- 26 November, 2013
This weekend we slaughtered, skinned, and eviscerated our first steer.He was a 2 1/2 year old Irish Dexter and was born onto our homestead to our first family milk cow, Maybelle. We chose Dexters because they are dual-purpose, hardy, thrifty, and supposedly make a nice grass-fed beef. That way any calves born into our very small herd could be used either for milk or meat depending on their gender. It just so happens that ‘Gus was born with the purpose of feeding our family in the form of meat rather than milk.This isn’t the first cow we’ve butchered. We also butchered a bull in the past. (And butcher him we did in every sense of the word.) Having tried to educate ourselves as much as is possible with the limited resources available since then and having had a few more deer and hogs under our belt so far as experience goes and having many of the supplies and tools to do the job already, persevering with mastering the skill of processing our own beef just makes sense.Livestock that has to deal with the stress of loading and transportation and being unloaded in an unfamiliar location with no feed or water available is generally recognized as producing an inferior quality product and we haven’t invested all of this time and energy and resources into raising our own beef to lose quality control now. We wanted him to be happy and content up to the very last moment of his life and that he was. His last moments were spent munching on cow candy (grain).
What follows isn’t a tutorial. I feel we aren’t qualified enough to that, but I do hope that you just might be inspired enough to consider acquiring this lost skill for yourselves.
We decided to corral the steer into an area with open access to the stock trailer where he would be fed and get comfortable with overnight before butchering. You could do the same thing with a pen. We have the trailer, but no pen, so that’s what we used.
The reason why we wanted to keep him contained is so that if something didn’t go right and more than one shot was required, he wouldn’t have to be chased down to make another attempt. Doing it this way also means that once he was down, he might not have to be moved to the skinning/evisceration area so far.
Thankfully, one shot was all that was necessary this time. Although for a moment that was questionable as he didn’t go straight down, but lunged forward out of the trailer before falling.
As with hogs, a sticking cut to bleed him out as quickly as possible was made.
•Gun: .22 long rifle
•Bullet(s): solid point
•A sharp knife for sticking
•A sharp knife for skinning (We used this one and it worked really well.)
•Knife sharpening stone steel diamond
•skid steer/hydraulic tractor with bucket
•Hose for rinsing afterward
•Reciprocating Saw or bone saw•Meat tote
•Place to dispose of guts/hide/head – Suggestions: A hole in the ground or a deep woods to dump it
Aging (if desired)
•Cool, safe place to age meat (unless grinding it all)
•Block & tackle to hang halves or quarters
The head was removed. The back tendons were found and he was hung from a gambrel using a skid steer that we happened to have for another purpose. Last time, we borrowed a tractor with a bucket. Next time we will probably use a chain hoist.
Without going into detail, it seemed to me that the skinning process is basically the same as for deer or even hogs. (See our hog butchering videos here.) You make the circle cuts above the hooves, up the inside of the leg towards the midline. Down the belly and around to and down the back.
The knife he used to skin was my anniversary gift to him. Inexpensive, functional, effective, and practical. To the man who celebrated our anniversary 3 years ago by taking me to the basement to cut up the last beef we processed, it only seemed appropriate. He was very happy with it and he was able to do this whole job in a single morning- about 4 1/2 hours. Less than half the time it took to do the bull!
A reciprocating saw was used to remove the head, feet and to split the breast bone.
Working on removing the man parts that weren’t taken care of two years ago…
Gravity was causing the swelling internal organs to fall down into the area where he needed to cut through the breastbone so the cow was lowered down onto a piece of plastic.
A reader shared this link to another homesteader butchering their own meat. Sadly it was too late for us to do it, but one idea I loved was to cut open the stomach and add the partially digested contents to the compost pile!
Gravity helped them pretty much fall out at this point. Where they were still stuck he loosened them up and they fell to the ground with only a minimal, yet still visible splash.
And with that went most of the animals weight.
Offal was harvested. Like the steaming liver, sweetbreads, loads of fat, kidney, and heart.
Jared tried the sweetbreads for lunch on Sunday and Bill made some of the liver but both found the proximity of time to be too close to the evisceration for the disconnect to have been made and they associated the flavor with the odor. In the meanwhile, the rest was frozen for now and we’ll decide what to do with it later. I’m wondering if grinding it and mixing it in throughout the ground meat might be an option?
After the carcass was halved, it was also quartered between the 5th & 6th ribs (counting from the head towards the rump) so as to make it more manageable.
Weather will determine how long the meat will hang for aging. Our days were forecasted to be around 40 degrees during the day for about a week which is nearly perfect.
If it gets too warm the meat will spoil. Too cold and the enzymes that work during the aging process won’t be able to do their job. (Read more about aging beef here.)
Right now, the latter is our problem. As usual, the forecast wasn’t accurate and it’s been running right around freezing instead. Better than spoiling I suppose so I won’t complain except for that’s just the longer until we’re dining on beef.
And I’m really, really looking forward to dining on beef!