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  #1  
Old 02/18/09, 10:44 AM
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: North Georgia
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Butchering your own cow?

Have you done this? If so, I want to hear about it. Is it worth it? How many people should you expect to be doing the job? What tools do you need as a bare minimum? Are we crazy for even thinking such a thing?

DH wants to purchase a cow, and process it himself. I am a little skeptical, but if we can do it successfully I am willing to help. We already do our own pigs, goats, etc. so not totally new to butchering, just seems like a cow would be a whole different story.

Obviously, people used to do it themselves, and I'm sure we could too...I just want to know what we're getting into I guess.

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  #2  
Old 02/18/09, 10:50 AM
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I've done it twice about 20 years ago. I personally would not (and haven't) do it again. I had a helper both times and used a tractor to haul the steer up off the ground. It is a huge amount of meat to handle at one time, and you really need to be have good meat cutting skills to do it correctly.

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Old 02/18/09, 11:03 AM
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An't know different than any other animal.I would say three people.Meat Saw is nice but have just Deboned it.Oh good grinder.

My wife has cut up and package Elk by herself.

big rockpile

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  #4  
Old 02/18/09, 11:07 AM
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 268
Butchering your cow

We do our own. Mainly to make sure we eat our meat and not someone's cow that we don't know what is in it. This is what we do. Early in the morning the steer is put into the pen closest to the house by its self. He gets cookies that is the standard treat for our cows. While he is finishing his cookies dh shots him in the head. Then he cut his neck to bleed. Then he is pulled up the pully ( we use a big tree) until he is off the ground. This is done buy my dh and his tractor. Because i tan the hide dh carefully skins him. Then guts him. We use to hang them in the garage and age for about 2 weeks. But we don't have the garage any longer so the cow is not aged other then in the freg. We have an island in the kitchen so i put down a blanket so the counter doesn't get scratched, then lay a new sheet of ply-wood. I spray this with food safe sanatizer and let it dry. Dh cuts the cow in half then into quarters. He bring these in and we cut, grind, and wrap each quarter. We set this in the freg for 1 week to age then into the freezer it goes. we use every bit. the bones are cooked and pieces of meat picked off for our dog food that i can, the organs we can eat, we package. The rest go to the chicken, they love it. The head we give to some cuben friends, the bone after cooking get wrapped for treat for our 2 great danes. This does take all day about 14 hours that is from shooting to kitchen clean up. I hope this helps. You can do it. We use a saws all on alot of this, so try to get one it makes it alot easier. Vicke

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  #5  
Old 02/18/09, 11:28 AM
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vickie , has given some good advice. To age beef for 2 weeks the temperature must be cold .My dad always said whats missing from one piece will be on another piece .

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  #6  
Old 02/18/09, 11:33 AM
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
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We recently(2 weeks ago) slaughtered and butchered out our first.

Since I intend to do this for my family from here on out, I employed the services of a freind from our church to teach me how to do the cuts properly and get the most from our cow("As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."Prvbs 27:17).

It was more of an educational process for me and our family, it took over two days from start to finish, but Dave(the old butcher) likes to talk and explain exactly what and why he is doing something, and experience has taught him to set his knives down while talking.

Anyway, anyone (myself included) can cut and hack up a beast and get it frozen, it is altogether another thing to break down an animal and get premium cuts of meat and do so "Old School" style by de-boning 99.9% of the animal, as mentioned above.

Don't be scared to do this, just know going in that it is a HUGE amount of work, but well worth it. Try and get someone who has been there before to give you some pointers and encouragement.

Good Luck.........

<///><

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Old 02/18/09, 12:17 PM
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: East TN
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zookeeper View Post
Have you done this? If so, I want to hear about it. Is it worth it? How many people should you expect to be doing the job? What tools do you need as a bare minimum? Are we crazy for even thinking such a thing?

DH wants to purchase a cow, and process it himself. I am a little skeptical, but if we can do it successfully I am willing to help. We already do our own pigs, goats, etc. so not totally new to butchering, just seems like a cow would be a whole different story.

Obviously, people used to do it themselves, and I'm sure we could too...I just want to know what we're getting into I guess.
Actually people didn't do much of this themselves. People used to eat mostly pork and chicken because of the ease of process and the ability to cure pork due to lack of refrigeration. You're in GA, unless you have a cooler to hang it in I don't see how you could cool it to cut it up. I would start with chickens and work up to hogs. Once you shoot it you're committed and a beef is a lot of commitment and money on the line.
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  #8  
Old 02/18/09, 12:50 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Beeman View Post
Actually people didn't do much of this themselves. People used to eat mostly pork and chicken because of the ease of process and the ability to cure pork due to lack of refrigeration. You're in GA, unless you have a cooler to hang it in I don't see how you could cool it to cut it up. I would start with chickens and work up to hogs. Once you shoot it you're committed and a beef is a lot of commitment and money on the line.
They already do hogs and goats...so a cow is working their way up.
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  #9  
Old 02/18/09, 01:36 PM
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: North Georgia
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Well here are some of my concerns. They mainly have to do with the HUGE size of a cow as compared to a pig or goat.

We have a hard time hoisting a 300-lb. pig onto our "tripod"...I don't know how or where we'd lift a cow...don't have a tractor but we do have a 1-ton pickup...I guess that could be used...but currently don't have anywhere to hang a 1000 lb. cow...don't think tripod would work...

Yes we are in GA. It does not get cold enough long enough here to cool an animal. And even if it did, we don't have an enclosed place to put it so that the dogs, etc. would not get to it. We do have a cannery/cooler just down the road which we could use, although they only operate during the week, which would mean DH taking off from work and missing a day or two of getting paid, which would totally negate (and then some) saving the cost of having a processor just do it for us.

When we have killed hogs and goats, we do it when it's cold, but they do not hang long. We start cutting them up right away, which of course makes the meat much harder to work with, but we do okay. I just don't think it would work as well with a cow...so much more to work with. Plus if we're going to do this, I don't want to grind as much of the meat as I do with the pigs and goats (and therefore cuts are not as important)...I want GOOD cuts of steaks, roasts, etc.

We do not know the proper way to butcher meat. We have read charts and what-have-you and DH does pretty well, but still it's not really pretty cuts like a butcher knows how to do, and I'm sure meat is wasted too. DH wants to go to the cannery where they can teach him how to do this, but again, taking off of work is an issue. He could possibly do it once, and learn, and then could do it himself from then on.

DH's concern is that he feels that the times he has taken animals to a processor, he did not get all of his meat back, and I second his suspicion on this.

I am concerned that it will end up just being me and DH doing the work. There are other people who want to go in on buying the cow, but I don't think they're going to come over and help with butchering. I don't know if 2 people can get it done.

My DH's weak spot, if there is one, is that he is often WAY overly optimistic about what he is able to do. I am just concerned this might be one of those times. And I hate to have an $800 cow at stake if he's wrong

We are going to keep researching this and he will probably try it at least once.

Please keep the comments/advice coming...I will take them all into consideration!! Thanks!!

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  #10  
Old 02/18/09, 02:46 PM
 
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Location: The Little Chicken Ranch
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Zookeeper,

Does your DH have vacation time? He might consider taking a day of it to go to the cannery and get help butchering the cow. That might be worth it in the long run. I agree with you about the security of your meat when taking it to a processor. My DH used to help his grand-dad cut meat at the local IGA, so he feels he can successfully do this. We found a hunting club that has a walk-in cooler, and they are going to let us hang our cow there to age. (DH is animal control officer, so he helps them out from time to time with their animals). Maybe you could find such a set-up near you and hang the cow to age and take 1/2 of it to the cannery for help after it has aged and then you and DH could do the other half at home yourself. Just an idea. Good luck, firegirl

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  #11  
Old 02/18/09, 03:58 PM
 
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We hope to do ours (slaughter) this Saturday. If the weather holds as predicted. We got our food saver today, knives at the ready, ditto grinder, saw and hog rings for the hide. I'm hopin to run down a chain hoist tomorrow on the way in to work and some rod to bend into meat hooks. I still have one big question: smoke the tongue or pickle it?
There are two great series on Youtube, one on slaughtering and one on breaking down a carcass. They might help you.

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  #12  
Old 02/18/09, 04:35 PM
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Maryland
Posts: 264
butchering

Yes, I have butchered beef. The key is preparation. Without a tractor you will need a hoist and a heavy duty support to attach the chain hoist. You will not get away with using a 4x4 supported by a couple of 2x4's. Your lifting system (while being heavy duty) also needs to be portable enough to move to where you shoot the animal or where it eventually drops. You will also need a stout piece of pipe to run through the hind leg for lifting. A piece of chain to connect the pipe and the chain hoist. I use a 9" knife for cutting the throat and for cutting large chunks of meat into manageable portions. A fillet knife and a razor knife are used for skinning. Once the animal is skinned and gutted I use a reciprocating saw with a new blade to cut down the backbone to split the animal in half. The 9" knife is used to divide front half from back half. I have a $100 meat grinder. Not super fast but it works for me. I have found that if I put the chunks of meat in the freezer so they start to freeze it grinds easier. You will also need wrapping paper of some type. We usually wrap 12 burgers individually in saran wrap and then place them in a vaccum bag. Also, with all that meat you will not be able to put it all in the freezer at one time. It's to hard on the freezer. Plan on using a couple of freezers (ask your friends if you can put the meat in their freezer until it freezes) or look into renting a meat locker. You can do it. The key is preplanning.

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  #13  
Old 02/18/09, 04:55 PM
 
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We did one this year. Cow had fallen into the creek and broke leg. We got it out and put it down after discovering the situation. Used a tractor and then a chain hoist to hang the hams etc. After hanging it in a cooler room my neighbor has for 2 weeks it took 4 people a whole saturday to process. I would do it again because it saved several hundred in butcher fees

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  #14  
Old 02/18/09, 09:26 PM
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Colorado
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yes we do our own butchering,
currently we have a meat room in the back of the barn with walk in cooler and walk in freezer, and a big grinder and band saw, and tenderizer and stuffer and so on and so forth,

I got the idea I want to lean how to butcher my own beef, and at first I would use the cold of the winter and run the tractor loader in the shop and hang it in the shop with a heater going to keep it above freezing, to let it age, and my cutting board was a piece of plywood on saw horses covered with butcher paper, the big thing was I had a friend who was a profresional butcher and do a divorce he had sold his locker plant and was needing some extra work, I hired him to help me cut the first ones up, (the biggest problem was he was so fast I had a very hard time following what he was doing),

my suggestion, if you try this on our own,

I suggest having some one who know how to cut it up (or there are a few videos one can get at the (think it is ask the meat man) there is massive info on this site, http://www.askthemeatman.com/
the videos,
http://www.askthemeatman.com/meat_cutting_videos.htm

one person to make the basic cuts, one wrapper, and a few deboners,
I suggest a boneless cuts, (or if your on good terms with the grocery store manager, take the loins in and have them cut/sawed into T bones and so on),
(you will still want a hand saw to cut through the bones to get in into working sizes,

it is do able but it is a lot of work and a home chest freezer will not freeze it very fast, if packed tight in the freezer, it can take up to two weeks to get the center froze,

the first time on my own it took me a good long time to get the meat cut up and wrapped,

you want a good grinder, powered if possible, and any trimmings will probably be ground into the hamburger, the larger the grinder, the easier it is, as the pieces to not need to be cut down to fit in the grinder, and dealing with the pieces, on my grinder it take more time to clean it up than it does to grind, it is a large commercial grinder,(some one put a bearing in backwards and it would lock up, so I got it very cheap), it has a 5 hp motor, and I can grind a entire cow in to hamburger in about 5 Min's, but using my #22 grinder and it is motorized, it would take a better part of the day to grind up that much meat, so it can be worth it, but having a good place to work to keep the meat clean, a hose if needed, a meat cutting saw, the long type, not a glorified hack saw, (a chain saw that is out of bar oil can be used to halve the critter), I used a electric chain saw for a number of years, and still have it for back up use if my other splitter saw gives up for some reason.

I really suggest one either gets the videos or some one who is a meat cutter to help you on your first effort, that is my opinion.

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Old 02/19/09, 01:07 AM
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Hi Zookeeper,

If you do decide to do your own butchering here is a nifty chart that might be of some help to you.

http://www.certifiedangusbeef.com/ch...oster_4047.pdf

If it were me I would shy away from butchering a cow. The meat is kinda tough.

I would butcher a steer or heifer, or a young bull that has been fed properly.

Who says that you have to butcher a 1000lb steer? If you have the facilities you could either raise a bottle calf and butcher it at around 500lbs, or buy a weanling from a beef producer in your area. The meat to bone ratio might be less than a steer that had reached its hereditary growth potential, however, a smaller animal would be easier to handle and would supply you with a good learning experience.

Hope this helps

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Old 02/19/09, 08:00 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Cotton Picker View Post
Hi Zookeeper,

If you do decide to do your own butchering here is a nifty chart that might be of some help to you.

http://www.certifiedangusbeef.com/ch...oster_4047.pdf

If it were me I would shy away from butchering a cow. The meat is kinda tough.

I would butcher a steer or heifer, or a young bull that has been fed properly.

Who says that you have to butcher a 1000lb steer? If you have the facilities you could either raise a bottle calf and butcher it at around 500lbs, or buy a weanling from a beef producer in your area. The meat to bone ratio might be less than a steer that had reached its hereditary growth potential, however, a smaller animal would be easier to handle and would supply you with a good learning experience.

Hope this helps
This is one possibility we have talked about, and I think it's a good idea for several reasons.

Or we might also end up with a Jersey bull, when our milk cow has another calf, so that would be a good one to butcher as well, younger like you said...around 500 lbs. maybe...

I like the idea of doing a smaller one because we wouldn't have to depend on other people coming over to help. May sound awful, but our experience seems to be that when at the mercy of needing help (even from those who will benefit from the work) it gets iffy. Also we'd know for sure what the animal had been fed and be assured of its health, etc.
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Old 02/19/09, 08:14 AM
 
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farminghandyman...sounds like you have a nice setup. DH has already been looking at the askthemeatman stuff and will probably get a video.

We have two freezers, and if we did a 500 lb. animal, shouldn't that be enough freezer space to get it cooled down fast enough?

firegirl...no, he does not have vacation time. He doesn't work, he doesn't get paid. But I'm sure between now and fall (probably when we'd do it) he can figure out a way to make up a day and take one off during the week. Our cannery also has the walk-in cooler, so we could do all our business there...plus they have all the saws and really good knives we'd need right there...along with a person who could help teach us what we're doing...I think it would be worth it to find a way to use them.

I have one of those $100 meatgrinders, too. But what I do with the hogs is freeze big portions of the parts I'm going to grind, and pull them back out one batch at a time, grind them, then refreeze in small packages, and that way I don't have to do all the grinding on butchering day. YES I know you're not "supposed" to thaw meat and refreeze it (not sure why, I've just had people tell me that) but I think it is fine.

Okay I am starting to feel more like we could do this. I just needed lots of info (and success stories from you all )

I can at least see what preparations we will need to decide on ahead of time, and we can start making decisions now.

I REALLY like the idea of raising one ourselves, and killing it at a smaller size.

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Old 02/19/09, 08:14 AM
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Agree with Cotton Picker about a cow being tough. If we had a cow go down (grew up on a dairy farm) we'd butcher and grind the ole' girl up for hamburger.

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Old 02/19/09, 08:27 AM
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
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Hmmm. Just called the cannery, and they said it would cost at least $150-$160 to have them hang it and help us cut it up.

That is AFTER we slaughter, skin, eviscerate, and quarter the animal (isn't that half the work right there???)

That also does not count packaging.

That was more expensive than I thought it would be. We could put that $ into equipment that we could use over and over, plus a video we could refer to again and again...

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Old 02/19/09, 08:29 AM
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
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Originally Posted by DavisHillFarm View Post
Agree with Cotton Picker about a cow being tough. If we had a cow go down (grew up on a dairy farm) we'd butcher and grind the ole' girl up for hamburger.
Okay sorry...but I am a converted city girl so when I said "cow" I was just using a general term to mean some type of bovine animal (young bull, steer, etc.) not necessarily a "cow" as in the proper use of the word.

I'm really not a citiot, I SWEAR!!!
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