Killing Time

It's been far too long since I've posted anything here. I expect no one looks any more, and the RSS Readers will probably have given up too. The problem is, life got just too busy to blog.

I've started about a dozen posts in the last three months. Subjects ranging from my sudden and meteoric rise to fame as a writer of grisly crime novels to ruminations on the success of LambCam. Each time I've run out of enthusiasm for the subject, or time to finish it, or both.

But now I have something to blog about, and I'm going to get it done and posted before logging off. For today I took two steers to the abattoir in Perth. Yes, today I finally sold some produce from the farm.

When I bought the cows that would become the nucleus of the Fliskmillan Fold, six of them came with calves at foot, ranging in age from one to three months when they arrived. Of these six, one was pure, pedigree Highland - Eleanor of Woodneuk. This year Eleanor has been running with the bull, Fergus, and hopefully will produce something small and fluffy next spring.
Eleanor, taking it easy.

The other five calves were all Highland crossed to a Beef Shorthorn bull. This gives a bigger cow, faster growing and so worth more when it comes time to sell. Two of the five were heifers, and I sold them as breeding stock at auction late last year. The remaining three were steers - castrated males. They were housed over winter, partly to keep Fergus the bull company, partly so I could feed them up. Come the spring, they were turned out onto the lower hill, and there they have stayed, eating grass and shitting everywhere.
This little piggycow-kitten went to market

I brought them back down to the shed on Tuesday, separated the youngest from his two half-brothers and chucked him in a field along with the tups. His fate will come in a month's time. This morning, I loaded the other two into the trailer and took them to the abattoir. By the time you read this they will have been killed, gutted, skinned, their specified bovine offal removed for safe disposal, their meat inspected, hopefully given a stamp of approval, and their carcasses will be in the chill store, maturing.

This little piggycow-kitten also went to market
Some people might find this harsh, particularly posting photos of them when they were just a few months old. This is where your food comes from, though. Unless you're vegetarian, in which case this post is really not for you. I am not a vegetarian, but I do feel it important to know where the food I put in my mouth has come from. I won't be eating either of these two - they've been sold direct to the abattoir and will most likely be appearing in a supermarket near you sometime soon. They are completely traceable though, from burger right back to the farm just outside Barrhead where they were born. 

They spent twenty-eight months in my care, during which time every one of the very few medicinal treatments they underwent (pour-on wormer is all they ever had, as it happens) was noted and remains in my records should anyone wish to know. They spent most of their short lives on the hillside, with their mothers, eating grass and heather as nature intended. I don't farm organically - that's an argument for a whole other blog post - but they're as close to organic as doesn't matter, and about as extensively raised as can be.

And in the end I took them to the closest abattoir I could find, minimising the journey time and the stress involved. The facility in Perth is state-of-the-art, the layout designed for efficient processing of animals, which includes making sure they're not shit-scared from the moment they arrive. My two came off the trailer and up the ramp more curious than anything else, which was more of a relief to me than I was expecting.

And what of the third, I hear you ask? Well, he's being saved for something a bit more special. He'll be slaughtered in about a month's time, then hung for at least twenty-eight days, possibly thirty-five if I can get away with it. His carcass will be butchered and split up into a dozen or so boxes of joints, mince and other bits and bobs. I'm going to have a couple of these for my freezer, the rest being sold to friends and family, just in time for Christmas.

Friends of mine who have a smallholding in Wales have a thing they call 'smug' meals, where the food they eat is entirely their own produce. When I finally get to eat a piece of meat from one of my own animals, then I'll fell very smug indeed.


Anonymous said…
I still sometimes check here to see if there's anything new - strangely I have done so on the very day you have finally posted!
Please do post something about your writing career - I first came across your blog in the Debut Dagger days - so I'd be very interested to hear more about your progress.
Great looking cattle you have there btw.
Peggy Ann said…
Thanks for sharing about taking the cows, James. Very interesting. Being the animal lover you are I would imagine it might be a bit hard to do, but at the same time I can understand the satisfaction you will feel when you finally get to eat a steak you raised yourself! As to vegetarianism, God provided the animals for our sustenance and I'm certainly not going to argue with Him! A humane butcher, bit of an oxymoron isn't it:)
JamesO said…
Hi Kate. What spooky serendipity! I tend to post about writing more over at now, although even that is sparse due to lack of time.

Peggy, as a livestock farmer growing animals for meat, I can't afford to be too sentimental. That said, I feel if I'm going to eat an animal then I have a responsibility to see that it is raised as well as possible and killed with the minimum of stress. Unfortunately the ever growing regulation of the industry has closed down all the small local abattoirs, meaning livestock is transported ever greater distances. Also the big meat producers, supplying the supermarkets, think nothing of trucking lorryloads of live animals from one end of the country to the other if it saves them a few pence a kilo. I would love to be able to slaughter on farm and supply butchers within a 20 mile radius only. Alas, those days are long past.
Anonymous said…
Hi James
I'll bookmark your website and check there too for intermittent news.
On the subject of farming and more specifically what you were saying about wanting to do the whole slaughter/distribution locally, you might find The Campaign for Real Farming interesting if you haven't come across it already (my sister in law Ruth Tudge is co-founder with her husband Colin Tudge). They campaign and lobby to promote what they call Enlightened Agriculture or 'Farming that is expressly designed to feed people without wrecking the rest of the world'.
They hold the Oxford Real Farming Conference every year in January too. Good people with some really great ideas - keeping things local being one of them and you may find other ideas in accord with your own farming principles.
Sue Coulstock said…
Hi, I came to this part of your blog late and as a result of looking up links to "There Ain't No Sun In Kuwait City" - but enjoyed your farming stories above. We too are doing some small-scale farming and though we produce animals for food (and honey, and vegies) we care about them having a decent life en route. How did your house build go? We started a straw bale build in late 2011, have lived in the part-complete build since late 2012, and are finally getting close to the finish line. You can look us up under "Red Moon Sanctuary" for pretty photos of Antipodean noodling on the land - our Flickr account showcases it. Nice to find your blog - all the best.
JamesO said…
Hi Sue,

I'd almost forgotten this blog existed! The house build is still not finished, due mostly to a major cock-up by one of the builders that I may blog about some day. Once the lawyers have sorted it all out, perhaps. I'll have a look at your Flickr account - I've a great fondness for down under, hence my New Zealand Romney sheep!

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