On Farm Slaughtering versus Slaughterhouse

On Farm Slaughtering versus Slaughterhouse

PostBy: NoSmoke On: Wed Jan 16, 2013 6:48 pm

As many of you know I have a commercial sheep farm and this week had two Ram Lambs coming up on a year in age and wanted to cull them from the flock. I had room in my own freezer for them and wanted to see what the numbers looked like on doing my own slaughtering versus going to a slaughterhouse. At first glance it seems intuitive; doing it yourself would be a lot cheaper, but in farming it takes a sharp pencil, so lets look at the numbers closely.

First off, farm slaughtering means killing the lamb, skinning and breaking down the carcass, hanging it and letting it chill for a few days, then cutting up the meat and packaging it. For this, slaughterhouses charge a flat fee for sheep...it is not by the pound, and is $60 per head here in Maine. Therefore, slaughtering these two sheep would have cost me $120 at a custom slaughterhouse (no Maine or USDA Stamp). My total cost for a blade for my reciprocating saw costs $5.50, and it costs $22 dollars for the vacuum sealer sleeves needed to package the meat. This was a total cost of $27.50.

But there are some hidden cost involved. For one, it would require me to make a one hour round trip to the slaughterhouse, and a distance of about 42 miles...with a minimum of two trips required. At a semi-skilled labor rate of $10.50 per hour. Therefore to slaughter the lambs at the slaughterhouse, it would have cost me $21 in labor, and a mileage allowance of $46.20 (at .55 cents per mile).

But you get quite a bit of gain by slaughtering something out yourself. For instance I kept the lamb livers and heart, plus I saved the brisket and gleaned a few pounds of meat from the fore legs and hind shank that slaughterhouses would not normally take. I figure I got about 10% more meat by doing that. At $3 per pound in hang weight, I get an additional $23.10 in meat based on what my customers would pay for my lamb.

So...lets look at the numbers thus far. If it would have cost me a total of $187.20 to cut up these two lambs at a slaughterhouse, and it only cost me $27.50 with an additional $23.10 in meat, at this point I am ahead by $182.80 for on farm slaughtering.

But then it took some time to cut up these sheep. Getting ready for the kill, bringing them into the squeeze, slitting their throats, and skinning them out took 1-1/2 hours for both sheep. It took another hour to break the carcasses down into individual cuts, and another half hour to wrap these cuts in vacuum sealed packages. That is a total of 3 hours worth of labor. At a skilled labor rate of $12.65 which butchering is, I figure my labor was worth $37.95.

All in all, when you factor in everything, I get a grand savings of $144.85 for farm slaughtering two lambs on my farm. In the end, this netted me 77 pounds of prime lamb meat, cut and packaged just as the slaughterhouse would have been and placed in my freezer.

The reality is, my figures were based on farm costs, but retail speaking, and assuming half the lamb meat is high end cuts worth $17.50 per pound for naturally raised, grass fed only lamb, and $8.50 per pound for the lower priced portions, I put $1000.25 worth of lamb in my freezer at a cost of $42.35. Not bad, not bad at all.
NoSmoke
 
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Re: On Farm Slaughtering versus Slaughterhouse

PostBy: NoSmoke On: Wed Jan 16, 2013 6:50 pm

Here is a couple of notes:

The Kill:
On Farm slaughtering is not for everyone, particularly sheep. It is hard to cut through the wool to slit their throats, and skinning, cutting and gutting carcasses that you have fed for a year can be tough. But for those that do so, it can be well worth your time.

Kill Method:
Many will note that I did not use a gun to put down the animal, that is because my farm is part of the USDA Scrapie Program, and I wanted to send in the heads for Scrapie Testing. This is no cost to me, but requires an intact head from the second vertebra up, which a gun shot would have destroyed. The USDA Vet was ecstatic that I had two sheep for surveillance testing...something which would not have happened if I had taken them to the slaughterhouse.

Extra Benefits:
On farm slaughtering has some real fringe benefits; beyond the cost savings you can really get a lot of extra meat. You can also save pelts and make lambskins which have value. Granted this can be done by the slaughterhouse but costs an extra $5.

Offal:
While it might be a liability for many, for me the offal (also called renderings) were used as coyote bait for the local area coyote farmers. This is in accordance with my USDA permitting rules and even is allowed by the recent carcass disposal laws that went into effect this month here in Maine. Coyote hunting is something my neighbors love, and getting rid of coyotes only helps my farm.

Helpful:
Hopefully this has been helpful to those on the fence considering on farm slaughtering or taking it to a slaughterhouse. Best wishes on whatever method you chose.
NoSmoke
 
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Re: On Farm Slaughtering versus Slaughterhouse

PostBy: warminmn On: Wed Jan 16, 2013 7:12 pm

What would happen to your herd if it tested positive? I know nothing of that disease.

Nice breakdown of costs. Ive butchered pigs, chickens, etc., but never sheep. How much was the live hoof weight on the two lambs to get 77 pounds of meat?
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Re: On Farm Slaughtering versus Slaughterhouse

PostBy: NoSmoke On: Wed Jan 16, 2013 8:01 pm

Scrapie is Mad Cow Disease, it is just called Scrapie in sheep. In deer it is called Chronic wasting Disease for instance, but is the same thing, a disease that effects adult animals and in the brain.

If these sheep test positive, my farm will be quarantined and then checked. At this time there is no known way to check for the disease without killing, so my sheep would be killed, and tested and I would be given a small amount per head for my loss. After that, all the sheep that originated on this farm, or passed through this farm over the years would be checked to see who has them and where they are now. It is kind of a pain, but given that I kick lamb out on the national food chain, then I feel it is best to keep this stuff tested. I am 99.99% sure that these sheep are just fine as I have not introduced sheep from another farm in years. (I have what they call a closed flock).

As for live weight, they were small lambs which was the reason for my slaughtering them, they were of no use to me as Ram-Lambs, and being small, I did not want their genetics in my future flock. From their hang weights, I would guess pretty accurately that one was 110 pounds and the other 95 pounds. I did not weigh them when they were still alive though...though keep in mind, you will have 8-10 pounds of additional weight this time of year as they in full fleece. (4 inches of wool) My breed of sheep, Coridale, which have a heavy fleece weight, will net about 13 pounds of wool for an adult ewe which took a year to grow.

Interestingly enough, I do not raise sheep for wool. This is because we have a dairy farm in the family and all our fields, and our feed is high in protein. Dairy farms used to get paid extra for butterfat, but now they are paid for high protein content in the milk and to get it, they have certain grasses and feed that they give to get that protein content up. High protein makes for fast growing lambs, BUT is detrimental to wool growth. It grows quicker, but it is very course and brittle, which is not what you want a sweater to be made out of. Therefore I raise sheep for meat and dump my wool out in the woods as it has no value. Kind of a side note, but thought you might be interested in it.
NoSmoke
 
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Re: On Farm Slaughtering versus Slaughterhouse

PostBy: warminmn On: Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:48 pm

Thanks. Ive thought of raising a few lambs for slaughter and always wondered how much meat I'd get. So it would be roughly 35-40%. Lamb tastes pretty good too me when Ive had it. The pork I can buy is mush, all factory grown, not very good compared to pasture raised. Beef is alright here, not much is pasture raised here but it still tastes ok. Very few sheep here but what there are they raise on pasture, mostly Amish raised.

We had chronic waste disease show up in an elk farm several years ago south of Minneapolis. they slaughtered the elk afterwards. They now keep testing deer, farm animals in the area, etc., and have an extended season on deer every year near that area. Then sharpshooters take what deer are left. Feeding wild deer is illegal too. They have not had any more positive tests. It is not something you would want near you.
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Re: On Farm Slaughtering versus Slaughterhouse

PostBy: Berlin On: Thu Jan 17, 2013 2:08 am

because the wool is so low in fats/oils is it not any good even for producing lanolin?

those prion deseases are poorly understood and scary. I read a story on farms in britain where even after measure were taken, years later the disease would show back up on the farm. This is because the prions live in the soil once it's contaminated and they can survive for many decades even hundreds of years.
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Re: On Farm Slaughtering versus Slaughterhouse

PostBy: NoSmoke On: Thu Jan 17, 2013 7:28 am

No, you will get closer to 60% meat from a sheep. These were very sad looking sheep; short, thin and did not do very well which is why they never were sold and why I slaughtered them, I just did not want them in my flock.

I love raising sheep even though I grew up with beef and dairy cows primarily. I like their size for one, which can be intimidating with 2000 pound cows. And I like lambing season, but mostly it is because of economic factors. The price of lamb is higher then other meats, you only have to raise them from Spring until fall to get a nice finished lamb (so you only have to winter feed your breeding stock), and they are incredibly hardy. As long as they have roughage and water, and are out of the wind, they can survive in temps as low as -40 below zero, so barn facilities can be quite meager. You also get more hang weight per acre then any other animal, and unlike cows that prefer grass to graze on, sheep love weeds. In fact their favorite food is poison ivy. With their wool, it does not bother them and I have mob grazed acres of the stuff out of my old pastures here. The only weeds they do not like are milkweed and thistle...they even tolerate smooth bedstraw quite well.

But there are issues with sheep too. Lambing can be tough, and I have dealt with overeating disease and foot rot. The latter did not kill my sheep, but it was a time-suck to deal with. Overeating disease killed 40 of my best lambs one year but now found a vaccine that stops it. Bloat killed 17 breeding stock sheep in one night, so every time I learn something about sheep, it comes from the price of having dead sheep. :-( Fencing is expensive too, but a must. Electricity and sheep in wool do not jive which means Page Wire Fence is a must and is very expensive. I only have 15 acres of wire up because that cost $20,000 dollars. I free range the rest, but I do worry about coyotes. Myself, and my Grandfather have never lost a sheep (yet) to coyotes, but they are nearby and so even when I free range my sheep on the upper most fields, I lead them into a fence with wire every night for their safety.

(I did try an experiment of running my sheep with a bull thinking it would act as a deterrent from sheer size alone, but it did not turn out well. Without electricity on my fence, the bull would tear apart my sheep fence and had to be put down, that being a $750 dollar animal was not worth losing $20,000 worth of fence for. But I have tried using a Pony as a guard animal with some success...again the size of it being a deterrent more then anything...and a donkey, but the donkey was more harmful to the sheep then the coyotes. I guess that is fitting, the donkey's name was Obama after all. :D

Overall though, I will never be without sheep. Partly because we have always had them. There is no record of sheep being on the Mayflower, but three years later records show someone traded sheep for some land, so they were here quite early. My Great Grandfather 14 times removed who came over on the Mayflower was a Tailor by trade, so it makes sense that upon finding out how cold New England is, imported sheep pretty quickly just for their wool. We do have records showing that he was the first sheep shearer in New England, and had the first sheep shearing shed, so being a 14th generation sheep farmer, I am pretty biased about sheep. The other aspect is, being a Christian, raising sheep really makes the bible come alive because there are so many references to sheep.

But atlas I was really kicked in the teeth this week. I already have 3 girls so I was hoping the baby I have coming in May would be a boy, and be a 15th Generation Sheep Farmer, but we found out we are having our 4th girl. I know we have no right to be sad, but the wife and I were so hoping for a boy that it brought tears to our eyes. :-(
NoSmoke
 
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Re: On Farm Slaughtering versus Slaughterhouse

PostBy: KLook On: Thu Jan 17, 2013 9:14 am

I am surprised you have not tried one of the large white dogs that are special anti-coyote breed. There was an old man and his wife down in Cutler that had a couple. The coyotes were decimating his sheep. Also, I am not sure what Dave Craven of Machiasport uses. He is a retired Game Warden, about my age, he has had the coyotes rip a beagle on a line to shreds in his yard. He absolutely hates coyotes.

Girls huh? I have 4 grand daughters, I read this last fall that hardship creates boys. You have it to easy it would seem!

Kevin
KLook
 
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Re: On Farm Slaughtering versus Slaughterhouse

PostBy: SteveZee On: Thu Jan 17, 2013 9:56 am

KLook wrote:I am surprised you have not tried one of the large white dogs that are special anti-coyote breed. There was an old man and his wife down in Cutler that had a couple. The coyotes were decimating his sheep. Also, I am not sure what Dave Craven of Machiasport uses. He is a retired Game Warden, about my age, he has had the coyotes rip a beagle on a line to shreds in his yard. He absolutely hates coyotes.

Girls huh? I have 4 grand daughters, I read this last fall that hardship creates boys. You have it to easy it would seem!

Kevin

I'm on Dave's list for lamb. Well actually it's his wife's list. ;) He grazes them just down the road from me on the Kennebec road in those old Manchester fields. They're mighty tasty and he has a waiting list. Didn't know he was retired from the Warden's. Intersting post NoSmoke! Thanks.
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Re: On Farm Slaughtering versus Slaughterhouse

PostBy: NoSmoke On: Fri Jan 18, 2013 6:55 am

I probably will get a LGD at some point (Livestock Guard Dog) like the Great Pyrenees but we had a saying on the railroad; It is not a problem until it becomes a problem, and right now, I really don't have a problem with sheep and coyotes because we (my Grandparents and I) have never lost a sheep to a coyote yet. Part of it is indeed fences, and part of it is that I do not allow hunting deer on this farm, so the coyotes have plenty to eat between the deer, turkey and rabbit that thrive here. (Again, high protein fields like clover, alfalfa, timothy and orchard grass, not to mention acres upon acres of corn).

Now I do allow coyote hunting and they are hunted hard here. Last year I think it was 41 coyotes taken here, with 31 the year before and the year before that it was 71...split about even between running them with dogs and trapping. Unfortunately we are no longer allowed to hook them (snare) though it was really effective. That was where you put a hook baited with meat a few feet off the ground and the coyotes grabbed it and got hooked in their jaw. Part of it was lynx were getting snared, but some of it was from PETA who said it was wrong morally, but if you ever saw a deer whose hindquarters were eaten off them, PETA would have no issue with hooking coyote.

I get along great with my hunting neighbors, and just this week told them where I dumped my sheep hides so that tomorrow (Saturday) they can drop the dogs near by and run the coyotes and hopefully thin them out some. Because of the distances here between roads, I have also went to the trouble to bulldoze a road across my land that allows them access between their hunting ground and my land so they can quickly get from one area to another. They appreciated that.
NoSmoke
 
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