I can handle killing animals for food. In fact, I just killed a chicken on Tuesday at Stone Barns with no remorse. But when one of our yearling Old Spot sow, Laverne, died all of sudden last week, and then a few days later another sow's one and only piglet died, I have to admit it got to me. Then again, seeing the sow nudge her dead piglet and then just laying by it, completely ignoring the food I put down for her, could bring a bad-ass biker to tears.
Losing an animal is not the same as killing one because the latter is the expected outcome of raising animals, and the former causes you to stop and reflect. Am I being a good animal husband? Or have I let the animal down? We have an obligation to feed, provide shelter, ensure they remain in good health without suffering. We care a lot about our animals on the farm and we try to provide them the best care. But when an animal dies suddenly we owe it to them to stop for a moment and analyze our practices. For the most part we may not be able to prevent death, maybe they have a disease or infection that shows no signs or symptoms. But sometimes if we were just a little more in tune, maybe we could have intervened. The point is to recognize when you make a mistake and then learn from those mistakes. In the future, precautions can be taken.
Death happens on the farm or in the wild. It is a fact of life. What I take away from this experience is that raising animals is not something you take on lightly, its a big responsibility. When I have my own homestead or farm I will try to remember the importance of being a "good husband" for better, or for worse.