Sunday, 7 February 2016

Second Chances

Myfanwy has had more second chances than an unproductive ewe with an attitude problem could ever hope to get if she lived on a real farm, run by a real farmer trying to make a real living out of the real farm. She's had the attitude from day one. Always the one refusing to enter the pen. Always the one when penned who jumps over the hurdles and escapes the pen. It's because of Myfanwy that we had a permanent high fenced pen built. Better that than have her break a leg, and in her time she has come too close to that for comfort.

Being unproductive came later. She had her first lamb, Ceredig, when she was a 2 year old. Ceredig was born without a problem and Myfanwy was a good mum. The following year she returned from tupping empty. That was the point at which many would have sold her as a cull ewe, destined to become a twirling elephant leg kebab. Not us. That was the point at which she got her first second chance. The following year, aged 4, she aborted the foetus nine weeks prior to lambing. A bloody tail. No great trauma. Outwardly no ill effects or change in behaviour. Myfanwy just carried on as normal, including the attitude. That was definitely when everyone else would have sold her as a cull ewe. That was what we decided to do. She escaped at the first sign of truck and trailer coming across the field to collect her. Weeks passed before she would once again go anywhere near the pen. And so we all just carried on as normal. That was her second second chance.

Knowing that Myfanwy could still get pregnant, I convinced myself that the abortion was the dog's fault, that Teri had somehow spooked Myfanwy with her erratic, lunatic dashing around the pig pens. So she got a third second chance. At nine weeks prior to lambing, almost to the day of the previous year she aborted the foetus. Again, no trauma, no sickness, just business as usual for Myfanwy. The second abortion made me immensely sad, for there could be no more second chances for Myfanwy. The continuous wet weather from November, through December, on in to January, and now February, has been proof, if proof were still needed, that we have insufficient grazing to support a larger flock. Keeping Myfanwy as a pet (with attitude) and companion ewe for lambs separated from ewes is not an option. Even if we could keep her, culling would be the end game as letting an old ewe with teeth incapable of cutting and chewing slowly starve to death is very much not an option.

It was market day in Tregaron last Friday. On a good day, a large ewe like Myfanwy could fetch up to £80 from one of the large kebab hunting companies that trawl around local markets in search of suitable meat. She didn't fetch anything like that. Not a penny. She wasn't there.

I thought about the money we could make from her. I thought about how I'd felt when we took Rhos and Lulu to market last year. I remembered that those feelings weren't good, not good at all. I couldn't reconcile myself to what would happen to Myfanwy after I walked away from the market, what did happen to Rhos and Lulu. This wasn't why we became smallholders. This isn't why we keep animals.

So it's now Sunday morning. Very early tomorrow morning Myfanwy will be going with two of our lambs to Tregaron abattoir. We will take her. We will see her walk in. She will be killed and butchered to our requirements by a butcher whose name we know and who we can talk to face to face about our animals, who will give his opinion on the quality of our animals, who knows what we do and why we do it. We will collect the meat. We will learn all there is know about how to cook mutton. We will enjoy mutton bacon for breakfast. We will make amazing curries for dinner. That is how it should be. That is why we became smallholders.

All we have to do now is get her in the pen.........

Myfanwy in the shed on the day of the birth in 2013 of Ceredig, her one and only lamb


Sue Archer said...

I think you're doing absolutely the right thing. You'll appreciate her more than a drunk with a kebab would. For me (if I were doing it) smallholding would be about self sufficiency rather than cash, (although of course cash is still needed) And I heard the other day on the radio that mutton bacon is really good.

Phil said...

Was that Kitchen Cabinet on Radio 4? We heard it too. Very timely and that was what gave David the inspiration to star researching "macon".