Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Butchering a bull

Starting over with our farm has left our freezer pretty empty. Last fall we started looking around for where to buy a whole or a half of beef, boy is it expensive. I am not saying it is not worth it but we could not afford $1500 for a processed half.

We then had another idea we would look for a steer (neutered) that was old enough for us to keep him for a few months then we would butcher him ourselves. We looked but finding steer that were raised up to our standards became quite difficult. Then we found a place close by that was selling Scottish highlander bulls, 100% grass-fed.

Shaggy this fall while on breeding duty

Many people say that meat from a bull (not neutered) will be tough or have a strong unpleasant flavor. However I read several comments that this is not true of Dexters or Scottish Highlanders. So we bought a 2+ year old highlander bull, put him in with our Dexter cow. A kind of two for one deal, that is if he bred her and if the meat tasted the way we were hoping.

Last weekend we slaughtered the bull, which went okay. This is the first time we have done all the work ourselves. There are many things that if we had would have made the job easier, like a tractor. But we made due with what we had.

Then we let the quarters hang in a lean-to type building. The weather has been beyond cold so the butchering needed to get done, and that is what we started yesterday.

We have 3 more quarters to process, one is in the kitchen at this very moment- warming up. We have always done the slaughtering on the farm, with help, but never have we butchered a cow. To say it has been a learning experience would be an understatement.  We have a couple books that have been helpful Whole Beast Butchery and Basic Butchering. And having butchered some lambs and a goat has been somewhat helpful. After today the two back quarters will be cut, packaged, and placed in the freezer.


Alison said...

Man, that is a lot of work. I hope it tastes good after all that. Did your Dexter get pregnant?? We just got our very first 1/2 cow from our neighbor. We are splitting 4 ways, that has helped with the costs, but gives us less meat. So, for the first time it's not so bad. Now we can save for entire 1/4 for ourselves next year. Plus our neighbor has eggs for sale too, so that has been wonderful!

Duskwind Farm said...

It has been and still is a lot of work. But the nice thing is that we can go slow. We are stumbling around a lot but this is our first time and there are many wrinkles to iron out.

We wont know until this summer if Ezra is pregnant- but we sure hope she is. We did record her heat cycle and have not seen her go into heat again, but you never know for sure.

I am so glad that you are finding great resources for food. Who knows one of these years you might raise a steer, or some laying hens. Oh, you should ask your neighbor if you can get manure for your garden!

Alison said...

I do hope that Ezra is pregnant. That would be great!

We did get manure for the garden and our neighbor was kind of enough to bring it over in the small spreader. So Tony tilled it into the soil last fall. Should be nicely composted and ready to grow some amazing vegetables this coming summer.

A friend of mine and I are planning on learning how to can this summer too. So much to learn! Hoping I can find my Grandpa's stewed tomato recipe. I think one of my cousins may have it.

I'm also planning on planting herbs in my old small garden along with some calandula. And doing more gathering of wild plants to make healing salves and such out of. It's going to be a busy but good summer.

Duskwind Farm said...

Can't wait to see pictures of your garden this year. I am just finalizing my order (well actually just waiting for Chuck to pick out what tomatoes he wants).

I ordered 25 laying hens yesterday from Sandhill Preservation Center (they also have seeds). Hoping to get them early March.

Sounds like both are farms are starting to come together!!

Artistta said...

Out of curiosity how much did your cow end up costing? We are always looking for ways to raise our own meat. I've been researching like crazy different ways we can do this. We've been slaughtering our own chickens as well as eating their eggs of course. I too just placed my order with Sandhill this last week, we did a little over 40 with them last year and this year have another 25 coming along with 15 ducks. We've had great success with their chickens and love some of the older breeds like the Russian Orloffs and the Old English. Next on the list is to find 2-4 feeder pigs either pure bread herritage breed or a mix of several lines. I wanted to do lambs this year too, but not sure we are going to be ready. Good luck with butchering the rest of your cow. I'm sure it's a huge job. We did a pig (not too big about 115lbs) and a deer and realized that despite all that we read on how to do it their is certainly a learning curve. We are going to try and set up a way to better pull up and hang the carcasses for future butchering. It would make sawing them in have far easier and we are going to make a large butcher table out of some wood on the property. Oh the fun of doing things on your own!

Duskwind Farm said...

We paid $800 for the bull and $150 to have him moved. We had never slaughtered anything this big by ourselves so did not have all the tools. Chuck had to buy some knives and meat hooks. He also wanted a boning hook but did not get one this time. The goal has always been to raise a steer to butcher every year. When up in Northern MN we bought a couple of bull calves one cost $45 and was a jersey mix the other cost around $75 and was a pure bred Jersey. The farm that we got the jersey from I don't think is too far from you. If I remember right it is on your way to Cambridge on 95. They calve all year and are not necessarily grass based but Chuck worked for them for a bit and he thought they were pretty good to their cows.

It takes about 2 years from calf to butcher time so if you bought a calf this spring you would not butcher until 2015, and I would wait until fall so they are right off of pasture. Then if you just bought a calf every year you would have one to butcher. Or you could always get your cow:)

Feeder pigs are great. There is a place up in Taylor falls I think (or around there) that you can buy feeder pigs from and they have some heritage breed boars to mix in with their sows. They advertize in the shopper I just can't remember the name.

We are so excited to have our own eggs and chickens again! I love Sandhill!!

Keep me posted on your farm!