Well, our little bull calf is now officially a steer…
I wish I had a great story for you, but there’s really not much to tell.
Shortly after sunrise on Saturday morning, Lindsey and I gathered up a few supplies (some twine, a pocketknife, and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide) and headed out to the pasture.
As usual, little “Rump” came running to see us — the poor little goofus had no idea what was about to happen! Fortunately, I had already fed him for the morning, so he wasn’t trying to suck on everything in sight! He just calmly walked up to me, I caught him and threw him down pretty smoothly, and then explained the game plan to Lindsey.
This was her first time castrating a bull, so I showed her how and where to hold him. She took my spot kneeling on his side, and then I went to work with the knife.
We did have a short tussle right at the very first (during which, Lindsey bloodied up one of her knuckles and I took a grazing kick to the chin), but when you consider the fact that Rump weighs more than Lindsey, I’d still say it went pretty well!
When the dust finally settled, I changed our plan up a bit and decided to hog tie him during the “surgery” — just to be on the safe side. 😉
The procedure itself was really smooth.
I used to work for a rancher in Brigham City, so I’ve helped out with hundreds of castrations. However, this was my first time wielding the knife… Still, the “surgery” was quick and (relatively) painless. From start to finish, it only took about 30 seconds. Very little bleeding.
Oh, and did I mention our little monkey watched the whole thing from her stroller on the other side of the fence?
When I went to work on Monday, somebody asked me about my weekend — and I told him briefly about our “steer-a-lizing” adventures.
Now, if you remember, I’m a computer programmer by trade, so you can probably imagine that my homesteading hobbies oftentimes take my co-workers by surprise. (Most of the folks I’ve worked with over the years definitely haven’t been “outdoorsy,” to say the least). Castrating our calf was no exception.
My co-worker asked me (with a slightly appalled look on his face) why do you have to castrate a bull? Isn’t it cruel? Don’t they have rubber bands for that sort of thing? Why would you even consider doing it yourself? Why not take your calf to the vet?
First of all, why do we castrate animals at all?
Well, for me, it’s a question of safety. We’re planning on raising Rump for 18 to 24 months — and hoping he’ll grow to be over 1,000 lbs. With an animal that big, I want him to be as docile as possible, right?
Bulls are notoriously cantankerous, especially when there are cows around. All of that testosterone drives the bull to do just one thing, and he’s not gonna be content unless he can get to it!
Fences won’t stop him.
Herding won’t stop him.
If he sets his mind to it, nothing will stop him from trying to get to “the girls” at the dairy down the road.
With my little monkey toddling around the place, I just can’t risk it — hence the castrating.
Steers are a heck of a lot more gentle than their “intact” counterparts, mostly because the only thing they’re worried about is eating. 😉 And because they’re always so busy eating, they tend to put on weight faster (which is kind of a nice bonus). I’ve also been told that the meat is higher quality: milder, more tender, better marbling, etc. (which is another bonus).
So around here, we castrate.
And we use the knife, not the bands.
Why? Well, I think Mike Rowe puts it best: click here to see his TED talk — it’s a really great talk from start to finish, and he addresses the use of bands vs. the knife. He experienced firsthand how much more distress the bands can cause.
So although the knife seems barbaric, I feel like it’s the better option. It’s quick; it’s simple; and the calf is back to his normal life in no time at all.
In fact, our little Rump was up and frolicking about the pasture less than a minute after losing his “tonsils.” 😉 And I’ve been keeping a close eye on him ever since, just to make sure it heals up and nothing gets infected.
I really do love our animals, and I want what’s best for them. I don’t want to cause them any unnecessary pain or distress.
If I do my job right, Rump’ll be happy and healthy, and he’ll only have one bad day in his entire life (and hopefully that day is already behind him). It’s kinda weird, but as a family, we like to do everything ourselves — including the castrating, slaughtering, and butchering — just to make sure it all goes as smoothly as possible.
It builds a connection between us and our animals, and I think all our lives are enriched because of it.
Rocky Mountain Oysters?
Somehow that question always comes up — and the answer is “No.”
No, definitely not.
I’ve eaten them before, but it wasn’t an enjoyable experience. Lindsey wasn’t too keen on the idea either.
This go around, the cat got one and the dog got the other…