I'll repeat my warning I put up every time we butcher: DO NOT READ THIS POST if you are vegetarian or have a squeamish stomach. This post shows pictures of our bull being butchered. I don't want anyone complaining that they weren't adequately warned about the graphic nature of these photos.
Okay. That said, last Wednesday we butchered our bull Gimli.
We went back and forth about this decision. He's a fine bull and has fathered many calves. He's bred our cows as well as our neighbor's cow. Well over three-quarters of his offspring have been heifers. So why on earth would we butcher him?
A few reasons. One, his breeding has been uncontrolled. If a cow is in heat, he'll get to her no matter what (that applies to our neighbor's cow, too). No fence could keep him in. Since last fall we've known we desperately need a bull pen, but up to this point the weather has not cooperated for building projects. The ground is so wet that any attempt to auger holes -- assuming the tractor doesn't sink into the mud -- would simply result in collapsed holes.
So building a bull pen is high on our list of our summer projects. But we can't leave Gimli alone in the wooded side of our property (where the animals have eaten down the available grass) while all his girls are in the lush pastured side of the property. He would simply barge through whatever fences stood in his way and join the ladies. And then the indiscriminate breeding would start again.
We like to breed our animals in August and September so the calves will be born in May and June, when the weather has (theoretically) warmed up a bit. But we can't breed all the animals. Little Polly is still too young to breed, but she isn't too young to be in heat. So having Gimli loose with the herd was asking for trouble, since he would be breeding heifers we don't want bred.
Additionally, we're reaching the point where he would be involved in too much inbreeding. Bulls can be safely bred back to their daughters but not their granddaughters. We're starting to get a few granddaughters running around.
So bottom line, we decided to butcher him and start fresh with a new young bull in the fall. Meanwhile Gimli is in the prime of life and will yield somewhere in the order of 700 lbs. of meat -- enough to share with neighbors. Not too bad!
Unlike the sadness incumbent in butchering Pearly due to her injuries, butchering Gimli was no big (emotional) deal.
Mel and Chance with Potlatch Pack did their usual clean, efficient job. This time Older Daughter decided to watch the proceedings. ("You're kidding!" exclaimed Young Daughter when she heard. "This is the kid who can't watch a calf being born??")
Notice Mel sharpening his knife. These guys sharpen their knives all the time.
Here Chance opens the chest cavity with a modified chainsaw, while Mel keeps skinning.
The chickens thought this was all done for them.
The men are constantly hosing themselves down. They keep everything -- themselves, their tools, the carcass -- squeaky clean.
Next step is to hoist the carcass up so they can finish skinning.
Skinning -- at least, skinning done well -- is a devilishly tricky job. Needless to say, these guys are experts.
Gutting. Chance doesn't hesitate to literally plunge right in.
Next step is to cut the carcass in half, directly through the backbone.
Getting ready to slide the carcass into the truck. First Mel hoses down the inside of the truck.
But first they have to finish dividing the carcass...
...and removing the last of the skin. The hide is sold to a tannery.
Ta da! Cut in half.
Whenever we have an animal butchered, we have them save the liver for a neighbor who loves liver.
Once again Potlatch Pack did a wonderful job. Thanks, guys!