In their early years, their role in lambing was limited. They knew it was important to keep lambs alive because they would have more to show or sell. So they worked hard at bottle feeding.
As they matured and entered into the FFA program, their SAE projects brought about a deeper level of involvement. They were responsible for nutrition, animal health, marketing and every aspect of lambing.
Their small hand size required them to deliver lambs that needed assistance. But helping with the miracle of birth brought a new emotional aspect to their education. They realized that they hold the fate of an unborn lamb in their hands. And some don't make it.
Over the years, I must say there have been more tears shed in the barn than in the home. I am grateful for the life lesson my children have learned by being involved in 4-H, FFA and agriculture. I believe it has made them stronger, wiser and more compassionate.
It is that side of agriculture-the compassion-I wish animal activist groups could experience. But I am not sure they could handle the emotional decisions made in the barn.
I know that many animal lovers share similar emotion over their pets. However, that may be one or two pets in a lifetime. We have a flock of ewes that lamb every year. And with each birth there is the possibility of death.
It would be interesting to see how animal activists would respond to every day farm life, especially during a difficult birth.
They could witness how producers make split second decisions to save the life of an animal. They would hear how we are forced to make those decisions.
Frankly, I would gladly pay a veterinarian to come out and handle the physical and emotional stress that comes with lambing problems. However, there are no large animal veterinarians that work on sheep in our area. It would require loading up a ewe in labor and hoping that she and the lambs do not die before we make it to a vet in a town 30 minutes away. Which choice would an animal activist make?