Homekill beef - two small beef cattle for added complexity

by Farmer Liz
Every year for the last seven years we have raised and killed a steer for beef.  I know this because I can count off the names of each of them, Trevor, Murray, Bruce, Bratwurst, Frankfurter, Romeo... and this year it was Monty's turn, but he was a bit small (being a jersey cross dexter), so we also killed a young heifer recently acquired (we named her Fatty, because she had been in the good paddock, she's a mini hereford cross lowline maybe).  Our butcher doesn't like to come out for animals under 200 kg, so we wanted to be sure it was worth his travel.

eight acres: homekill beef gets easier
Little Fatty heifer

eight acres: homekill beef gets easier
Monty the jersey/dexter steer - a bit small maybe

Having two animals killed on the same day was a challenge and took some planning.  First we had to dig an extra large hole for the inedible bits (head, hooves and guts).  And then we had to figure out how to keep the second animal calm while the butcher was working on the first one.  He likes to shoot one, process it, and then do the second one, that way the meat gets into the cold room as quickly as possible.  It takes him about an hour from shot to cold room, with very little help from us, this guy is a hard worker!

We set up a pen made from portable cattle panels, and enticed both animals into the pen.  Then we put a divider of panels to split the pen in half.  We put up a large tarpaulin across the front of the pen, so that neither animal could see what was happening.  When the butcher arrived, we showed him our set up and he told us to let the first animal out.  Monty came out and started calmly eating some grain from a dish, so he was a very easy shot for the butcher.

eight acres: homekill beef gets easier
one large hole

Fatty the heifer couldn't see what was going on, so she was quite happy in her pen with some hay until the butcher was ready for her.  He shot her in the pen and we dismantled it around her body.  We are pretty confident that neither animal was unduly stressed by this arrangement, which is our main aim.  Stress causes adrenaline to be released, and this can ruin the meat (causing dark cutters), so its entirely selfish, but also nice to know that Monty was born on our property, never left apart from some time on neighbour's paddocks, and died here without a care in the world, aged 2 and a bit.

Pete and I are becoming far less squeemish around this process.  I wasn't even upset when Monty was shot, just standing there admiring the butcher's perfect clean shot.  Then we looked in the severed head to count the number of teeth because I always wonder what that means.  The butcher cut open the stomachs so that we could scoop out all the half-digested grass and not fill up our hole too quickly and Pete and I were checking out the inside of the stomach and how it absorbs nutrients.  Our butcher said that some people just go inside and leave him to it, meanwhile here is both me and Pete asking him a million questions, poor guy!

eight acres: homekill beef gets easier
kidney fat for rendering to make more tallow soap

I think the first time you have a homekill done its very stressful and can be upsetting seeing the animal shot and cut up.  After a few experiences, you get used to it, you know what to expect, and how to prepare so that the butcher can just get on with his job.  It definitely gets easier, and you can focus on all that lovely meat!  I recommend having a good talk to your butcher before he comes out to find out how he would like you to prepare the animals.  Usually a pen away from the house and neighbours, but easy to get to by vehicle.  And don't keep the animals in there for too long (we had one in there overnight when we didn't know what we were doing, and he was STRESSED), timing is everything and it really helps to have tame cattle that will follow you for hay or grain.

We are looking forward to comparing the meat.  Our first ever steer, Trevor, was a jersey-cross, and his meat has been the best so far, so we wonder if Monty will be similar.  And Fatty just looked so tasty, and was on good green grass, surely her meat will be nice too.  She's also the first female we've had butchered.

eight acres: homekill beef gets easier
first carcass ready for the cold room

Have you had a home butcher?  Do you butcher your own?  Any tips?  Questions?

Other posts about homekill butchering:

Eight Acres: Home butcher vs meatworks

Eight Acres: Homekill beef - is it worth it?

Eight Acres: Rendering tallow in a slow cooker

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