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Mishnayot Zevachim 8:1-3 repeatedly prescribe the strategy of "יִרְעוּ עַד שֶׁיִּסְתָּאֲבוּ" - "they graze until they become defected" for dealing with animals that are stuck in situations of doubt with respect to whether they should be offered as korbanot. The idea is that the doubtful animal is left to graze until it develops a defect that invalidates it for offering. When that happens, it's legal to sell the animal to the general meat market and then use the proceeds to purchase whatever korban it may have been committed to.

I'm wondering how this strategy works, in practice.

  • Are animals destined to be korbanot kept in safer conditions than general-market animals, while those in this יע"ש situation are kept in regular conditions?

Or:

  • Are animals destined to be korbanot kept in the same conditions as general-market animals, while those in this יע"ש situation are kept in worse conditions?

Or:

  • Are all animals kept in the same conditions, and we assume it's just a matter of time until they develop a defect?

In any case:

  • Is there a standard period of time, under יע"ש conditions, within which it's expected that an animal will develop a defect, or is there a wide distribution for this duration, such that many such animals pasture for the rest of their lives?
  • In Europe they use to keep them in the cemetery IINM – Double AA Jul 24 at 22:34
  • The Bostoner Rebbe, זצ''ל, had a story about this in his book, And the Angels Laughed. A farmer had a bechor in his flock of cattle. He allowed it to graze normally, and wildly, until the inspector (from USDA?) stapled a label to its ear, which made it a ba'al mum. In this case, it waited for the inspector's second visit (a year later), as the staple the first year hadn't properly injured the calf. – Menachem Jul 25 at 3:40
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    BTW: Not all "יִרְעוּ עַד שֶׁיִּסְתָּאֲבוּ" are "sold to purchase a Korban". A Bechor (firstborn) is "יִרְעוּ עַד שֶׁיִּסְתָּאֲבוּ" and then can be eaten by its owner. – Danny Schoemann Jul 25 at 8:31
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    My wife's great-grandfather Rav Avrohom Mordechai Cohen (1868-1958) was given a calf as a Bechor in Kovno. He kept it chained to a tree as it grew into a huge bull. Once a year a Rov would approach it fearfully to check it for blemishes. One (un)happy night a wolf attacked and ate it. – Danny Schoemann Jul 25 at 8:36
  • My answer should be accepted, I guess. – Alaychem Jul 31 at 13:30
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I would deduct that your first guess is the correct one .

For the korbanot conditions, it's common sense.

For the יע"ש:

Mishna Bechorot p5

מתני' מעשה בזכר של רחלים זקן ושערו מדולדל וראהו קסטור אחד ואמר מה טיבו של זה אמרו לו בכור הוא ואינו נשחט אלא א"כ היה בו מום נטל פיגום וצרם אזנו ובא מעשה לפני חכמים והתירו ואחר שהתירו הלך וצירם באזני בכורות אחרים ואסרו ...זה הכלל כל שהוא לדעתו אסור שלא לדעתו מותר:

"A deed of old bechor sheep... A Rome saw it and asked "Why it's in this condition (old age)?", He was answered "It's bechor, and not to be slain until defected". He took a rod and injured his ear. The sages allowed to use the meat. When the Rome did it again they forbid it...That's the rule - If it's unknowingly, it's allowed, but if knowingly, it's forbid"

So if the bechor reached old age I guess that it wasn't really poorly treated.

It also answers your last question.

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