The person you never want to have to call, but who plays a vital role in keeping the countryside running.
Anything involving death is a sensitive subject, but when you’re in close proximity to animals, you’re going to be faced with it at some point, hopefully I can cover this subject as respectfully as possible here.
A Knacker or Knackerman are old terms for a person who collects fallen stock- which is livestock that has died of natural causes or disease, or is killed on farm for a reason other than human consumption.
They’re who you call when an animal in your care doesn’t or can’t make it to their final destination, the abattoir. Whether that’s because there was a sudden death, an accident leaving an animal in need of putting out of its misery, or an illness that can’t be treated.
In an ideal world, all our farm animals will end their life, whether that’s at 5 months or 15 years, walking off the farm, healthy and stress free, to meet a humane end they know nothing about and then go on to feed and sustain others. But life doesn’t always work like that and sometimes, unfortunate things happen, or old age catches up sooner than you anticipated, and that’s where the Knackerman comes in.
They drive all over the countryside, often covering hundreds of miles in a day, visiting farms in their hour of need. Due to the laws surrounding the death of livestock, you must dispose of any fallen farm animals in a licenced way. Unlike with pets, you aren’t allowed to bury livestock, so any which die on farm have to be taken away by a licenced Knackerman or someone similar.
The meat can’t be sold for human consumption, but I was comforted recently to learn from a friend who used to work as a Knackerman that the animals still have a use and become part of the cycle of life.
The hide is removed and sold to make leather products. Parts of the animals are then rendered into usable materials, such as tallow (made from animal fat), that can be used in soaps but also as an alternative to traditional fuel oils, and meat and bone meal that can be used as a type of fertiliser or a fossil fuel replacement in electricity generation and cement plants. What’s left of the animal is then incinerated.
Fallen stock collectors are a vital part of waste disposal and protecting biosecurity, and they definitely don’t get enough appreciation for the work they do.
You come to know the Knackerman well if you farm for any length of time, ours has been the same person for years and has helped us many times to keep our promise to our animals and prevent them from suffering.
It’s not all doom and gloom, despite dealing with death. We’ve had a good laugh at times, especially the when an old girl had died simply of old age, or so we thought…
She was laid in a stable, where she’d been getting some extra care for her final days. It wasn’t until the Knackerman was on their way that someone went into the stable to clear away the water buckets and hay, only to find her stood eating. She’d only been having a very deep snooze earlier!