I debated on whether or not to take pictures of this experience. I opted against it. Maybe it is a cop out. I haven't decided. Logistically, it was probably just as well not to take pictures. I was busy helping and there was no good way to wash and dry my hands to keep the camera clean.
Around 1 PM Saturday, the two larger steers were brought into one section of of the barn, and the younger, 8 month old steers were brought into another part of the barn. The butcher arrived at about 1:30. There was a little bit of setting up and at about 1:40 (after this, I didn't know what time it was until we were done), one steer was let out and it came into the corral. It was shot slightly above between it's eyes. Once down, the steer's throat was deeply slit and it bled out very quickly.
A tractor pulled the steer to an area set up with hoists. What followed was an extremely impressive display of knife work. Every cut had a purpose. The part of the leg below the knees was removed and cuts were made to begin removing the hide. Large hooks were put through a portion of the leg and connected to the hoists. As the animal was raised, the hide was removed and the body was sawed in half, being careful not to damage the hide (it is worth around $100 - to us it covers the cost of the slaughter and two weeks hanging time in a cooler). Once high enough, the intestines were removed. The hoists were occasionally raised until the head was barely on the ground. The hide was fully removed and boxed. Then the head was cut off. A cut was made to almost split a side of beef in half, but not quite. A pick up was backed under the meat and this cut was completed. The hoists lowered the rest of the meat into the truck.
After a little clean up, this process was repeated with the a second steer. Once everything was cleaned up, we went to the barn where half of each steer was weighed before being brought into a cooler. The hanging weight of the first steer was 640 pounds. The second steer weighed 644. After we got back to the house, there was some more clean up and then I prepared the tongues and hearts for freezing. I also did my best to properly prepare the hanger steaks from the second steer. They didn't look like they were going to stay attached during the dry aging. The livers went with the meatto the butcher's.
The entire process - time from first shot to cleaning up after prepping some items for the freezer - took three and a half hours. This butcher's efficiency is incredible.
These two steers were raised for four families. In two weeks, my father-in-law, brother-in-law, family friend and I will return to the barn where the meat is aging. We will each make decisions about how our side of beef will be butchered and wrapped. After the cuts are wrapped in freezer paper, they a sealed up with a FoodSaver and then frozen. It is another interesting process. Unfortunately, our butcher is an early riser. He wants to start at 6:00 AM.