roosters, hens, our breeding pair of pigs etc. Anything that was destined for the post/freezer didn’t have a name… But you end up referring to them as something anyway, even if it’s just ‘black cow’ and ‘brown cow’. So really these become names.

So here we began a practice that our animals should have food related names. A theory we put into practice with our first porker ‘Roast Beef’; bought for the purpose of meat and to keep our young breeding pair company and a little safer (as they were only a few weeks old at this stage).

The idea of this was that whilst it was a name, it wasn’t humanising and still implies its purpose.  So all our animals have had food or animal related names since: Smokey, Streaky, Sage, Christmas ham, with the exception of our cows. Our first girls, initially referred to as ‘Black cow’ and ‘Brown cow’ were renamed by my nephew when he came to visit, as he felt they deserved ‘proper names’; instantly deciding upon ‘Betty’ and ‘Susie’. Names they have been known by since. Susie fulfilled her purpose earlier this year; however ‘Black Betty’ (as she is now known) accompanies ‘Bart’ & ‘Ruby’, our poddy calves… Guess now we have progressed to actual names there’s no going back.

Oddly enough we recently had an impromptu bbq and friend’s o fours have progressed from asking “Is this ‘one of yours’?” to “And who is this?” As surreal as it sounds.  Something I guess that is only really possible to answer with our larger animals, as we only really have one cow in the freezer and one, or (maybe) two pigs at any one time.

We actually have two in the freezer now. Berky [named as he was the only one from the Berkshire cross litter to actually look like a Berkshire] was always destined for this purpose- and tensions (or increased frequency of incidents where he annoyed our bore) meant his time was limited. We also took the decision to cull and process Christmas Ham at the same time. [She was originally intended to be Christmas Ham, hence the name] Well if you’re going to process one, a second is little more work- besides half a pig usually gets divided up between friends as a thank you for their help… so at least when you do two there plenty to go around!

We had made attempts to find her an alternative home, as we felt she had earned her keep. Only the little interest we had would have placed her less than desirable conditions. Something neither of us could do in good conscience. This might seem strange given the alternative, but as this had been her intended purpose here (although postponed), she had had a good life with us. 

In fairness considering neither Berky nor Christmas Ham were pure Berkshires the meat still had that ‘marbled’ quality and variety of colour. Something you would never see on a supermarket shelf!



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