Loading up the animals

We were raising a bull to breed our Black Angus heifers and, some time ago, had to load him up to take him to market because he was becoming increasingly mean and nasty. So, of course, that necessitated his trip to the market.

The day came for us to get him into the trailer. I was extremely nervous about this because, let’s face it: A bull is a bull. I have total faith in my husband, for he is proficient in handling animals on the farm; he gets them to go where they need to go. But working with a bull got me on the defensive, and I was driving him nuts with my anxiousness. I had never in my life been around a bull. Actually, neither of our families ever had a bull on the place.

We have a pen just inside the barn that is open and lets the animals come in from the outside if they like, for protection from the environment. The bull had moseyed into that pen along with a cow. My husband, catching the opportunity, enclosed the pen with a gate and gave me instructions to “watch him” while he backed the trailer up to the barn.

Watch HIM? He was watching ME! This bull had a big, dumb look to his odd-shaped, oblong-yet-wide face. Looking at me intently over (what I perceived was) a teeny-tiny gate, his eyes were dull. Behind them, I could sense the danger and intelligence lurking there. He and I were alone, along with the cow that was thankfully keeping him company. I kept up a steady stream of conversation using a low, soothing voice. I had helped raise these animals from little on, and I figured he’d associate my voice with food.

Finally, after what I thought was an eternity, I heard the rattling of the trailer coming into the yard. Both animals immediately started to get restless — ears up, bodies shifting around in the pen, blowing air out of their hyperextended nostrils. Oh boy.

We went at it slowly, waiting for the animals to settle and then make a move. The more we push, the more they resist. Presently, the cow sauntered out of the pen and almost got into the trailer. She was sidelined out. Soon the bull sniffed the opening to the trailer. At that precise moment, my husband encouraged him from behind, and in he went! As my husband slammed and locked the trailer’s gate behind the bull, I literally broke into tears. Apparently, I was that anxious — seemingly a hot mess and didn’t even know it.

To replace the bull we took to market, we purchased a new bull named Bubba. This big fella is so laid back he’s moving into yesterday, and he looks at my husband disinterestedly as he’s hauling in the feed. I warn my husband, though: He is a bull. He can never be completely trusted. Animals are animals, and we are fully aware those big bodies can weigh thousands of pounds and can turn on a whim.

Putting the trailer to good use, some time ago we loaded up our pigs to take to the meat market just down the road. Pigs squeal like they are getting butchered if any little thing out of the ordinary happens. Our pink one was always squealy. Early this summer, when we had moved them outside, she hollered so loud it made your ears hurt. ReeeeEE! ReeeEEE! REEEEEE! When we were loading them in the trailer, it sounded like that one had a megaphone attached just under her chin. It echoed through the yard, and I was half expecting our neighbor to pull in and make sure everything was OK.

My husband had created a makeshift chute to channel them up and into the trailer. A dish of their most favorite ground feed was placed just outside their pen, and we poured a little pile up inside the trailer to entice them with the sight and smell of their delicious grain. The trailer was backed up flush with their door so they had no recourse but to go forward. After about an hourlong rodeo around and around their pen (squeals galore), we finally got all three up and in. And with a wave, my husband was carting them down the road.

I was stunned to feel a twinge of sad tears threaten as I watched him go. Jeez! I know what happens around here. We raise to butcher! But those pigs were with us for quite a while, and I liked their conversational grunting when I was in the garden working. I got accustomed to watching them burrow and poke around, and their unique body shape had always intrigued me. I was gonna miss those guys.

(We were speaking with our eldest son the other day, and he claimed that pigs were very intelligent. We begged to differ, and he said, “Look it up!” So I asked Siri, and she directed me to a website where, indeed, they claimed that pigs were teachable and very receptive to food-enticed direction. Who knew?)

I enjoy animals on the farm. They bring life to the place. They keep me company and, from our efforts, we are sustained with delicious, homegrown food. Next spring, we plan on buying baby chicks to raise to butcher. Watch for future chicken stories!

(“Know well the condition of your flocks and pay attention to your herds.” Proverbs 27:23)