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Nov 22 / Jamie

Hanging weights, turning bulls into steers, and other farm happenings.

What a busy few weeks it has been around here.

Several weeks ago we picked up our beef and pork from the butchers.  We took the pigs to Salem Prime Cuts in Salem, CT and the steer to Maurice’s in Canterbury, CT.  They were both great.  Finding out the hanging weights is the best part.  It is the feedback for the work you have put into the animals.  Also, I really find it mesmerizing to watch them cut and wrap the meat.  They are so fast and so precise.  Plus, we are still getting acquainted with the basic cuts for these animals, so it is interesting to see exactly where the Boston Butt come from on the pig (amazingly it is the front leg) and where the tenderloin is on the cow.  Maybe once we have been doing this for a while, I won’t feel this way, but I wouldn’t miss a “cut-date” for anything.

We promise that soon we will put full details of the hanging weights and breakdowns of all the cuts.  The pigs’ hanging weights were about 208 lbs, and 228 lbs and the steer’s hanging weight was 564 lbs.  We had <10% waste on both butcherings.

We kept 1/4 of one pig and 1/2 of the steer.  We had 45 pounds of hotdogs made from a combo of our beef and pork.  There is a great meat processor called Noack’s down in Meriden, CT that does custom orders of nitrate/nitrite free hotdogs, sausages, wursts, etc.  They also have a USDA certified retail store and sell meat they get from local suppliers who raise their pigs with an all-natural diet and free of hormones and unnecessary anti-biotics. Definitely worth the trip if you are in the area.

We sold seven shares of pork, each one weighing btwn 15 and 20 pounds, and as of this writing nine out of ten offered beef shares, each one coming in right at twenty pounds.  By next weekend we should have finished distributing the shares and will hopefully have sold the last share.  With the pigs, we were able to break even, meaning that all of our direct outlays (purchase price for pigs, feed, butchering) were covered and the meat we kept for ourselves was paid for by our time (feeding, watering, fencing, transporting to and from the butcher, etc).  With the steer, we actually made a “profit” sort-of.  We came out ahead of our direct outlays (purchase price, feed, butchering fees). HOWEVER, when you factor in the cost of fencing the entire property and THEN having to run electric fence because a 48″ woven wire field fence is just not enough to contain a steer who is dead set on eating the greener grass on the other side, well, all profits are quickly erased.  Then, when you factor in our time, water, etc, well, let’s not go there.  We are not (as of yet) doing what we do to earn a living (thankfully) but rather as a lifestyle choice.  We are investing in a future for ourselves, our children, and our local agricultural community, so we consider it all worth it in the end.  That said, our “profits” on the steer will be directly invested into a spinning wheel and a set of spinning equipment for me, so I am happy to have “made some money”.  Plus, we have a freezer full of amazing, healthy meat that will be so great to draw from all year long.

We had a really great time at our party, thanks to all those who came and shared local foods with us.  We thought it was going to rain, so we didn’t prep the hay-ride or fire pit.  It ended up staying clear all day, so people were able to wander around and take farm tours to meet all of the animals.  But, it was unseasonably cold and windy, so I think everyone appreciated being able to come in  and sit by the warm woodstove.  The food was fantastic, and as good as the turducken was, the surprise hit in my mind was the rabbit stew.  It was made by making a stock from roasted rabbit parts, then slow cooking the stock, rabbit meat, onion, carrots, celery, tomato sauce, rosemary, and olives for the better part of a day.  The flavor was intensely rich and perfect on a cold day.

We also had our two bull calves that were born this spring turned into steers.  Our vet was out to do the fall rabies shots (we can do everything else ourselves but in CT you must be a licensed vet to give rabies).  She is the most wonderful small-town livestock vet.  She always has a vet student with her, this time one from Tufts.  We really love our vet, she is laid back, funny, but very knowledgeable.  Since we know so little about livestock, we consider her a great resource.  So, of course that morning it was truly a three ring circus getting the calves into their stall.  Most mornings they come running with their mommas once they hear me rattle the grain bucket.  Not so on this day.  We finally got them in with about ten minutes to spare before the vet showed up.  The shots were given and we got the calves in our shute to do the castration.  It took four of us, Mike was holding the sterile tools, the vet student was holding the tail while spreading the calves feet, I had my fingers in the calves nostril to distract it and the vet did the cutting.  I am not kidding, the tool she used is called an “emasculator”.  Essentially, they cut off the skin around the testicles, exposing them.  Then, one at a time, they clamp the emasculator on the top of the testicle for a minute after cutting the sac off.  When both are done, they spray some antiseptic, and that is it.  The best thing for the calf to do is get back out in the nice clean pasture.  One calf did well, the other bucked, but it all went very smoothly.  A lot of people band their animals, but castrating is much better, in that it is more humane, you are certain both testicles come off, and supposedly, you get much better beef yields over banding.  We think it is worth the expense of having the vet come and do it.

We also finished our grow tunnel and used it to butcher our last three turkeys.  It was so nice to have a covered space out of the wind.  One turkey will be for Thanksgiving, one for Christmas, and the last one will get ground up.  We are enjoying wrapping up the growing year and are looking forward to winter.

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