e_moon60 (e_moon60) wrote,

Adventures in Carnivory: No Bull

This continues some information on home meat supply for those who are interested.  The gory details (only a few because I have to get off the computer soon) are behind a cut, but even before that...if you come home exhausted after 14 hours of work you're not used to, run out in the midnight dark to pull damp clothes off the line, you will probably put your car keys in your jeans pocket and not on the hook.   And then when you pull off the jeans and toss them in the washer, you will be too tired to notice the keys are still there.  It will become blindingly obvious when you put those wet clothes in the dryer at 1 am or so.

Note: if you're still reading, then you asked for whatever gory details follow.  Don't blame me if you're squicked.

Point one of home butchery:  big animals are built like small animals but scaling up means a LOT more work.  LOT more work.  Like hours and hours and hours more work.    Yes, I know, the pros do it faster.   We were three old geezers over sixty and one volunteer under sixty, who had already put in hours of work getting the barn and work tables really-really clean when the real action started.  No blame to J- the rancher, who has many other responsibilities including some that keep him up  nights (literally), but after six hours of cleaning, we then faced nearly eight of working with the carcass.  And it's not all done (though the critical part is.)

A 9mm to the head will drop a 1500 pound bull.   Bang, he goes down, that's it.  Dead bull.   The other bulls in the lot, all younger and smaller,  startled, but immediately calmed down and acted curious "What's he doing on the ground?  Can we get back to the cubes now?  Why are you people in our way?" 

Scaling up problem 1.    1a. Large bulls have more effective reflex kicking than sheep.    Being kicked by a dead bull is...being kicked by a bull.   That it's random and not really directed is beside the point if it whacks you.   This is probably why, in one documentary viewed before this adventure, the bovine was thoroughly trussed up before slaughter.  OTOH, such trussing increases stress to the animal and probably can't be considered humane.   The person who got kicked may no longer care about that.   

1b. A small tractor with a front-end loader does a great job lifting lamb, sheep, and small bovine (say 450 pounds like Nameless Heifer who broke her leg) carcasses up for subsequent working on.  1500 pounds is a heckuva lot more than 450.   We got to watch a tractor nearly tip over.  Multiple times.  It's kind of exciting when a tractor suddenly lurches to one side and the wheels on one side come off the ground.  Once.   After that it's heart-in-mouth every time it happens.  It took quite a while to get said bull carcass back to the barn.  (Why was he shot in the field?  Because in the field he wasn't spooked or jumping around or otherwise being difficult.   Hardly had the tractor moved the big dead bull out of the several-acre field where they've been confined than the other three had their heads back in the trough.  "Thank goodness those idiot humans are  out of our way.") 

Scaling up problem 2: Skinning a 1500 pound animal who is...um...at least 15 feet tall when hanging by its hind legs is...not the easiest thing in the world.   There's more hide to cut off.  It weighs...a lot.  This is helpful, for part of the process, but putting hide and head into a big tub is...less than easy.  And the head of a big bull weighs more than the head of a young heifer...I could lift Nameless's head by the ears.  Turns out for a big heavy bull head you stick your fingers up its nose and use that for a handle.  (Yeah, I know--cow snot--yuck.)

Scaling up problem 3:  Unknown to us (some of us anyway) a large bull's sternum (breastbone) is more like the keel of a ship than what we normally think of as sternum.  Like, um, over 2 inches thick.  Bone over 2 inches thick is, um, hard to get through.  Rancher had created an improvised tool, using a salvaged printshop paper cutter blade--wicked sharp and heavy and hard to hold, to be pounded through the bone with a sledgehammer, like a giant cleaver. (Yes, picture mild-mannered writer pounding steel with a sledgehammer in the night...)   There were problems.  As of midnight last  night, carcass was hanging in the barn, still in one piece.  Experience with the sternum suggested strongly that dividing the spine is going to be...difficult. 

Scaling up problem 4:   If you've used the tractor & front-end loader to elevate the carcass off the ground, you don't have it to use to lift the stuff that comes out of said carcass that you don't want.  A 1500 pound bull has more interior stuff than will fit into the usual buckets/tubs.  The liver alone weighed 20-something pounds (liver had a taker...that's how we know.)   All that heavy stuff needs to go Elsewhere but nobody can pick it up by hand.   . 

Scaling up problem 5.   Although it was cool, it was not cold enough to eliminate flies.  So we needed to wrap the carcass, after hosing it down, in whatever old sheets and things could be found.  Small carcasses aren't that hard to wrap.  The remains of a 1500 pound bull, on the other hand, make old sheets look like they came off a baby bed.  Ranchers who have everything in their barns do not usually have enough clothespins for this job.  Four.  Four is not enough.   (Taking notes for next time, though this was the biggest bull of those being kept up for later consumption, "bring clothespins") 

I suspect that the total live weight of the amateurs working on a critter should equal the live weight of the critter.  In this case...no.  I don't think we made half the weight. 

This was the bull I really wanted Rancher to take to the regular meat processor, because I thought a quarter would be enough for us to handle...but it's done, and we did it, and now all we have to do (!!!!) is get this monster cut into small enough pieces to fit in the various freezers.    At least, with the head and hide and lower forelegs off, and the guts out,  it's a safer weight for the tractor to haul around.  

Must go now.  It ain't over until it's over.

Tags: meat
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