LIFE & DEATH ON THE FARM

 

Our role at Consider Bardwell Farm is to help facilitate the arrival of new life. Every morning, afternoon, and evening, we feed dozens upon dozens of newborn bucklings and doelings—several of whom we delivered with our own hands. Among those pens are fluffy, brown and black Oberhaslis; Alpine mixes with striped faces; floppy-eared Nubians; and a myriad of other genetic crosses. Some pop out of their mamas a ripe 10-12 pounds, others a meager 5 or 6. The former tend to be better eaters, though not always.

What these unique little kids all have in common is that they have only spent a few days, or even hours, here on Earth. It is humbling to be in the presence of such an immense, sudden burst of life. More than two-hundred kids have been born since we arrived on the farm two weeks ago. Of course, we have had to come face-to-face with the other side of life, too. It said it in the job description: "Where there is livestock, there is also deadstock."

As we walked into the barn early on our first morning of work, we were surprised to hear the little bleats of a buckling born a week before its due date. Shortly thereafter, we realized that its stillborn twin was lying in the hay beside it. We have witnessed more stillborns yet, including another pair of twins that brought their mama within moments of death herself. The line between life and death, we have learned, can be very fine indeed. And that is part of what makes our job all the more satisfying.

The facts of farm life can be difficult to sort out at times. A small portion of these kids—those with the best genetics—will be kept on as future milkers. Others will be meat kids, and still more will be sold off to be raised for meat on other farms. No matter their lot, every single one of these animals will meet their end. We have seen it with kids, and we have seen it with adults. It is a blessing, though, to be present through their beginning, at the dawn of a new spring, out here on the farm.


—M