Dairy cows need to have calves every year to keep up their milk production. Mostly the calves are turned into dog food in their first couple of days of life.
Some friends collected three baby calves from a dairy, fed them on artificial milk, then planned to raise them on grass. As it turns out, growing calves need an enormous amount of grass, more than they had, and so they ended up at Cockatrice Farm. With all the wet weather, we have had heaps of grass.
After a year, the steers (ie grown up desexed male cattle) started going through our sometimes dubious fences. We asked about taking them to the abattoir, but that had a number of practical difficulties. We don’t have an adequate loading ramp, for instance.
Allison found one of the steers in Barker’s Lane, from where he could have wandered onto the Hume Highway — a serious traffic risk. So it became urgent to deal with them.
One of the people at my work recommended a Goulburn mobile butcher. He was happy to come, and the price was excellent.
We rounded up the steers without incident. We have a cattle crush coming off our round yard, and that worked well.
Each steer was put through the crush, and knocked out quickly and humanely with a stun gun, technically a “captive bolt pistol” where the bolt is fired with gunpowder but the bolt doesn’t actually leave the pistol. The butcher slit the throat for bleeding and then the neighbour’s ancient tractor was used to haul the carcass away for skinning and quartering.
We had some initial problems getting the tractor going (thanks Jim for solving that one) but otherwise it was an efficient process. The butcher has plenty of abattoir experience, and is a master with a knife.
The butcher left the quarters in a mobile coolroom at the farm for 10 days — the meat needs to hang to become tender and for the fats to harden. Then the butcher came back and chopped the meat up into all the standard meat cuts.
To get the best price, we had to pack the meat ourselves into plastic bags the butcher provided. So we would get a huge plastic tub with each cut, for which he printed labels showing the cut and the packing date. For the most part we packed two of each thing per bag: sometimes it’s just Allison and myself, or us plus wwoofers, or random amounts of friends.
We got roasts, enormous numbers of steaks, schnitzels (which he tenderised), osso buccos, even ribs and soup bones. There was corned beef, sausages plus about 50kg of mince per beast. Immense amounts of meat. We got a tongue, but didn’t take the kidneys and liver though we easily could have. We decided not to tan the hides — too much work at the moment.
We ended up with a barbecue with our friends, for which the butcher joined us. The meat is great and we’re very happy with the results.