Simplified Animal Care

If you spend much time reading books and articles on animal care around the
farm, your head will begin to spin.  There is hardly a source that agrees with
another and the articles get more and more technical.  Folks, we’re taking care
of animals here, not programming the space shuttle.  It seems that this should
be much simpler than the university farmers make it seem–and it is.

First of all, let’s remind ourselves of two basic principles that do not
change:

1.  "The Lord is My Shepherd" (Psalm 23)
2.  "Sufficient for a day is its own evil." (Matt 6)

Before opening the farm and garden books, just stop and think:  God made
the world.  God made plants, animals and men.  They are understood
truly only when understood in God.  If we know God, we know a great deal
about His creatures–more than those who study them as isolated creatures who
evolved from some ancient chaos.  The animals were designed by God. 
They relate to Him and His ways are present in them by their creation. 
They are not strangers to us, for we too were formed by His hands.  Let us
then begin by realizing how much we DO know about animals.

1.  Animals are created for man.
2.  Animals have no reason or souls.
3.  Animals do not live forever.
4.  The grass and plants of the earth were made for animals to eat.
5.  Man was designed to direct the lives of animals–even before the fall.
6.  Man’s relationship with animals is regularly compared with God’s
relationship with men in Scripture. 

So, we need to know how to care for sheep.  We know they need food and
that their food consists of grasses and plants.  We know they need water
and that is found easily enough.  We know that they need protection from
predators and from their own simplicity, as well as from inclement weather. 
In ancient times, shepherds provided these needs personally by attending to the
sheep directly.  We can and should do the same.  How should we do it?

It’s simple:  reflect on Psalm 23.  David, who was a shepherd, says
that the Lord is his shepherd.  In other words, David recognized in his
relationship to God much that was true also of his own relationship to his
sheep.  We don’t know what David’s relationship to his sheep was, but we
can use our knowledge of his relationship to God to figure it out  This is
the content of Psalm 23.  Based on what David says God does for him, he
must do the following for his sheep:

  • provide all their needs
  • provide them with green pastures to graze
  • provide them with fresh waters
  • keep them strong and healthy
  • keep them in their proper boundaries
  • provide them with security from enemies/dangers

That’s not complicated at all!  So, what’s all the fuss about? 
Farmers immediately begin wrangling to maximize their profits, but this is a
strategy God does not use.  God does not use as a means of His own personal
gain–He loves us even though we are as beneath Him as sheep are beneath us. 
He does what is good for us–and that always leads to greater gains than are
received by those who narrowly scheme for selfish gains.  As imitators of
God we are seeking to prostitute our animals for monetary gains…our animals
and the life we live IS our gain.  As Mr. Scrooge’s first boss famously
said, "There is more to life than money, sir…it is about preserving a way of
life."  Our greatest happiness is the way of life that we share with God
himself.

Second, many new to farming stress out because they try to have everything
planned out on a piece of paper.  Stop wasting your time.  Books will
give recommendations for a million and one different scenarios–and often none
of those scenarios will be yours.  Remember that God cares for us
individually and personally–not in the modern mechanical way of mass-feeding
animals in enclosed buildings.  We are not trying to exploit animals for
money.  We are caring for a farm–which should be a mini-universe, where
every part of creation enjoys its original harmony and God is all in all. 
Once we stop trying to serve Money, all will be simple again.  The farmer
is paid in fresh milk, a warm fire, strong hands and peace of mind….money
spoils them all.  Forget about all the technical advice…that’s intended
for a different audience.

Third, start and end with today’s work.  You have a sheep?  Good. 
In what condition is that sheep?  She’s a pregnant ewe.  Good. 
A pregnant ewe’s needs are the same as any ewe but, perhaps, for some extra
grain for energy and nutrients.  She only needs a pound or two each day,
depending on how she’s doing.  Feed her half in the morning and half in the
evening, just as we eat–it’s not confusing.  Can you give her some grass? 
Yes.  Good.  Can you give her some water?  Yes.
Good.  What’s so difficult about that?

But I have twenty sheep!   Then do the same for them–your reason
will help you and you will have twenty happy sheep.  It will only take a
little time in the morning and some more in the evening with maybe a check-up at
midday. 

But I don’t have time for this care?  Teach your children to help
you and simplify your daily activitues–otherwise you might not be a farmer
after all.  You can’t punish the sheep because you’re busy!  You would
certainly be no God-like shepherd and your farm would be no heavenly farm. 
Caring for the sheep is simply–it’s the rest of your life that confuses things. 
Jesus said, "Sufficient for a day is its own evil."  You will be surprised
to learn that you really don’t do as much each day as you think you do.  Do
what is most important right now…and continue to do that all day and you will
have no more troubles.  Tomorrow you’ll start all over again and enjoy
another peaceful and productive day…with a villa pacis of your own.

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