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Blackie would be pleased!

June 13, 2009

Blackie would appreciate all the comments his post generated, and the excellent questions too!   I was a little apprehensive writing this post about the field harvesting process, not sure if anyone would be interested in what I think is commonplace, but still fascinating to me every time I witness/participate.  It was difficult to sort through 500+ photos (thanks Ruthless) and not be redundant, and still get the highlights across.  Through your questions I realized what I missed in the post.  Again, what is rote to me, is completely new to you – Thank you.  And I think Robbyn gets the prize for the most questions 😉

Local Nourishment asked about the blood in the pasture disturbing the cows.  It does disturb them at first.  The usual ritual is growling, (like a bear, although I have never actually heard a bear growl) and then much peeing and pooping on the spot.  But after 10 minutes or so, they leave and go about their business.  We rotationally graze our pastures, and my rest periods are up to about 35 days at this time in the grazing season, so it will be at least that long before they are in that particular spot again.

Robbyn, woman of many ??’s

OK all that grass in the rumen was fascinating! The on-site slaughter looks very clean to me compared to what I’d imagined.  What did you imagine?  The worst place I have ever seen for livestock was a USDA slaughter house in Eastern Oregon.  It was large though, but PETA would have had a field day – my brother always swore he would never eat hot dogs and after that visit to the slaughter house, I knew why!  I was used to our home butchered beef, dispatched out in a clean pasture. 

 A couple of questions (maybe I didn’t read carefully enough)…what happens now that he cut it up into quarters? Does he take it somewhere there somewhere at your place and finish cutting it, or do they let it hang in a cooler a certain amount of time and then cut it up further?…and if so, is this at your place or somewhere else?  The beef is taken to a butcher shop and dry aged for two weeks in a cooler.  After the two weeks, the meat is cut to order and frozen.  We are keeping half, and I sold the other side as two split halves.

 What is done with the hide? To keep the kill cost down, the killer keeps the hide.  Depending on the price, they can do very good.  If we wanted the hide we would have to pay the going rate for it.  We have way too many salted hides tucked away here and there.  My favorite though is Dean, one of Della’s sons.  He was a purebred Guernsey (supposed to be a heifer) and very nicely marked.  We say Hi to him everytime we walk by… .

Do you use the heart for anything?  To gorge myself on – we love it!!

The parts that are not used, are they disposed of by the man or by you somewhere on your property?  He takes them – if we did this ourselves, we would take them to the edge of the canyon for the scavengers to clean up.  Coyotes, bears, vultures, ravens, crows would be on that crew.

 I’m just curious about all the details…like what happens to the head, etc. Not trying to be gross…I just wonder!  He sells the heads too, again if I wanted it, I could pay him the going rate.  Hispanics usually purchase them, it’s called Mexican Turkey. 

RobbynIf a person were doing this for home use, many more useful items would be kept:


brains for eating or tanning.
jowls – excellent meat.
entire head for head cheese.
horns – for BD preps 500 or 501, powder horns.

Internal Organs
heart, liver and tongue – eating of course!
intestines – sausage and bologna casings, or BD prep 503.
stomach linings – tripe

bone rich broth

leather, clothing etc

Cooking or soap making

I may have forgotten something, but I think these are the most common uses.  Again thanks for all the positive comments, I really appreciate the time you all took to put down your thoughts. 

My questions to all of you are:  What surprised you the most?  The cleanliness?  The other cattle’s reactions?  The way the carcass looked?

Thanks again!

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Mael permalink
    June 14, 2009 6:26 am

    Sorry…more questions. Can you compost the rumen contents? Do you leave it in the field?

    • June 14, 2009 7:30 am

      Mael, I think it would make a great compost tea, or compost additive. The rumen contents contain the beneficial bacteria that really enliven the land, but I did just spread it in the field, to make the grass grow better.

  2. June 14, 2009 6:30 am

    What surprised me the most was how everyone responded 😉 When we “field dress” a critter they’ll often go back to that spot and roar around as for as long as a couple of months. I wonder if it’s because of a more clay based soil that holds the smell longer.

    • June 14, 2009 7:33 am

      Linda, we did two that day, and the interesting thing was their mother’s and sibling’s reactions. They were the ones calling and growling. Lots of pawing too. I think here the amount of rain we get really washes the blood away. They will do more pawing the next time they are there though.

  3. June 14, 2009 8:13 am

    Having just done a chicken slaughter, I was interested (maybe also surprised) to note the similarities of anatomy. Also, cow stomachs are HUGE!!

    • June 14, 2009 9:51 am

      Lauren, LOL, they are similar aren’t they? The one big difference I always notice is that even with the sheer volume of the cattle entrails, butchering a cow doesn’t have a bad odor compared to butchering one little old chicken. In fact, more weirdness here on my part, I like the smell of cow butchering, just brings back fond childhood memories of the neighborhood gatherings here and all the fellowship and good food.

  4. June 14, 2009 9:04 am

    To be honest, I was surprised that the whole process didn’t make me ill to look at. I’ve been moving away from the grocery store in increments over the last year, and have read about the process of killing and butchering, but I never thought I’d be able to see it in living color and not gag.

    In Oregon, we had a neighbor dress out a white tailed deer he had downed while bow-hunting. The garage where the deer hung faced our living room windows. I could catch a glimpse as I walked past, but couldn’t look long or step outside while it was going on. All my kids ran over to watch. That was about 7 years ago now, when I still considered clipping a cat’s nails a gruesome act!

    Funny how life takes you in little steps places you never thought you’d be.

  5. June 14, 2009 9:55 am

    Peggy, good for you – I was trying to avoid some of the more graphic photos. And the worst for me is seeing the animal dead – although Blackie and I have had a few words. Even the mobile slaughter guy said he was bothered by working in a slaughter house – he said the worst job of all is getting the cattle to move to the end of line.

    I am glad you made your way through the post – baby steps, baby steps… . Thanks for your comments!

  6. June 14, 2009 10:38 am

    Thanks for the replies to my many questions 🙂 I’ve been around other people’s cattle some in my youth, but never any animals at slaughter time. My mom was one of those people who wanted the country life, but got all squeamish over ticks and mosquitos much less anything requiring dressing out a real animal. As to your question of what I was expecting, I have a movie called The Girl From Paris about a girl who decided to go start her own farm (European film) and it showed actual footage of a hog slaughter, and there was a lot of blood and protesting from the hog, etc. Until reading blogs, I was not even aware there were people who could come on site to do slaughter…I thought everything had to be done at a slaughter house, and I’ve seen footage of those places and it was hard to swallow.

    Thanks so much for answering my questions…I’m very removed from farm life in actuality, but my desire is not to be…we’re just trying to get there at a lot later stage than most people, it seems.

    🙂 Robbyn

    • June 14, 2009 11:44 am

      Robbyn, that poor piggy! There should be no noise from the animal, and not really copious amounts of blood either. She must not have known how to proceed – I would say the pig was suffering… .

      Mobile slaughter is a niche for sure, and good ones are hard to find. The plant we use is small, only doing beef one day a week, so that cuts down on a lot of the problems you see with a huge industrial setting. So from here on out, I think we may use both. I guess when you said it was cleaner than you expected I thought you meant dirty conditions, not bloody conditions. A quick look through some forums in the last month or so, yielded many photos of mobile slaughtering with the livestock (pigs and cattle) in dirty corrals and with crap encrusted hides. Now that is what you get when you buy from the store – why anyone in a home setting wouldn’t strive for better conditions is beyond me. If you have enough land for livestock, you should have enough land to keep them clean too. Eeek I’m ranting!

      I wouldn’t worry about being too far removed from farm life, you are moving as fast as you can and I think you and Jack are doing a great job 🙂

      • June 15, 2009 3:54 pm

        Thank you for your encouragement, Nita…it really helps. The hog slaughter in the video was real and the actress was watching it (and not enjoying it, for sure) as some French farmers hauled it up by a chain, still alive and squealing, shot it in the head and then I guess slit the throat or something, but whatever the details, they collected the blood in a bucket beneath as it poured out and made her stir it with a paddle as it poured out, as they pumped the front legs back and forth. It was hard to stomach. In Mississippi, I had a friend whose family farmed. Most of their cattle were on pasture, but they had a bull named Stan that I loved, and he was mostly in the barn…before the days of Salatin deep bedding. That poor thing stood in a churned up stinking mess of wet mud-and-urine-and-poop and I swore to myself if I ever got a chance to have barn animals, I’d keep them out at pasture 24/7 before they ever had to stand in their own 2 foot deep latrine muck with no bedding…UGH. I don’t mind dirt, but filth…blech. In comparison, your grassy pasture and barn look alive and healthy. I’d be really interested in future posts that might have to do with how to cook things I’m unfamiliar with, such as heart and tongue. Beef tongue is a delicacy with some of my friends, but they have to buy theirs.

        Thanks for all your answers to our questions! 🙂


  7. June 15, 2009 7:28 am

    Not being exposed to slaughter, either in a house or field, the whole process was very interesting. Blood and such does not bother me (or at least so far). The neighbor is going to butcher some chickens soon and I hope to be able to participate in the process. Thank you for the education! =)

  8. June 15, 2009 1:38 pm

    I helped my husband’s family process a moose but the animal was already skinned and gutted and quartered. I was in charge of making ground moose. The smell of raw meat was a little overwhelming but other than that I was ok. However, I know I could not kill an animal, well under my present circumstances, but you never know, if starving…
    I found your comment about gorging on beef heart funny. For my first anniversary I made my husband beef heart and mashed potatoes. One of my favorite meals, he was a little green around the gills….I looked at him kind of weird wondering why he didn’t want to eat beef heart, and why he was not as crazy about it as I was.


  9. June 18, 2009 8:12 am

    That was one of the most interesting things I’ve seen in a LONG time. Thank you so much.

    I’m still amazed at the size of the guts. I had NO idea all of that was inside the cow. Amazing!

    Again, thank you so much!

  10. June 18, 2009 11:15 am

    I love that you have such respect for your animals and they die a humane death. I have seen footage of slaughterhouses and to this day, there are images I wish I could wipe out of my brain. I am glad that I am not ignorant of things that go on in slaughterhouses, but at the same time, I have such a sensitive nature to seeing animals harmed like that, that it does me no good to see it. I get upset at seeing crushed turtles on the road!

    Anyway– thank you so much for sharing and posting so many pictures of the buchering process. Just as the chicken processing post you did, it was well documented and you explained everything well.

  11. Danielle permalink
    June 19, 2009 4:04 am

    Awesome set of posts Nita. Have I mentioned lately how glad I that you’re blogging?

    I wish mobile processors were legal here in Maryland, as it’s so much better for the animal. There’ve been a few attempts to get legislation passed, but they’ve all failed.

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