{know your farmer} Barry’s Endgame

Editor’s Note: Welcome Josh & Stefanie Rockwood of West Wind Acres, a meat farm in Charlton, NY, as Community Voice Guest Contributors. They will bring us insight into the world of being sustainable and humane meat farmers using a full-fledged rotational grazing system with all their animals. If you haven’t listened to our latest podcast, Episode 5: Raising Animals {for food} or read our Meet the Meat Farmers piece, please do so because they unedited straight-from-the-hip-insight into their farming techniques. Today’s piece is a continuation of the podcast, where Josh & Stef talk small-scale slaughter (of non-poultry animals such as cattle, pigs, sheep & goats) of my hairy friend, Barry, a beautiful Scottish Highland Cattle. I grew extremely fond of this dude.

May you rest in peace Barry and THANK YOU Josh & Stef for being so transparent & willing to share your insight. -Christina

Barry & his bell, 2011.

Last Monday, on a hot & humid summer evening, Stefanie and I headed out to the farm to bring some piglets, move the animals, and load a steer to take to the butcher tomorrow morning.

We have learned that it is best to be prepared before moving the cattle for the evening.  We positioned the trailer, and build a chute our of about 8 gates.  The chute starts off fairly wide and narrows as it gets closer to the trailer in an attempt to keep the animal calm and not allow him to turn around.  We then ran the temporary wire for this evenings paddock, along with an lane to the chute.  Once everything was ready we opened lane and let the steers in, as they walked we separated the best looking animal out by letting the others into the evening paddock, as we walked toward the chute I reeled up lane wire, while maintaining a wire gate.  This slowly guided the steer to the chute, as we approached the chute I positioned the reel on the last gate and slowly guided the steer to the trailer.  He stopped for a brief second as I untied the door which I then used as a sweep to gently pressure him into the trailer.

From the time we let the steers into the lane to the trailer door being shut was probably less than 2 minutes, the steer never ran, got nervous, or acted scared.

‘what you looking at?”

After the steer was loaded Stef and I realized that he was one of our favorites, Barry.  Part of life on a meat farm is selecting when an animal if properly finished.  It is very hard to do this without letting emotions get involved, we are starting to be able to do so.

The next morning we would make the drive to Larry’s Custom Meats, in Hartwick, NY.  We would arrive just after coffee break so that Barry can remain on the trailer, until they are ready for him.  By having Stef and I present the entire time he remained calm and content. Barry would be dearly missed, he had a great life with us here. We are grateful we were able to provide him with the ability to graze as needed and maintain a stress-free environment.

Last Tuesday morning we got up early, made sure Barry had plenty of hay and water then moved the animals for the day, grabbed a quick bite to eat, and headed to Larry’s Custom Meats.  The trip is about an hour and a half, we try to arrive just after 9 so that morning break is just about finished when we get there so that Barry, or any of our cattle or pigs spend as little time waiting in the trailer which could add stress to an animal. Upon arrival we go into the front office to get an ‘off-load ticket‘, we remind them that we want to leave the animal on the trailer until they are ready for him in an attempt to lessen the animal’s stress.

Once break is over, it was time to off-load Barry.  We backed the trailer up to the chute, opened the doors, and I slowly guided him into the slaughter-house, he calmly walked into the head gate in the slaughter room, and a back gate is lowered to keep the animal from backing out. I took a moment and turned my head. I sometimes watch, but this time, I couldn’t. Barry was in the room for less than 5 seconds before he was dead. He didn’t know what was coming, didn’t suffer at all, and died instantly.

Now, here comes the ‘details’. Slaughtering animals is regulated until the USDA Title 9: Animal & Animal Products, Chapter 3, Part 313.1 (9 C.F.R. 313.1 – 90) Humane Slaughter of Livestock. There are four approved ways: Chemical (carbon dioxide), electric shock, gunshot & captive bolt before being bled. Many slaughter houses that we have encountered only use electric shock or captive bolt. We request our cattle and pigs to be killed with the captive bolt method. That doesn’t mean our request will be granted 100% of the time, but we do request it each and every time we arrive to slaughter. In my personal opinion, with many eye-witness accounts, the captive bolt method is the quickest way to guarantee our animals are killed on the spot and in an instant. We want no ‘second tries’ out of respect and love for our animals. It is very important to us to know that our animals aren’t ever put through any stress, in life or death.  These wonderful animals provide us with sustenance, and deserve the best from birth to death.

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” ~Albert Einstein


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Kim F says:

    This a truly beautiful and sobering post. It is clear that Josh and Stef care about and respect their animals in a way that is such a contrast to industrial meat production. Thanks so much for sharing this end journey with us.

  2. Thank you for writing this. It’s important for omnivores to know about this process. I’ve always felt very connected to the slaughtering process, as I’ve had to slaughter animals personally in the past. It’s reassuring to know that there are farmers out there who respect animals enough to be so incredibly mindful of what livestock goes through. Keep up the great work Josh and Stef!

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