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e_moon60

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Adventures in Carnivory: No Bull [Nov. 14th, 2009|08:09 am]
e_moon60
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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.
 


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Comments:
[User Picture]From: jenrose1
2009-11-14 02:55 pm (UTC)
Sounds very, very difficult. Biggest animals I have any experience with on that end is pigs, and mostly it wasn't my responsibility. Geese are more my speed. Which are a scale down from a bull of... a whole friggin' lot. Color me impressed that you managed at all.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-11-15 02:23 am (UTC)
I wouldn't yet say it's "managed" as work is still going on at the ranch. I came home early, just got in from giving horses their night hay (I fed them first, of course)...brought back Michael and two big garbage bags of bone stuff from the forequarters for soup bones. Not even near kettle size, some of them--need to be cut smaller, but that can be done with an ax, if necessary (we did that with Nameless.)
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From: zackthedog
2009-11-14 04:38 pm (UTC)

Bull

Cheering you on from the sidelines! All three of you must be exhausted.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-11-15 02:27 am (UTC)

Re: Bull

Four yesterday: John, Richard, D.W. (friend from Austin, DRW's apprentice), and Michael

Today they had John, his son Doug, Richard, and Michael. I was a mere "Enter varlet with more freezer bags and KFC 20 piece family meal with drinks..."

Then I became "Exuent varlets with two large sacks of meaty bones" as I took Michael home, put bones in freezer, fed horses, washed hair, readied choir robe for tomorrow when I'll be singing "Let All the Angels of God Worship Him" from MESSIAH, both services. Michael and I had a time getting those bones inside, but they both fit in the little freezer at the other house.
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[User Picture]From: ajl_r
2009-11-14 04:40 pm (UTC)
Makes one realise how one single animal, like a zebra or wildebeast, can feed a group of around 10 lions until they're stuffed. And your bull must be a third bigger than one of those, I should think? As you say, that is a *lot* of cutting up and packing.

I've got a good recipe for old fashioned steak and kidney pudding, if you like that sort of dish?
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-11-15 02:27 am (UTC)
Thanks, but the kidneys were already claimed by someone else.
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From: thefile
2009-11-14 05:42 pm (UTC)
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.

My wife inherited a knife from her Grandfather (who spent some time as a butcher). The blade is about 2 feet long and single edged. Weighs about a pound and a half. I've played with it, and it's weighted to strike (!!) about 4 inches from the tip. She was told is was one of his tools, but didn't do much cutting of meat with it. I agreed at the time, it feels more like a gladius or a heavy machete than a knife.

Now I know what it's for. Thanks.

Edited at 2009-11-14 07:46 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-11-15 02:30 am (UTC)
I'm sure it was a splitting blade, yes. Probably as good or better than what we used, or tried to use, but the mental image I have now of the old paper-cutter blade with the blunt side now well-beaten by the sledgehammer simply must show up in a book someday.

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[User Picture]From: litch
2009-11-14 07:49 pm (UTC)
Did you field dress it where you put it down? It's not clear from your description.

I have vague memories of dressing mooses (and clearer ones of elks and caribou) as a kid, big game may be good for the ego but it is a royal pain in the ass.

Next time, for the sternum, I really reccomend you consider a diegrinder with cutting wheel. It sprays muck everywhere but it's fast and easy.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-11-15 02:35 am (UTC)
No, because with the smaller critters it was easier to quickly hang them from the tractor's front bucket (giving the ability to vary the height as you work) right near the barn where we had water pressure (for instance.)

The distance involved wasn't far (bull went down maybe 20 yards from the barn, though the travel distance--where gates were--was farther but not much)--the difficulty was the weight of that bull and the size of that tractor. Doing him flat where he fell might've been a better option, but rancher didn't want the offal right there in the small pasture with the other bulls.
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[User Picture]From: delicious_irony
2009-11-15 12:40 am (UTC)
I am impressed.

I keep forgetting how big stock can get, and never really thought of the logistics of breaking down such a carcass.

Wow.

That's going to keep you going all through to next year, for sure!
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-11-15 01:57 am (UTC)
Meat is shared among at least two families, including sons of ranch owner. We wouldn't eat that much ourselves. OTOH, I do have that six-foot-eight son who can inhale over a pound of meat at a meal.
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[User Picture]From: msminlr
2009-11-15 01:24 am (UTC)
Sounds like, before you try home-butchery on this scale again, you might want to acquire a sledge and a chain hoist.

Of course, this presumes your barn roof structure will not collapse when the full 1500 lb dead-weight load is lifted by the chain hoist.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-11-15 01:53 am (UTC)
This was the bull I wanted hauled to the nearest meat processor, because I thought he was too big to do at the ranch.

It wasn't a vote: ranch owner's bull, ranch owner's decision.
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[User Picture]From: pyg_klb
2009-11-15 01:53 am (UTC)

Butchering goes up by the square of the animal's size?

Your description makes Dexters or Jerseys sound better and better. (Or best of all, living where a mobile butcher can come out with the right equipment for the job! :-))
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-11-15 01:58 am (UTC)

Re: Butchering goes up by the square of the animal's size?

For meat, Dexters. Jerseys are bred to produce milk; they have much less meat per hundred-pounds of body weight than a meat-breed.

Yeah a mobile butcher would be great. But I'm mobile, and I'm part of the crew, so I guess I'm a sort of mobile butcher...
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[User Picture]From: cdozo
2009-11-15 02:14 am (UTC)
Sounds like it's a lot of work, but a good learning experience. If I'm available next time you are slaughtering something, I would come and help.

Can you use some kind of power saw to cut the sternum and such?
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-11-15 02:41 am (UTC)
Oh, yeah...it just makes a mess. The sternum was finally divided with a reciprocating saw--we've used that before for the spine of sheep. You end up with a lot of bone chips if all you have is a blade for sawing wood. And what CSI shows call "splatter" (you also get splatter of blood and other fluids.)

Professionals dress in those hot plastic-looking aprons not to protect the meat from them so much as them from the stuff that comes loose when you put power tools to meat. (You begin to wonder about those mystery stories in which someone dismembers bodies without leaving a mess in the house...)

E.
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[User Picture]From: dirtwitch
2009-11-15 07:35 am (UTC)
Hey, DW was here, today, too! From 10 am, to 10 pm; till 11 pm, yesterday, whew...

I agree about the Dexters, those are the ones I think I will be getting for my ranchette.. someday soon. Thanks so much for telling me about this, I made good friends with Rancher, learned a GREAT deal. So worth two days labor. I would be happy to help again, if ever needed.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-11-15 12:42 pm (UTC)
You were there both days, all day--but I wasn't sure you were willing to be mentioned by name/LJ handle in my LJ...hence you fell into the generic term "friend" and "amateurs." No disrespect intended. You should see what I wrote our friend the crossbow maker about you.
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[User Picture]From: ndozo
2009-11-15 04:51 pm (UTC)

The nuts and bolts of guts and gore=dinner!

Now I see why people eat dogs. This is really interesting. 1500 is a LOT of pounds. If there are photos I would be interested to see them too. Did the other bulls show any distress beyond being surprised by the shot? Did they react to the blood?

In open-air markets in Asia I've seen meat hanging that was covered with flies. It seemed revolting, but then I thought maybe it was a low-tech way to control rot. (It still seemed nasty.)
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[User Picture]From: ndozo
2009-11-15 06:53 pm (UTC)

Re: The nuts and bolts of guts and gore=dinner!

Would you mind if I posted a link to this entry? Or if I reposted the entry on my LJ? I know so many people who would be interested in knowing this.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-11-15 08:07 pm (UTC)

Re: The nuts and bolts of guts and gore=dinner!

Post a link if you wish. You might also post the warning that yes, it's going to be gory in places. DW, the other amateur in the crew, took a lot of pictures but I haven't seen them yet. She's on Facebook and I'm still not really connected there yet.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-11-15 08:05 pm (UTC)

Re: The nuts and bolts of guts and gore=dinner!

The other bulls startled at the sound--backed up a little ways--but after that could have cared less. Cubes were in the trough. As soon as the body was moved, they came right over, sort of snuffled at the mess, and went to the trough, happily chowing down.


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