Monday, 22 December 2014

Betty becomes Beef

This post is not for the faint hearted, and it does contain photos and information upon slaughtering and butchery of livestock- so if you are sensitive to this I do not advise you continue reading. However I will not apologise for posting it, as we do raise and eat our own produce; livestock and garden, so this is the reality of the lifestyle.

With our previous cow the opportunity came about for some knowledgeable assistance, so we took it. This time it became a matter that she had to go, to make the most of our investment. As harsh as that is. We had intended to do this months ago, but with one thing and another it just didn't happen. 
Betty had been a good cow; and I know many think were mad for naming our livestock and building a relationship with them. But I think its inevitable... Though it never gets any easier.

To minimise the stress, Betty was moved into the paddock near the yard last week (a mission in itself). And we kept taking her protein meal (molasses bi-product)  to encourage her to walk in there with us present.
Then on the day a well place shot did the job.
She was then moved to the shed (and eventually cold room using a jib and a clean lined ute tray.

Keeping the kill and processing onsite as this minimises stress to the animal prior to the act itself. Not only do we not only want to stress our animals, as I would have mentioned, despite our plans for them, we still care. But in a production sense, stress in any animal causes the release of adrenaline which affects the quality and taste of the meat. A happy animal provides quality meat, even at the very end.  


As with my previous blog on this subject I have used a diagram from a book we have regularly referenced (Basic Butchering of Livestock & Game, John J. Mettler Jr.) to demonstrate the most effective point.




Following the kill the animal needs to be bled by cutting the throat and pumping the front leg (this will speed up this process). This is to be done immediately, as blood within the carcass may encourage bacteria growth, contaminating the meat, making the kill itself pointless.


It is at this point the voice box was removed and the oesophagus was tied off using twine. This avoids any contamination during gutting, especially as our cow had not been deprived of food.


So once down the cow was positioned on her back 


Once bled the front hooves/legs were removed. The removal point is just below the joint, as there is a lot of connective tissue in the joints themselves.


 
From this point the skin was split up the centre of the beast and udders removed.


Remove a strip of skin from the inner side of the front legs (approx. 1-2 inches/ 25-50mm) from brisket to elbow joint. Then work from head/front legs to back


 





Extra care is required near the hips and spine side of the ribs, if intending to keep the hide.



Once the chest is exposed it is possible to ‘split the brisket’ ready for ‘eviscerating’ (gutting)


Skinning begins here, as the skin is separated, we began to winch the carcass. This was achieved by inserting a gambrel rail/ spreader bar, at this point you realise how important the connective tissue below the knee/elbow joints are. This lift can be done progressively, as required to assist with the removal of the hide.

 Remove the tail and cut around the anus, pull out and tie off with twine (creating a bung).


 Once the carcass is upright and skin removed the next stage is to gut.


 

Using the technique pictured is essential when gutting, ensuring the blade is pointing outwards avoid nicking anything you shouldn’t.


 So starting from the area where the udders were removed make a small incision and work the knife (handle to beast, blade outward), down the middle to the brisket. You will need to support the organs, to ensure there is no contact with the blade. Once there gravity will complete the next stage, especially if the animal was not fasted like ours. Pull gut to floor, remove any remaining organs. Separate any you wish to save, and bag rest that is to be disposed of.

It was at this point we removed the head, although am sure this could have been dealt with earlier.


The carcass was split into half and quarters for hanging. The diagram uses a hand saw, we used a NEW chainsaw. This chain saw was oiled with vegetable oil and this is to be its sole purpose.



Once split down the middle the halves were split again, creating ‘quarters’. To do this we used a knife to separate from the ‘11th rib’ (counting from the front) and used a handsaw to cut the spine. (I had a call from the boys to confirm this during processing... never hurts to check)


These were then transferred to a coldroom for hanging. It is vital that the quarters do not touch, as again this can harvest bacterial growth and spoil the meat. Hanging takes place for a week onwards. Ready yo be divided into cuts and mince.
 










Keeping the freezer stocked.

When you grow your own livestock for the freezer there are often gluts and lulls. You do try to avoid it, but its not always possible. And as we come toward the end of our pork supplies from our last pig and following the disappointment of losing not only our first ever piglet (bred here), but not actually keeping one to grow ourselves (due to committing to sales). We decided to purchase a couple of 'porkers' for the freezer- Meet 'Fennel' (the bigger boy) and 'Mustard'.

Fennel is a Berkshire cross; crossed with a Tamworth, so faster growing (hopefully). It will be interesting to compare a Berkshire cross to our usual pork. As we often sell to those planning on using them this way and have had a Berkshire x Saddleback in the past, with good results.. Though its not something we will be pursuing. 

Whilst Mustard is a pure Berkshire barrow (castrated male)... not our choice, but as he was for the freezer we weren't bothered either way. We don't usually castrate for ourselves, though I appreciate they are generally easier to sell this way.  Maybe this way he may be able to live a little longer, along side our bore without too much trouble.


Fennel being older and hopefully a little faster growing should reach kill size sooner. But don't worry we do not plan for Mustard to be alone, as we have put a deposit on a sow (piglet, from another bloodline) to be collected early next year. This should help with our future pork supply.



In the mean time our freezer consists of beef. Betty our remaining original cow finally met her destiny... after many reprieves.
It was more than time, and we were running out of grazing and were exhausting our hay stocks. Not that we mind feeding the animals. And we had finally got around to dividing the paddock; allowing us to rotate the cattle. But without rain there just wasn't enough for 3 and it was Betty's time.

I did write up a piece on butchering your own beef when we processed Betty's sister Susie over 16 months ago. 

http://www.maes-y-delyn.com/2013/08/our-first-cow-in-freezer-step-by-step.html



To be honest the boys did this one without my help, as we currently have visitors and we're juggling the care of our 3 month old baby. But I will still aim to write up a piece in detail, as they did still take a few pictures for me.