How the animal lived
We have a herd of breeding cows that runs with and is sired by the stock bull. We also use artificial insemination where appropriate to avoid inbreeding and to add diversity to our genetics.
Each breeding cow has a calf every year typically in April or May. This calf suckles its mother for 6-8 months at this point it is gently weaned using a low-stress method called “fence line weaning”. Before weaning, the bull calves are castrated under six months; they are now called bullocks. The female calves are called heifers.
All the cattle graze fresh grass every day from mid-April until late-December when they are housed for the winter. Housing happens for several reasons: when the ground temperature drops, grass becomes dormant and stops growing in winter, so the cattle run out of grass to eat. The ground conditions can become vulnerable to soil damage when saturated, especially at there is no grass cover to protect it. There can be other issues such as lack of shelter for animals also.
During the winter housing period, the cattle have a bed of straw or wood chips and feed on hay (dried grass) or silage (fermented grass). This grass is harvested in the summer when growth is abundant and saved for feeding during the winter months.
The following grazing season the calves from the previous year are referred to as yearlings. We choose which heifers will be considered for breeding purposes, and which does not show promise to thrive well on a pasture only diet will be sold. Similarly, we choose which bullocks are not suited to produce the finest meat, and these are also sold.
The animals that are kept spend the grazing season leisurely grazing our species-rich pastures. The farm is divided into fields, and these fields are divided into paddocks using temporary electric fencing. We move the herds daily to a new paddock of fresh pasture. There can be up to sixty paddocks, so the grass has a long time to grow and recover before it is grazed again. The cattle always have fresh, healthy pasture to eat.
The cattle are housed again for a second winter, and the following grazing season they are primed for finishing. Some animals fatten quickly, and some are slower to mature. We use these variations to our advantage as we can have animals finishing throughout the year rather than a glut.
A “finished” animal has grown to a suitable size and has a good covering of fat. We aim to have our animals finished at about 600kg.
How the beef is prepared
There are many elements to be considered at this stage that can make the difference between turning your animal into ordinary beef or something special. We have gone to great trouble finding a fantastic small abattoir that treats the animals we have nurtured with all the respect they deserve.
The animal is delivered to the abattoir the evening before. It is rested over-night to give it time to relax after the stress of the journey.
In the morning the animal is walked gently into the chute it passes through a screen and is dispatched quickly with a captive bolt gun.
Here begins the production line. The carcass is slung up by the back legs and bled out, after which the head, hooves, hide and innards are skilfully removed. The carcass is washed and allowed to cool to room temperature before moving to the cold-room where it will hang dry-ageing for twenty-one days.
The hanging process tenderises the meat and intensifies the depth of flavour. (Supermarkets generally avoid this step because the moisture evaporation will reduce the carcass weight by up to 20kg, therefore, reducing profit!)
After hanging the carcass is then broken down into joints and butchered into the familiar cuts. Most heavy bones are removed, and cuts are trimmed of excess fat, leaving the cut-weight of saleable meat (approx 200Kg).
The butcher masterfully divides this 200Kg into ten even 20kg boxes ready for delivery to your freezer!