Saturday, December 21, 2013

Meat Down

The Captain gave me a call yesterday at about 11:20 AM.  I had asked him to give me a call the next time he was slaughtering a beeve.  After several misses whenI was in the middle of something I could not put down, we finally connected.

A little bit of Angus, a little bit of Charolais, a little bit of Shorthorn and some Holstein buried way down deep.

The Captain has about 8 mama cows and one bull.  Depending on how you do the bookkeeping, he is either loosing his butt, breaking even or making money hand-over-fist.  It is telling that he is strongly considering downsizing.  Truth be told, the only way he is "breaking even" is if he is paying himself about $2/hour.

One of his clients likes to pick out the animal, slaughter and butcher it on site. It is part of their family tradition.  They like the way grass-fed, freshly slaughtered beef tastes.  By butchering it themselves, on-site, there is absolutely no chance that their meat will be co-mingled with anybody else's.  That is important to some people.

And the Captain can accommodate them.

The Captain had a problem.  The 8" of snow had compacted down to about 4" of slush on top of mud.  Most of his paddocks have a little bit of slope to them.  Combined, those two conditions make tractor operation a hazardous undertaking. The Captain needed to have the calf to die in a convenient place for extraction.  The problem was that the customer really did not want to pull the trigger and the Captain could not be in two places at once.

Moving cattle around is a bit of an art.  They do not respond to your body language the way you think they will.  That is because they are "prey" and they see you as "predator".  The way the gentleman shown above would slow a cow down would be to speed up and pace even with it or to move away from it.  The way to speed it up is to slow down as if to start sneaking in behind it or to start closing the distance between the man and the cow, i.e., drift closer to the animal.  The way for the man in blue to get the animal in front of him to turn left would be to move behind the animal, it would turn to keep an eye on him.  VERY counter-intuitive.  Slow down to speed up.  Speed up to slow down. Move closer to speed up. Move away to slow down. Move directly behind to get the animal to turn.

The Captain has the code book and knows how to move animals.

The Captain got the target animal isolated enough.  He was with two other calves so he was not too paranoid about being singled out (a prey animal's worst fear).  He was in the designated spot and there were no potential collateral damages near or behind him.

I took the shot.

It all went well but like many things that involve planning-on-the-fly, it could have gone sideways.  I was using the Captain's firearm and the scope could have been off.  The animal could have moved as I pulled the trigger or I might have missed the CNS for any one of a number of reasons.  One of the other animals could have moved in behind the target.  The gun/ammo could have misfired.  The other 12,000 pounds of cattle could have gotten hinkey. 

The Captain hog-tied the hind foot with a logging chain and snaked him out of the paddock beneath the electric fence.  He dragged him to a clean patch of snow with easy access to the customer's vehicles.  The Captain re-chained to the animals hind legs and lifted him up in the air.

Four customers, sharp knives, rubber gloves, many buckets and tubs.  I was surprised that the client wanted one of the smaller animals.  This guy is probably about 550-to-600 pounds.  Most slaughter cattle are 1100-to-1350 pounds. 

One of the complications was that the Captain was working against the clock.  He had a date in a couple of hours.  After lifting the animal he went into his house for a shower.  The butchering was finished before he finished the shower. 

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