Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Holy cow!

So, I can't really say this is the rebirth of BFF, but I do have a fun little project going on that I thought people might enjoy.  I have finished up my own schooling (which you may have read about in my last post) and I begin teaching in just a couple of weeks.  In the meantime, the family garden is being moderately maintained, with new experiments going on each new season.

 Based on the title of this post (or the pictures, because I'm not sure which you saw first) you may have figured out that we are trying our hand at raising beef. I guess this is kind of like a CSA, but with pasture-raised beef.  With a bit of research and number crunching, I estimate that the cost of raising and butchering each animal will run me about $1000.  With that number in mind, I divided each animal into 20 "shares," each costing $50.  Once the animals come back from the butcher shop, each share holder will then get 5% of the total packaged weight.  Again, I estimate that to be between 20-25 lbs of meat per share.  Each share will be paid out with about half ground beef (less actually, but not much) and the rest will be various cuts.  This is after discounting the packaged weight for heart and liver (totally suitable cuts, but not highly desired, usually).  If you are interested, I do still have many shares available.  If you have expressed an interest, but have not bought shares, please know that it is your share deposit that provides for these animals.
We currently have three animals: two steers and one bull.  While I am not entirely sure of the breed of the animal, I can make a pretty good guess.  If you can correct me, please do.  These animals were purchased at auction by the hundredweight (or cents per pound, which ever is easier for you to calculate) through Pacific Livestock Auctions in Chandler.  If you've never been to the auction, I highly recommend that you take the family down there some Saturday.  There are signs everywhere reminding you that photography is prohibited, and they mean it, but don't think that means they mistreat the animals.  I have never seen an animal mistreated by the staff there, although I have seen a few who needed medical treatment. There are a lot of old dairy cows who go through their lot, so mastitis is pretty common (not rampant, but still common).

So, we have three animals, and even though I tried to convince the family not to give them names, they all had names within a few days.  Our bull, lovingly named T-Bone, seems to be an angus/holstein cross (or angus/corriente) and is almost entirely black.  The auctioneer announced him as a steer, and I was too high in the stands to tell otherwise.  However, the low sale price got me suspicious.  I didn't want a bull and all of the drama that brings around.  However, his temperament is quite pleasant, so if he stays friendly, we may keep him around.

Chuck is a hereford (cross maybe, but looks pretty clean).  He is short and stocky, and relatively friendly.  His horns have begun to grow quite rapidly, and he and T-Bone enjoy a good sparring match now and then, but they keep it friendly (so far).

 It's hard to tell what breed Pete is, although I think he might be a charolais cross of some sort.  He was by far the most expensive animal up front, but his build will yield well.  He is extremely shy and runs away quickly if people come within 50 feet.  Pete's name doesn't come from a cut of beef like the other two.  Instead, Pete is named after a game that my kids like to play.  The game is played on a piece of paper divided into many squares, each with a different face drawn inside.  Pieces of candy (or goldfish crackers) are placed over each face.  One player leaves the room, and the others decide which of the characters is going to be named Pete.  The person who left the room returns and proceeds to each the candy until they reach for Pete.  At that point, all of the other players yell, "Don't eat Pete!"  The kids think that is great fun, and thought it would be a fitting name.

They do know the animals will be killed eventually, and that we will eat them.  I took my youngest son Cullen out to see them one afternoon (we both love to just sit and watch them) and got a chuckle when he yelled out, "I'm 'unna eat you, T-Bone!"

These animals are being raised almost entirely on pasture with no hormones or antibiotics.  I will have a vet come do a check-up on them in the next week or so to make sure they are in good health.  I have only given them grain sparsely in order to get them to eat the dewormer pellets I treated them with about a week ago.  I will supplement them with alfalfa when necessary, but the pasture is doing pretty nicely right now.

I plan on taking the first animal to butcher some time in late November or early December.  If you are interested in purchasing a share or two, or know someone who may be interested, just point them my way.