The Empty Cage

There are times that an empty cage is a blessing. Maybe you finally sold that doe you’d been wanting to get rid of. Maybe you’re making room to add some new genetics to the herd. Sometimes, that cage is more a physical representation of an empty spot in your heart.

When you raise livestock and are an animal lover, one of the biggest challenges can be learning not to get attached to your animals. Sometimes, you just can’t help it though. There are animals that have personalities you can’t help but fall in love with. There are others that represent important achievements or points of time. And no matter how well your animals are taken care of and no matter how much you try to avoid it, raising livestock means that, at some point, you’re going to have to learn to deal with loss as well, whether that means your favorite animal passing away or realizing it’s time to send a unproductive one off to market.

Yesterday, we had to put our oldest buck, Tundra, down. Tundra was the first rabbit that Jenna gave Nick. The first New Zealand that he showed. To be honest, he wasn’t that old; just barely 5 years, but since we moved about a month ago, he hasn’t been himself. He barely wanted to eat, he was losing weight, he was lethargic. Then yesterday morning we found him laying in his cage, alive, but unable to get up and move around and we knew it was time to let him go. Maybe it was the heat or the stress of the move. We don’t really know.

It was a sad day and Tundra will be missed in the barn. Luckily, he multiplied like, well, rabbits do and he has offspring and other relatives to care on his genes in future generations. And thanks to Jenna for coming to “do the deed.” Even when you’re accustomed to processing animals, there are some that you just can’t bring yourself to put down.

And any animal right activist who says that producers don’t care about their livestock, that they are “just property” to us, has never seen the tears shed over the animals that we’ve had to let go.

RIP Tundra…

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Nick and Tundra at the 2015 Hillsborough County Fair.

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