Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Beef for dinner

Sometimes you have to roll with the punches. The steer wasn't any better this morning, and was going into shock -- eyes rolling back, gums pale, etc. The goal of my farm is to grow food for people, and if I let the cow go any longer there's a good chance I'll lose it as human food, so it has to go now.

These are the parts I used to assemble a singletree. This is some tackle that allows you to hoist a large animal in the air to make the slaughtering process easier. I guessed at the measurements from pictures in "basic butchering of livestock and game", link below, and assembled it on a 4x4 doug fir timber that I milled last year.

I measured between the legs of the steer that I'm butchering today, and got a basic measurement of 24". The parts cost a total of $70 -- $17 each for the S hooks (they rotate in the center so that they're easier to attach to the animal) and I chose stainless steel eye bolts as well, to make sure that the metal touching the meat doesn't discolor or add a taste to it. Stainless steel is a pretty standard meat handling material. The four eye bolts are 3/8" stainless, the main eye bolt is 3/4" galvanized steel.

Here the singletree is hanging from the chain hook on the tractor. Now that it's ready, it's time for the steer to go.

I'm going to skip shooting the cow with a .22, cutting the throat, and go directly to the hoist. the singletree works as it should. For this cow I used the inner set of hooks. For a bigger animal I might use the outer set. The 4x4 is 40" long, the center eye bolt is set at 20", the inner eye bolt is 12" from the center, and the outer eye bolt is 18" from the center. To insert the hooks into the steer I used a knife to make a hole, and then hooked it, and pulled the hook over to the single tree to attach it. With S hooks I was a bit worried about the cow bouncing off as we moved it with the tractor, but it wasn't a problem.

Sorry about the picture. it was snowing a whole bunch at the time, and it was cold, and I was lazy.

After the cow has been killed the basic butchering begins. Because I was limited on daylight I tied off the bung, skinned the animal and field-dressed it -- removed the internal organs and then propped it open to cool. I blocked the front loader so the beef wouldn't hit the ground during the night, and called it a day. Total elapsed time from the shot to here is 2 hours. An hour of that was my very slow skinning of the animal. This is the first cow I've ever butchered, so I was extra careful to take the hide off in one piece. There's a tannery local to me that will tan the hide with the hair on. I think I'll try that.

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