Driving dismally to completion
Nova Scotia is challenged with very limited places to have animals completed under the eyes of a provincial food inspector, something necessary to true food business. When I started in the business I was told "No, there is no room for you" or "You will have to wait six weeks to get a spot at the abbatoir" many times and in one instance the abattoir did not even return my call of request which was a further indication to me that there is just not enough provincially inspected capacity in NS. The past few years I have had completion done at D'aubin Family meats. It is the newest provincial inspection facility. It is also a wonderful spot with a very caring man whom I have described in previous blogs. Ralph D'aubin treats my animals with the care I require for this delicate but necessary part of providing people with lamb meat with my values. D'aubins is, however, entirely across the province from my sheep. This has meant careful planning, long advance time bookings for completions and the cost of transport necessitating that a group of animals be done at the same time. I have been also very aware of the carbon footprint I was causing with this long range completion method. Completing a lot of animals at the same time is a logistical nightmare for me when it is time to deliver my dear customers' lamb meat orders. In fall 2017 when I spent hours with google maps software and a list of customer addresses, plotting out the most efficient, least back-tracking, route to deliver lamb meat orders around HRM (Halifax Regional Municipality), I knew I had to re-consider the completion process for the next season.
So, here we are...the next season.
In an attempt to improve the carbon footprint I approached the abattoir closest to my sheep. In the past there had been "no room at the inn". Alas, its a new generation in charge so off I went, hat in hand. I was met by the now owner. "Absolutely, no problem, we can work with you.". So, encouraged with this, I continued on to find a mix of men with specialties in all the various aspects of the completion process.
August 31, day one of the new completion process, I have chosen to just take two animals on this first run of the new process. Best to deal with unconsidered challenges with a minimal number of animals. 6:00 am and it is time to get this process rolling. I take a few moments to allow myself the sober reflection that comes with this moment. I have described in previous blogs that this is, and will remain, a difficult part of my shepherding. I allow myself a few tears because I do not consider it a bad thing that I care for the animals I have helped bring into this world and worked hard to grow in a naturally healthy and caring manner. I also reflect that the people who purchase my food are people that value all the things I do to bring them their warm winter lamb meat meals. Time to go.
So, I am not great at backing up vehicles at the best of times. Backing up the truck to get a 4 inch ball of steel e x a c t l y straight on a little metal cup in order to attach the truck hitch to the hitch of the sheep bus (trailer) was, well, lets say there was some gnashing of teeth. I did achieve it, but not after many door openings to get out and find out that I was six inches to the right of the trailer, now six inches to the left of the trailer, now too far under the hitch when it rolled back that smitchen after I put the truck in park. Sigh. Recently a family member drove up to my house in a truck, turned it around and backed it onto a dump trailer without a single hesitation or curve. When I marveled at the talent he said "there's an app for that." I know that the next truck I have any say in will have this trailer hitch attachment option. It actually won't even be an option for me. For now, with this truck, I continue with my eye-balling the hitch attachment. Eventually, I got it right. At this point I would not call it success, more like, the odds of getting it in the right spot had to eventually work in my favour.
The animals walked on the trailer as soon as Louie the border collie said, "please walk on". Magic. Putting two 110 lb lambs in the sheep bus was like putting a spider in a ballroom, there was lots of extra space. I do have a box that I can put on the back of the truck to transport just a few animals but the provincial inspection requirements would mean much complication in one day in order to use it. Off I trundle, truck and trailer. An entire seven minutes later, the animals still chewing cud lazily, we arrive at the place of completion. Shaun, the person doing the completion and his right hand person, are both respectful of my extreme dedication to gentle handling so everyone remains calm, cool and relaxed. Part of my philosophy "from conception to completion" means I am with the animals at this time. Once completed it is time for me to take the sheep bus back to Wiles Lake. This meant turning the trailer around in the small parking lot at the abattoir. The provincial meat inspector, the completion gentlemen and a couple of bystanders were all duly entertained with my lack of skills in this department. Lets just say I am better at birthing sheep then at backing up trailers. After much jigging and jogging the front of the truck was facing the highway. It was at this point that the owner of the abattoir said "You know, we can do things a little differently so you can use your box in the future rather
than use the trailer". Now do you know how bad I am at backing up? We changed the completion process the first day to allow for my inability to drive.
Settling into the new completion process, almost weekly I make a short drive to the local abattoir and another day in the week I spend a few hours weighing and packaging while a talented man stands beside me turning a carcass into the many cuts of meat that suit my customer's favourite lamb meat recipes.
Now, a bit of time into this new process, everything is working well, thanks mostly to the co-operation between a mix of men with varying and equally important talents and licensed facilities. My father told me, a long time ago, you will never know if you can achieve new things unless you ask. He went on to say that as long as you can accept a "no" when it comes along, you will never get a "yes" unless you ask.
Many thanks to all the men in the new completion process for their "yes". The customers are giving me positive feedback on the quality of meat and the carbon footprint for the completion process has reduced dramatically.