Warning: this post contains pictures of animals being butchered. If this kind of thing makes you uneasy I won't be offended if you skip over to a different post :)
It seemed a long way away when we purchased little "Beefy" in a hurried trip to the sale yards to replace Bessy's stillborn calf one spring morning back in 2012. Our stock agent assured us he would be 'good eating' & we trusted his judgement (which has turned out to be very accurate). As Beefy grew, we watched him meander around the paddocks. His life devoid of stress. His sides ever-widening & his rump round. He never did wean from Bessy. Strange as it was, we were quite used to seeing him leaning down feeding from her, even when he was much larger ( & when all the books tell you that the mama cow will wean the calf when she is ready...don't believe them). We often referred to Beefy as 'meat on legs' & we were looking forward to the day when he would become 'meat in the freezer'. 18 months after he joined our farmyard, that day came. Butchering day was upon us.
|About a month before butchering day!|
Butchering is done in two parts. The first day the animals are killed, skinned, cleaned & hung in a coolroom. The second day ( a week or more later) the carcasses are cut into various cuts that resemble the meat you would purchase in the shop.
We used mobile butchers & while I've seen quite a few set-ups throughout my life, this is the most professional team we've come across. They provide coolrooms & also have a complete stainless steel butchers shop on a truck! No more butchering while flies buzz around. They promptly arrived at 7am on the designated day & went right to work.
|The butchers little dog ~ I had to laugh as he tried to lug around these big pieces of carcass.|
The cows, being typical bovines, were incredibly curious about the strange ute that was driving in their paddock (It needed to go through there to get to where the butchering was to take place.). The cows were relaxed & meandering around so the butchers got straight to work. While I attempted to distract Bessy ( I didn't want her to see her baby being shot), one of the butchers made a quick kill with a single shot. That shot alone was worth paying the butchers fees as I have heard too many stories of people needing to use numerous shots to kill a steer for butchering. I could not have handled that. Thankfully Beefy went straight down (we even saw the path of the bullet into the brain). One minute he was where he always is, the next gone. No stress, no pain, in his normal environment. If an animal has to die, this is the best way for them to go.
|Halving ~ notice they used a chainsaw!|
I actually found it harder than I expected. I know I'm too soft, but once Bessy realised that something had happened to her 'baby', she began a mournful chorus that echoed across the paddocks & continued into the evening. As I ran back to the house for a container (to save the livers) & my camera ( with permission), I cried silently along with her.
|It was a beautiful, cool morning!|
Within an hour our beef was skinned, cleaned & quartered & hanging in the cool room. It was time for the pigs.
|Quartered. If you notice the rail they are hanging on runs right around & into the coolroom saving them some very heavy lifting!|
3 piglets were waiting in a shed where we had put them earlier that morning (the fourth is being sold to a friend). Ironically, it was the same shed that they were born in. It's wonderful to think that they lived every day of their life here at Sunnyside! In fact right in the adjourning shed & paddocks. One of our aims in producing our own meat is to be aware of how the animals are treated. It is wonderful to know everything that happened to them & exactly what they consumed!
|Skinning the pigs. We prefer ours skinned. I hate crackling...always have since I found hairs when I was a little girl!|
The butchers made quick work of the pigs as well, although they did mention that we have 'big animals' as they transferred the enormous quarters into the cool room .
Although that was the end of our animals, various friends had organised to bring sheep over & there was over 20 sheep for the butchers to do. All these animals were killed, cleaned & hung before lunch time!
That evening a mournful haze had settled over Sunnyside. Bessy was still missing her baby, although she did cooperate beautifully when I milked her & we have noticed a huge increase in quantity & quality of her milk now she isn't saving any for her 'baby'. Boris & Delores were missing their family ( & we've noticed that our pigs really do stick together as a family). The sadness was tangible. It was a couple of days before life returned to normal with Mama animals not searching for their young ones.
We have seen butchering done before, but this was the first time we had the butchers actually come here to Sunnyside, and this was the first time we had our own steer butchered. We are so blessed to be able to butcher our own animals with the knowledge of where they came from & how they were treated! To look your meat in the eyes & then watch the whole butchering process somehow seems authentic. It's hard to describe until you've done it yourself. Our children were amazing. Not once were they sad. To them butchering is a part of life & I love the fact that they know exactly where the meat comes from ( right down to various cuts)!
Day one of butchering is hard, but day two...well that's fun! I'll post on that soon...
Have a lovely day friends