Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Gravy Train

Food - the foremost concern in farm animals. Food – the foremost concern in man retaining farm animals.

It is known that man - in his domestication of farm animals - is able to produce a higher yielding product than nature would on her own. Case in point: The chickens at Casa Lanzarotti do not sit on their eggs. Once delivered, they run off to feed themselves. Hence, there is little chance of a chick ever hatching; the chickens are bred to solely produce eggs, not to mother.

Similarly, the sheep at Ca’Mazzetto are bred to produce milk. Naturally, to produce milk they must produce a lamb but many of the ewes do not care for their lambs; they prefer milking by the machine. Why? I’m guessing because A) the milking suctions have no teeth and B) because the milk parlor is where they get fed their favorite food.

Twice a day, in the morning and in the evening, the ewes eagerly await at a ramp that leads up to the milking stations. The collies are also at the gate, cleaning the queued sheep by gently eating bugs off their wool; the sheep do not seem to mind the nuzzling.

Twenty-four ewes at a time enter the gate, each in its own unit. The sheep place their heads in the feeder which is full of delicious (and nutritious) grains including oats, barley, and fava beans. A bar secures each sheep’s head in the feeder and the entire unit moves placing the sheep’s udder at the ideal working level for the milk-man (i.e., Pasquale).

The milk-man reaches around the tail and the dingle-berries to check for milk; if present, he attaches a pulsating suction to each of the two nipples. To test, I stick my finger in the suction and indeed - no teeth! The milk is collected via tubes and sent through a filter to a holding unit. To taste, I pour off some milk and indeed – delicious (and nutritious).

Frequently, a ewe will kick and fidget prior to being milked; chances are, a clever adolescent lamb has snuck into the milk parlor and is helping himself to a free meal since the ewes are secured and unable to escape.

Tonight we have an Australian family with two wafer-thin freckle-faced curious little girls. They cannot take their eyes of the sheep, especially the sneaky lambs.

“Come now.” The father prompts them along.

“Ah Dad! Do we have to?”

“It’s dinner time.”

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