Killing Time

Cross-posting from over at the Sir Benfro blog:

It’s been far too long since I’ve posted anything here. I expect no one looks any more, and the RSS Readers will probably have given up too. The problem is, life got just too busy to blog.

I’ve started about a dozen posts in the last three months. Subjects ranging from my sudden and meteoric rise to fame as a writer of grisly crime novels to ruminations on the success of LambCam. Each time I’ve run out of enthusiasm for the subject, or time to finish it, or both.

But now I have something to blog about, and I’m going to get it done and posted before logging off. For today I took two steers to the abattoir in Perth. Yes, today I finally sold some produce from the farm.

When I bought the cows that would become the nucleus of the Fliskmillan Fold, six of them came with calves at foot, ranging in age from one to three months when they arrived. Of these six, one was pure, pedigree Highland – Eleanor of Woodneuk. This year Eleanor has been running with the bull, Fergus, and hopefully will produce something small and fluffy next spring.

Eleanor, taking it easy.

The other five calves were all Highland crossed to a Beef Shorthorn bull. This gives a bigger cow, faster growing and so worth more when it comes time to sell. Two of the five were heifers, and I sold them as breeding stock at auction late last year. The remaining three were steers – castrated males. They were housed over winter, partly to keep Fergus the bull company, partly so I could feed them up. Come the spring, they were turned out onto the lower hill, and there they have stayed, eating grass and shitting everywhere.

This little piggycow-kitten went to market

I brought them back down to the shed on Tuesday, separated the youngest from his two half-brothers and chucked him in a field along with the tups. His fate will come in a month’s time. This morning, I loaded the other two into the trailer and took them to the abattoir. By the time you read this they will have been killed, gutted, skinned, their specified bovine offal removed for safe disposal, their meat inspected, hopefully given a stamp of approval, and their carcasses will be in the chill store, maturing.

This little piggycow-kitten also went to market

Some people might find this harsh, particularly posting photos of them when they were just a few months old. This is where your food comes from, though. Unless you’re vegetarian, in which case this post is really not for you. I am not a vegetarian, but I do feel it important to know where the food I put in my mouth has come from. I won’t be eating either of these two – they’ve been sold direct to the abattoir and will most likely be appearing in a supermarket near you sometime soon. They are completely traceable though, from burger right back to the farm just outside Barrhead where they were born. 

They spent twenty-eight months in my care, during which time every one of the very few medicinal treatments they underwent (pour-on wormer is all they ever had, as it happens) was noted and remains in my records should anyone wish to know. They spent most of their short lives on the hillside, with their mothers, eating grass and heather as nature intended. I don’t farm organically – that’s an argument for a whole other blog post – but they’re as close to organic as doesn’t matter, and about as extensively raised as can be.

And in the end I took them to the closest abattoir I could find, minimising the journey time and the stress involved. The facility in Perth is state-of-the-art, the layout designed for efficient processing of animals, which includes making sure they’re not shit-scared from the moment they arrive. My two came off the trailer and up the ramp more curious than anything else, which was more of a relief to me than I was expecting.

And what of the third, I hear you ask? Well, he’s being saved for something a bit more special. He’ll be slaughtered in about a month’s time, then hung for at least twenty-eight days, possibly thirty-five if I can get away with it. His carcass will be butchered and split up into a dozen or so boxes of joints, mince and other bits and bobs. I’m going to have a couple of these for my freezer, the rest being sold to friends and family, just in time for Christmas.

Friends of mine who have a smallholding in Wales have a thing they call ‘smug’ meals, where the food they eat is entirely their own produce. When I finally get to eat a piece of meat from one of my own animals, then I’ll fell very smug indeed.

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