Tuesday 25 October 2016

(Nearly) Seeing it All

A first scrape-the-ice morning this morning.
The days I like best are the ones filled with livestock activities. Friend Charlotte phrased it best when she said that what she misses about having left home and gone off to college and to work in Dublin, is that before she departed and when the place was full of animals and birds, "There was always something to DO, even if it was just mucking out the rabbits". Regular readers will know that when she is back around, down here, she remains our No.1 go-to person to help with stock jobs.

Some '365' pics of a favourite local walk. The Golden Mile
The last 24 hours have been no exception and a real team effort, mainly because the main animal involved was one of hers, the 7 month old kid, originally born here, Henry-Óg (or 'Henno' for short). He had finally come round to his 'finish' - he is getting sexually mature and would have been harassing his Mum and falling foul of his big-horned 'step-father', 'Billy'. Smelling too, as Billy goats can. He needed ear-tagging and then hauling off to the butcher we use for our pigs, in Castlerea.

Stone stile into the old graveyard
He was a bit grown-up to be getting ear-tagged (it would hurt him and he was not going to like it) but when he was at the right (softer) age of 6 weeks, the family were in the process of moving to their new place in a different county, which meant that their herd number and supply of old tags no longer 'worked'. They have since had to apply to the new county and only now can buy tags with the new correct serial numbers. The new tags work with my 'pliers' (applicator) so I nipped across to do the deed while Charlotte held the very tame Henno in a firm grip lest he jump at the unwelcome and un-anaesthetised "ear piercings". He squeaked but was quickly OK. He, of course had no idea what was in store for him and why he needed the tags.

That was yesterday. Today I was back over there to collect him up, now meekly walking alongside Charlotte on dog-collar and lead and not objecting when boosted unceremoniously into the trailer. We drove him gently down and, because he'd be led 'round the back' I simply parked outside the butcher's in the street, no need to do that tricky road-blocking reverse into the tight alleyway up the side of the shop.

Liz was up to Dublin with the local Knitting Club on Sunday
and bought, she said, "ALL the wool"
So Charlotte led the lad in to meet his fate and I took the paperwork into the shop. I heard a short conversation about "doing him now" and I knew that Charlotte likes to get back all the 'gribbly bits' for dog treats, chews and food. Also that K-Dub fancied making knife handles from the horns, so they would be bring the head home too. Unbeknownst to me, C had led the goat into the shed and when the slaughterman suggested she might like to 'leave' and she'd replied that, no, she was 'grand' and happy to help, the guy had lifted the humane killer (captive-bolt gun), steadied Henno's head and popped him between the eyes, and had the sharp 'sticking' knife out practically before the lad hit the floor. A gush of blood and Henno was dead inside, Charlotte said, 5 seconds of being led in. It took her longer, she said, to get the dog-collar off him than it had taken for him to die; no drama, no pain, no awareness of what was happening. Clean, fast, efficient and humane. Surely the best way.

C then came back into the shop to talk offal and collection times and the boss said that if we wanted we could watch his man behead, skin and gut the late Henno there and then and take all the bits way with us, save coming back on an extra trip (I also got the impression that he would be relieved to pass us the head and bits lest they got lost during any intervening days!). It was all grist to the mill for hardy Charlotte but it would be my first time seeing this process but hey, in for a penny, I was sure I'd not let the side down by getting upset or 'gipping' all over the floor.

The sun rises through the trees around our house, as seen
from 2 fields away (to the West, obviously)
It was, I must admit, a bit of a shock to see him lying there with a bright red whoosh of blood coming from a gaping neck wound, his eyes still bright and his body steaming gently on the floor. We stood and chatted to the guy and saw a masterclass in cleaning a dead goat, with Charlotte steadily accumulating a bag of bits - the head, 'trotters' tail, scrotum and 'balls', then stomach (for the tripes), liver, heart, kidneys, lungs. It was like the pig "everything but the squeal" thing - the lad was pretty much left with just the intestines and skin (too goat-smelly). He had a good work out skinning the animal because, as in Henno, goats often have no fat beneath the skin so that the easy "fisting" thing they would do on sheep, pushing a fist between flesh and skin to separate the layers, is very hard on a goat.

All up we were in there less than an hour. Impressive and, as I said, re-assuring to know how humane, stress-free and painless it all is behind the scenes. The carcass now hangs in the cold store till Thursday when they can go down to collect it and see it cut up. For Charlotte and I, 'Phase 2' and the turn of my animals once we'd brought the trailer home and partaken of some nice banana/nut-loaf and a cup of tea (Liz was enjoying having been able to sub the job out to Charlotte and had baked but had also landed a 78 page document to proof read and correct for Mrs Silverwood).

We finally found venison! This from the Wicklow Mountains
but to us via Aldi (supermarket) in Roscommon. Cheap too!
My sheep were the ones in the frame now. I needed to fluke and worm drench all 4, inject new ewe-lamb 'Rosie' for Clostridium and fit her EID (electronic) ear tag to complete her legal identification now that we have decided to keep her as a breeding ewe. The latter went better than for Henno. Her ears must be softer or less sensitive (or I just missed all the nerves). She barely twitched as the 'pliers' closed, pushing the inner and outer halves of the tag together through her flesh. The drenching was 10 ml of each of two 'gloops' for each ewe, one white, one blue. These went OK and all ewes managed to swallow most of their 'shot' adroitly snuck into the side of the mouth while Charlotte held their nose high and sky-ward and their lips closed. No dribbling, ladies! Yes, it probably DOES taste awful but it's for your own good!

Soggy Doggies
At that point Charlotte's work here was done and I could deliver her home with her bags of offal etc and my afternoon "livestock" jobs were just all the feed rounds and taking the dogs for a lovely long walk across the Kiltybranks bog-land including a chance to leap into the stream and get nice and wet and muddy. Bless them. We have also been continuing their training on how to live with and love kittens and not eat them at the first opportunity. This is going a bit variably but so far no-one has been eaten, so I guess it's a success.

Deefer eye-ing up the hunting potential
of 2 kittens in Mum's easy chair.
Finally we remember our great friend Diane (also 'Diamond' on this blog) whose Birthday would have been today. RIP Diane. Still miss you. Never forgotten. Posh Cheese!

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