First the good news: Found baby #3, looks like it was born a few days ago. Rain has mostly passed us by so I've managed to get a few hours in each day on the dock. Not pushing that - its heavy straining work. No sense in overdoing it and risking injury.
Probably the best news is that our new butcher came through with flying colors. Yield from our carcass was 69.5%, including the bones in the steaks and soup meat. This was one large steer we had slaughtered - at least 1500lbs, perhaps 1650lbs. Hanging weight was 955lbs! We received about 665 lbs of meat from that, which is excellent. Our previous butcher, based on his last work for us, would have delivered 455lbs... Of course, we don't use that one anymore! Anyhow, it feels like we are back in business and ready to direct sell cattle for meat.
Just to talk business for a moment: every animal is different, but typically we would sell a Highland steer around 900-950lbs (did I mention the one we just had slaughtered was huge? It was a different, larger, breed). Using typical ratios, a 950lb steer would hang around 550lbs, and yield about 350lbs of meat. Cost of the steer, slaughtering, and processing (butchering and packaging) would run about $1800 for a price per pound of around $5.15 for everything from T-Bones and sirloins to ground beef. One gets a surprisingly few steaks per animal, a lot of roast, a fair amount of very meaty soup bones, and about half ground beef - more if you don't want as many roast or soup bones. Liver and heart are optional. If you buy, you need to write 2 checks: One to us for the animal, another to the butcher for processing. We will arrange the slaughtering, the butcher shop will call about 2 weeks later and ask how you want it processed (steak thickness, soup bones vs. hamburger, roast, etc.). We need to know if you want the liver and heart (or any other organ meat) before slaughtering. You need to drive to the butcher in Purdin, Mo. and pick up your meat. The butcher will pack 50lb seed bags with your VERY frozen meat, so you need to make sure you have room for 7-8 bags in your vehicle and plenty of freezer space at home. Your refrigerator freezer, even if you have a side-by-side, will NOT due. The 13 bags I came home with today would have nicely filled my 20 cubic foot chest freezer. Alas, it was not completely empty, so I actually overflowed into our refrigerator/freezer and pretty much abandoned all hope of sorting the steaks from the roasts. ps. We have 2 steers that should be at our target weights, ready for slaughter upon sale.
Why the double checks and requirement for you to blow a day driving? USDA rules. We can sell you a live cow, and arrange for butchering, but can not sell you meat unless its processed at a USDA plant. There isn't one close, and even if there was, we would need to load the animal and drive it to plant and have it slaughtered there. That would result in some bruising, a lot of stress, and fear in the animal. Using the Purdin State Inspected butcher is a much more humane process: They come to our farm, drive out to the field the animal is in, and drop it right there. One moment its munching grass, the next moment its gone - no fear, no stress. The hassle is the price of doing this humanly, the benefit is you get grass fed, grass finished beef that was NEVER EVER fed antibiotics (we do vaccinate), with zero stress slaughtering. So better tasting beef that is much better for you (This meat is leaner than corn fed with a slightly yellow fat, which I'm told is the beta carotene's and other nutrients associated with a naturally fed animal.) Highlands grow slower than Angus and many other breeds, so the meat has a finer texture to it as well. Of course, no growth supplements are fed either. Basically it takes us about 2.5 years to raise a steer to slaughtering weight vs. about half of that for a corn fattened Angus. We believe the net result is worth it, even if the beef may be a bit more expensive than buying from some.
The owner of the processing plant is a nice older man. I'm guessing its his daughter that works there helping out. She could use a bit of customer focus training.... Maybe she was just having a bad day today... not sure. Lets just say she was gruff and leave it at that.
Now the bad news: Found baby #4 - dead. Not sure who the Mom was. I'm thinking it was Rose, since she was hanging around, but when I checked the records, she last gave birth on 7/1/14 - so would be due to give us another one for a couple of months. Gestation for cattle is 9 months, with a 28 day cycle, just like for people, and usually it takes 2-3 months after birthing before the cow gets pregnant again. So... we have a mystery. This is our first confirmed loss.