Archive for the ‘Cows’ Category

Slaughtering a Heifer

Monday, December 22nd, 2008


Last week, we slaughtered our eighteen month old heifer, previously known as Henrietta Hamburger (Sucky).

After the difficulty I had with getting the last steer into position for slaughter, I decided that I wouldn’t risk another outcome like that. The slaughtermen are busy and they don’t want to be waiting for people to chase their animals around. I’m convinced that the animals are somehow able to sense death. They normally follow buckets that contain their molasses treats. That is, until I try to lead one of them to the slaughter. I don’t know how they know, but somehow, they know.

When Sucky’s time was up, I decided that I was going to put her, Coco and the new calf down in the driveway overnight. This would make for very easy access when the time came. There’s plenty of grass in the driveway, and I put a water trough in there for them. Sucky was obsessed with Coco’s calf, so I thought that it would just drive her crazy if I separated them.

The next morning, Charlie arrived, ready to do his work. The kill that he’d done that morning, just before he showed up at our place, involved chasing an animal around. He was very pleased to see how I’d sorted things out.

I tried to get Coco and her calf away from Sucky, but they wouldn’t split up. They were trying to stay together. (I was trying to avoid having the other animals around when the shot went off. Apparently, they remember situations like this. So, if you have to do this, don’t let your other animals see it.)

Charlie used a rifle with a scope, so he hung back a bit, maybe five or six metres. He rested the weapon on the gate and took aim. I was expecting the hear the shot right away, but it didn’t come. He was waiting for exactly the right moment. He starting talking to the cows in a low voice, trying to settle them down. And they did settle down. They started to eat grass again.

“Look this way,” he said, over and over. “Come on… Look this way.”

Finally, Sucky turned to looked at him.


Charlie delivered a very clean shot.

Since black pudding was on the agenda again, as Charlie drew his knife to bleed the animal, I had the containers ready. We decided to use a small plastic container to “bail” the blood into the larger bucket this time.

With my bucket of heifer blood in hand, I headed back up to the house to deliver it to Becky. (Thanks, by the way, to Becky’s mum, who came out to help with little Owen while his mum and dad went about their business on that busy morning.)

The rest of the job went just like it did with the Herman slaughter.

Here’s what the entrance to the Farmlet looked like that day. A couple of our neighbours drove past… You know you’re living in rural New Zealand when people drive by a scene like this and just give you their usual, customary wave as they go past.

I asked Charlie if he wanted us to mention his contact information on the site, to maybe help him drum up more business.

He said, “Mate, thanks, but I’ve got more business than I can handle. Please don’t recommend me to anyone else.”

In harsh economic times like these, I wonder what other occupations are around where the people involved beg you not to send any more customers their way!?

In a different development, Becky called one of our other homekill meat contacts and ordered a lamb to be slaughtered for sausages. (Christmas is coming AND Becky’s sister is getting married, so we needed to be well stocked for upcoming sausage sizzles! We thought we’d try lamb sausages this time.) Well, our homekill meat man (let’s call him ‘Joe’) called Becky back and said he didn’t really have a suitable sheep to do in just now, “But how about a pig? I’ve got a great big sow that’s ready.”

Becky consulted me and her mum and dad and we all licked our chops at the thought of having a large pigaphant turned into sausages.

The next day, Joe killed that sow and had the carcass hanging up. He called Becky.

“You know that sow… She was huge. You can’t have possibly wanted all of that turned into sausages.”

He wound up selling half of the meat to someone else and we took the other half. I think we wound up with something like 35 kilos of sausages. Becky made several different seasoning fills for them. I think she’s planning on writing about making sausage fill in an upcoming post.

So, that’s our meat situation sorted out for three households (our neighbours with whom we share grazing, Becky’s mum and dad, and us) for the next several months, plus part of the food for a large wedding after party.

A Big Welcome to Miss Scarlett Beef-Shanks!

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

This morning, Owen and I went for a walk out to the cow paddock. I wanted to check on Coco. Last night she could hardly waddle up the hill on account of her huge belly and swollen udder. Surely her calf would be born soon.

Scarlett Beef-Shanks, about twelve hours old

When we reached the fence, what a sight met our eyes: A wobbly-legged rust-coloured heifer calf was just finishing her first feed and testing out her feet at Coco’s side. Owen smiled and pointed and said “mmooo.” Coco was mooing in a very maternal way and licking the new calf. Miss Scarlett Beef-Shanks is a healthy, good-sized calf, and she and her mother are both doing very well. This is such a joy to us after all the difficulties of last year when Coco’s calf was born dead.


Rosie, Coco and Scarlett Beef-Shanks

Henrietta Hamburger (Coco’s foster calf from last season, due to be put in the freezer next week!) has been making a nuisance of herself with the new calf. She keeps getting between Coco and the calf when the little one is trying to feed. She has also been trying to lick and bunt the calf. Luckily Miss Scarlett Beef-Shanks is strong and determined, and is managing to feed ok despite the interference. Coco doesn’t seem to mind. She has been seen licking Henrietta as the little one feeds!

Henrietta Hamburger. . . An Update From the Cow Paddock

Sunday, November 23rd, 2008

Henrietta Hamburger (aka “Sucky”) is looking very plump and tasty, and the time has come to put her into the freezer. I have arranged for the home kill to take place on the 11th of December so that we will have plenty of meat for the holiday season. Henrietta Hamburger has no idea that her days are numbered, and is happily eating spring grass with Rosie and Coco. Meanwhile I am making arrangements with the butcher and gathering ingredients for sausage and black pudding.


Kevin, Owen, and I went for an evening walk in the cow paddock to admire the livestock. Owen loves the cows, and crows with excitement when he sees them. He loves to make mooing sounds like a cow! The other day, he managed to pet Rosie through the fence while I was hanging up the laundry nearby. We wish we could get a photo of Owen touching Rosie or Coco, but it’s proving quite difficult to have the camera ready at just the right moment! Kevin and I love to see Owen enjoying the animals on the Farmlet.

Becky and Owen

We are keeping a close eye on Coco, since her calf should be born any day now. Kevin has checked that plenty of salt is available, and has added a little apple cider vinegar to the water trough for her. What about Rosie’s calf? Well, it became apparent a while back that Rosie’s not in calf. (It’s really hard to tell when and whether Rosie’s in heat, and since we only had the bull here for a couple of weeks we knew it was possible she’d missed getting in calf.) Since we don’t milk Rosie, this is not the end of the world, but we certainly wish we were getting another calf to raise for the freezer. If a spare bull is in the area, we might try getting her in calf as soon as possible. Otherwise, we’ll probably just wait and let her and Coco both go to the Red Devon bull again when he comes to see our neighbours’ cows.

Cheese Making Workshop

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

On the 19th of October, Owen and I attended a cheese making workshop at Huapai (near Hellensville). It was a fabulous experience, and I can’t believe that it has taken me nearly a whole month to write about it! The course was held at the home of Alison, who runs the Auckland chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation. Alison’s daughter, Natalie, makes wonderful cheeses and was generous enough to share her expertise by running this workshop.

It was an action-packed day, during which learnt to make cheddar, feta, ricotta, and soft curd cheese. Natalie also discussed how to make yoghurt and kefir. The workshop was set up so that all the participants could get hands-on experience at cheese making. We took turns stirring, checking the temperature, and cutting and handling the curds. Each participant went home with a folder full of clearly explained recipes, tips, and information. Now, I feel so much better prepared to start making cheese at home.

Highlights of the day included the delicious lunch prepared for us by Alison and Natalie, and a chance to sample some of Natalie’s delicious cheeses. The workshop was a neat opportunity to meet some other people with a common interest in good food. . . including a couple of people who I’d already been in touch with through this website.

Natalie was very kind and accommodating about letting me bring Owen to the cheese workshop. All things considered, this arrangement worked out pretty well. Everyone was very kind to Owen, and I don’t think he was too disruptive to the workshop. Still, a lively eleven-month-old does demand quite a lot of attention! In truth, my attention was probably only focused on the cheese making about 50% of the time, and I didn’t manage to meet and chat with the other course participants as much as I’d have liked, either. Owen was happy to stay in the back or front pack for some of the time, but at other times he was very busy trying to kiss the dogs, launch himself off the verandah, or get himself made into a big lump of cheddar cheese. Actually, it was a pretty neat day for Owen in the end. I’m not sure he’s an expert cheese maker yet, but he enjoyed learning all about dogs.

Coco is VERY in-calf

I’m not going to write about the details of making cheese in this post. Rather, I’m going to save that part for when I actually start trying out my new skills at home. Once Coco’s calf is born and Kevin is milking her again, we will finally have lots of lovely fresh raw milk for some exciting cheese projects. We can’t wait! Coco’s udder is springing already, and she looks very big and fat. I am watching her with great anticipation, even though she’s still not actually due to calve for about another week or so. Owen’s favourite foods (aside from breast milk and cod liver oil) are raw milk yoghurt and kefir, so our supply of raw Jersey milk can’t start soon enough!

Lots of Meat!

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Even a small steer like Herman Beefsteak produces a lot of meat. At the butchery, the weight of his skinned carcass was 255kg. This didn’t include the tail and offal, which we kept aside at home. Both Lloyd (the slaughterman) and Ngaire (our wonderful butcher) guessed Herman’s age at around 15 months. He was actually only 11 months old, but considering how well the grass grew this season, and considering that he had access to his mother’s milk until his dying day, it’s not surprising that he grew faster than average. It’s probably more normal to slaughter an animal at 18 months old, in order to get more meat. In our case, we only wanted to carry three animals through the winter, in order to avoid the possibility of running out of grass. That’s why we slaughtered our steer at just 11 months. So. . . what have we done with all that meat?

Owen gums a piece of delicious rump steak

For starters, we have given half of the meat to our neighbours, Dennis and Mary. We have an arrangement with them that they will share half the meat from each of Rosie and Coco’s calves in return for grazing our animals on their pasture. We are pleased to say that Dennis and Mary now have a freezer full of beef to share with their six children.

The other half of the meat is for us — me, Kevin, Owen, and my parents. We do not have a large chest freezer here on the Farmlet, but my parents do have one out at the coast. They are keeping most of the meat in their freezer. We visit them often, so it will be easy to pick up some meat whenever we are over there.

When Kevin, Owen and I went to pick up the meat from the butcher, we could barely squeeze all the boxes of meat into our little car. Boxes were jammed into the trunk, and wedged into the back seat next to Owen’s baby seat. We had to leave the box of drippings to pick up next time we are in town. And that was only half the meat! Dennis and Mary had already collected their share earlier in the day.

We were happy to support a fine local business like “Personal Choice Meats” by having our steer processed there. Ngaire, the butcher, has an excellent reputation around here for running a clean business and taking pride in her work. She was really helpful when it came to deciding what cuts of meat to choose, and gave me advice about how to make customised additive-free sausage fill for the sausages. Since we were taking the meat to my parents’ freezer, I was glad she could blast freeze it for us. This saved the hassle of blood leaking into the freezer from lots of unfrozen meat. It also saved my parents the hassle of having to keep turning the meat as it froze to stop it all sticking together in a great big lump!

Kevin looked very happy after we picked up the meat, as Ngaire had praised its quality and tenderness. She noted: “that steer wouldn’t have wanted to be any fatter.” (Lloyd said that it looked too fat!) For our part, we are pretty pleased to have raised a nice fat beast. We think the fat is very useful and tasty. Also, we are not suffering from fat phobia: Pasture-raised beef fat is health food in our book!

We are all enjoying the delicious meat. So far, we have tried scotch fillet, rump steak, sausages and shin-on-the-bone. The steaks were wonderfully tender and juicy. Owen has been given a piece of rare steak to gnaw on during dinner, and looked like he was taking the job very seriously. Did he just squish the piece of steak and play with it? No. It went straight into his mouth! No worries about that. So far, meat is one of Owen’s favourite foods (next to cod liver oil, which is the most favoured treat of all!). We are glad to have an abundant source of healthy organic beef for our baby to enjoy.

Kevin and I were especially excited to try the sausages. We refrain from eating “regular” commercial sausages in order to avoid MSG, preservatives, and other unhealthy ingredients in the sausage fill. The only additive-free sausage we’ve found around here was too expensive for our budget. It is wonderful now to eat a meal of tasty sausages, knowing that they contain only the special fill that I supplied to our butcher. What was in the fill? We kept it simple: Rice flour, sea salt, cayenne pepper, ground cumin.

(Note: According to Ngaire, iodised “table salt” should be avoided in the preparation of sausage and preserves. We don’t use “table salt” in any of our food, in any case, so this was no hassle.)

The sausages came out really tasty, with just a hint of spiciness from the cayenne pepper.

My parents have also enjoyed a meal of rump steak, and we all tried the shin-on-the-bone when we were over at my parents’ place for dinner last night. Mum put beef shin and vegetables in the slow cooker to make a delicious soup.

More culinary adventures are in store:

I’m planning to render the drippings to make tallow, and boil up lots of the bones to make rich and healthful stock. We are looking forward to beef liver pate, steak and kidney pie, pot roast, rib roast, corned beef tongue, oxtail barley soup, beef stew, sourdough crackers and pastry made with beef tallow, beef chile, empanadas, spicy meatloaf. . . I hope to be posting some beef recipes on this website in the not-too-distant future.