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  #1  
Old 05/26/12, 08:39 AM
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Maine
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Butcher older cow

This may have been answered already in some other thread, but I couldn't find much info.

One of our three cows is a Highland that has trouble breeding back (for various reasons) and it's time to replace her. She's six years old now and I am pondering on what to do with her.
Does anybody have any experience with processing older animals? Is she going to be really tough or what?

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  #2  
Old 05/26/12, 08:46 AM
 
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I've never eaten an older animal simply because I don't need to. However, I know those that have and don't have a problem with it but without exception ALL of them were in a position to have it hang for at least 14 days before being cut up.

I think that as with most older animals, if treated correctly, it will make for some fine eating.

Cheers,
Ronnie

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  #3  
Old 05/26/12, 09:00 AM
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: WV
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I butchered a six yr old angus cow a few years back. She was raised on just pasture and hay with a little sweet feed once in a while for a treat. She was delicious, just as tender as could be. The only problem I had was the steaks were so big they hung over the plate. With a teenage son, it wasn't a big problem.

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  #4  
Old 05/26/12, 09:12 AM
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We have butchered many older animals. How it will be is directly affected by what you have fed that animal.
If you have fed grain AT ALL, most especially corn or corn silage, then put her in hamburger (except the tenderloins). If she has been STRICTLY grass fed, process as you would an 18 month old steer.

We shipped an 18 year old cow last summer (yes a highland). Her steaks went into the retail freezer with all the rest.
In 2008, we shipped a 4 year old highland/hereford cross bull. He was 2000 pounds of grass fed muscle. His steaks were fork tender. We are still eating his roasts and they are delicious.

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  #5  
Old 05/26/12, 10:55 AM
 
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Absolutely hang the meat longer than most commercial processors do. You may have to pay extra for the space, but longer hanging time will tenderize the meat a great deal.

The only REALLY old cow I know of was an old Brown Swiss dairy cow my mom's family had done. She was being fed dairy mix grain and pastured, before being processed. She finally had dried off by herself and they had her done.

Everyone THOUGHT because of her age, up over 15yrs, she would be tough. Gramma always kicked herself for having most of the cow put into hamburger, because the steaks and roasts were all fork tender. Cow had been the family milk cow for years, so she figured in quite a few stories. Everyone felt badly, but she wouldn't breed back at her age and it was a very small farm, so she had to go. Gramma always had them hung for the longer time, so that also helped.

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  #6  
Old 05/26/12, 11:22 AM
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: VA
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Yes, we did a 6 year old Dexter, steaks, tenderloin and the rest hamburger...too much hamburger, in fact, for our freezer, so we donated most of it to the local food bank and they were very happy to have it!

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  #7  
Old 05/26/12, 12:00 PM
 
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We had a 7 yr old cow done (highland) grass fed. Done as normal no t-bones backbone removed ny-strip and filet mignon if she's a big cow 1500 plus (rail 876) like ours rib-eye's are huge diner plate or bigger our butcher had to half them or fold them to vacuum pack. But tasty.

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  #8  
Old 05/26/12, 02:43 PM
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: VA
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Curious, what are the reasons she's not breeding back? Has the vet looked at her? Six isn't very old.

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  #9  
Old 05/26/12, 04:20 PM
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I butchered a 4 year old Jersey cow that never did get pregnant! I was pretty upset, we bought her for $1000 and spend to much $$$ on trying to AI her, having the vet and AI tech out to do pre breeding exams, I sent her away to spend some time with a bull, then I bought a bull. She would catch, but loose it within 2 months

She was really fatty, but the flavor was good, meat was tender.

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  #10  
Old 05/26/12, 06:08 PM
 
Join Date: May 2012
Location: Maine
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We are a dairy farm so we eat older cows all the time...yeah we raise a few beef cows but you know how that works, sell your nasty black angus to the cattle dealer and take your older Holsteins and have good food on the table.

We have found that the older cows do taste pretty good. They tend to have more moisture in the meat, but their flavor seems to depend more on how they are doing at the end of their life, then their age. By that I mean, we found that cows that are older but in still in good health taste better then older cows that are failing in health. That probably has to do with stress inside the cow toughening the meat.

Unlike LonelyFarmGirl however, we found the opposite is true for best flavor. We have not done hay in 10 years so all our cows eat silage (and my sheep as well). When I raise my own cows for meat for my table, they never see a pen bigger then 10 x 10 feet, they eat nothing but milk replacer and silage (60% grass silage for protein, and 40% corn silage for energy mixed with mineral mix and a little grain. (the latter is a low percentage because our chopper has a cracking head on it).

I do admit however that those raised for myself, are slaughtered at 14 months, for what it is worth.

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  #11  
Old 05/26/12, 08:04 PM
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It wasn't so much a flavor thing as it was a tenderness thing. We found that those raised on corn feed or corn silage were tough as older animals, and those raised without grain were tender as older animals. We found that balage did not have the same effect as corn silage.

I do agree with the statement that older cows in good health are more moist and tender than older cows in failing health.

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  #12  
Old 05/27/12, 05:27 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goodhors View Post
.... up over 15yrs ..... but she wouldn't breed back at her age and it was a very small farm, so she had to go. Gramma always had them hung for the longer time, so that also helped.
Did anybody try to breed her back? My 16 year old cross bred Jersey/Friesian/Hereford cow has just given birth to her 14th calf and he's a bonny little fellow. She gets no special treatment and is 100% grass fed. I expect to get another couple of calves out of here, untoward problems notwithstanding. When her time comes she'll be buried on the premise that allowing for inflation, she has probably made me $13,000.00 in calves that I've been able to grow out to 2 year olds, and gallons of milk that reared other calves, lambs, supplied the house and fed the pigs. Eating her isn't even an option and while I recognise that we're all different, I'm just not hungry enough to eat something that has given me so much.

Quote:
Originally Posted by G. Seddon View Post
Curious, what are the reasons she's not breeding back? Has the vet looked at her? Six isn't very old.
After I had replied to the actual question, I wondered this too. Just as a matter of curiosity, what are the reasons she won't breed back?



Quote:
Originally Posted by Oakshire_Farm View Post
I butchered a 4 year old Jersey cow that never did get pregnant! I was pretty upset, we bought her for $1000 and spend to much $$$ on trying to AI her, having the vet and AI tech out to do pre breeding exams, I sent her away to spend some time with a bull, then I bought a bull. She would catch, but loose it within 2 months
Oakshire, I have a cow that quite by accident I found had lost her calf. The dog found the foetus and I was able to track it through a very small bit of dry blood on the vulva to the cow it had come from. This cow is a big, healthy animal and there was no reason for her to have aborted, and aborted a mummified calf. I got the vet out who took blood samples and they came back positive for Neospora. I got him back to test the rest of the cows and another two came back positive - her mother and an unrelated cow.

Neospora is passed from mother to daughter but does not affect the bulls or bull calves and is not carried by them. Typically cows will abort their calves within the first trimester. There is a 50/50 chance that they will carry through to termination.

Not saying this was the problem but something to think on.

Cheers,
Ronnie
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  #13  
Old 05/27/12, 10:07 AM
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Maine
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Hello,

Thank you all for the responses, this is very helpful.

Getting this cow bred is unfortunately an ongoing issue. We had her bred at 18-20 months the first time and she took right away, but after that she only conceived every other year, meaning that in five years she only produced three calves. Mostly she has been bred by live cover, but I've had somebody attempt AI as well.
It seems that she has an issue with retained placentas which cause her not to come back into heat until 4-6 months after giving birth, as well as delayed and longer heat cycles (every 28-35 days instead of 21). Wether the after-birth issues cause the problem with the heat cycles or vice versa is not clear at this point and frankly I can't afford to track this down. I'm sure she could be bred every 18 months, but a) having calfs out of cycle screws up my system and b) it's still not cost-efficient.

We've had the vet out twice in the last ten days and he clearly admitted that at this point her reproductive system has not improved (we attempted to have the afterbirth removed manually and by hormonal injection) and I would have to get more aggressive to "fix" her up. I spent a bit of money on her because I like her A LOT but unfortunately she is not earning her keep. My other two cows (at 11 and 5 years) breed back like clockwork, so it does not seem a management issue, but if anybody has suggestions - let's hear them. I'd like to keep her, but not if she's costing me unneccesary $$.

I keep these cows to help maintain the property, supply us with healthy beef and by selling their offspring as live calfs/steers or as beef. Both my husband and I work full-time and the animals need to be self- and cost-efficient to make this work.

Thanks again for your responses, I very much appreciate it.

Marion

P.S.Over the years I've gotten a lot of helpful advice from the members of this board that have more experience in this than I do. I would appreciate any opinions on wether to process her. Clearly I can't sell her, it would not be right to pawn her off on somebody else.

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  #14  
Old 05/27/12, 10:21 AM
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If you sold her at a sale, not being bred, she would only bring slaughter price.

Here, if a cow doesn't breed once, she's gone and replaced. If she can't earn her keep she's of no use.

However, if you don't want to sell her and if you need the beef, by all means butcher her.

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  #15  
Old 05/27/12, 12:17 PM
 
Join Date: Mar 2012
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We butchered our 6 year old highland bull last fall he has wonderful flavor but the steaks are tough. He was always grass feed but make huge babies he had to go

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  #16  
Old 05/27/12, 05:41 PM
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Central Oregon
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The only older cow I have eaten (not counting grocery store beef, and who knows what that might be) was all ground into burger. Flavor was wonderful.

However, if I had a 6 year old of my own to butcher, I think I would have her butchered into traditional cuts. All the shoulder and stew get crock potted at my house, so that would tenderize it.

If the steaks turned out to be tough, I would grind them at home, or else cook them like pot roast, so I can't lose. If they were tender then I have won.

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  #17  
Old 05/27/12, 11:08 PM
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Best roasts and burger I ever ate were ten year old cow. Yum! Made a seven year old Holstien cow into roasts, steaks and burger......oh my goodness. My mouth is watering. It was really good.

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  #18  
Old 05/28/12, 01:38 AM
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Lisbon,Ohio
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lonelyfarmgirl View Post
We have butchered many older animals. How it will be is directly affected by what you have fed that animal.
If you have fed grain AT ALL, most especially corn or corn silage, then put her in hamburger (except the tenderloins). If she has been STRICTLY grass fed, process as you would an 18 month old steer.

We shipped an 18 year old cow last summer (yes a highland). Her steaks went into the retail freezer with all the rest.
In 2008, we shipped a 4 year old highland/hereford cross bull. He was 2000 pounds of grass fed muscle. His steaks were fork tender. We are still eating his roasts and they are delicious.
Lonlyfarmgirl I was just wondering about the time you had this meat in the freezer. I always thought 1 year was about the maximum. What do you wrap it with to be good for 4 years?
Thanks!
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  #19  
Old 05/28/12, 07:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ufo_chris View Post
Lonlyfarmgirl I was just wondering about the time you had this meat in the freezer. I always thought 1 year was about the maximum. What do you wrap it with to be good for 4 years?
Thanks!
Obviously not lonelyfarmgirl, but we have always had chest freezers big enough for meat to get lost in. Thus we have eaten 3-5 year old breef quite often in getting to the bottom of our freezers. It was wrapped in plain old butchers paper from the processor. Was just fine. I have gotten "outdated" beef from a few people over the years, to feed to my dogs. But my "outdated" beef gets eaten by us.
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  #20  
Old 05/28/12, 07:45 AM
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: VA
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Hexe, thanks for your explanation. I see why you are considering the freezer for this cow as it sounds as if she just isn't a reliable breeder. I questioned it only because sometimes people are very quick to get rid of an animal without trying to find out what's going on. Still, I know it's hard to give up on some of them.

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