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Monday, January 26, 2009

How to Butcher a Hog Part 1

Before we start, I would like to say all those homesteading book you have, they sure don't tell you the whole truth about anything. With that said, time for you to learn.
We woke yesterday morning worried about the temp. It was only suppose to be 20F. To cold to butcher. You want it to be between 32F and 40F. Blessed Nation Ranch said it was going to be 34F at her place. We headed out.

How many homesteads does it take to butcher a hog? 3 apparently. Not only was the Neophyte Homestead involved, but we went to Blessed Nation Ranch to do the deed. The husband of the author of Melissa's Ramblings and his son also arrived on scene. None of us have done this before, all there to learn and I don't know who we were looking at to teach.

This is Mrs. Meat
Picture 602
She weighed out to 207 lbs. From what I have been told and read you want a hog between 200 and 225 lbs.
Picture 601
Before the kill, you need to get a 55 gallon drum half filled with water going. Not boiling, just steaming. Water temp needs to be around 120-150F. You don't want to cook the pig yet. If you don't have a thermometer, dip you hand into the water 3 times. If the third time is too hot for you, than it is time to dip the pig.

While the water is heating, you need to distract the pig with a little food. If butchering yourself, with hold food for 48 hours. Give her some food or milk, than point your .22 against one ear, turning it so that it faces the opposite eye. And pull the trigger. Here is where the books tell you that the pig will drop. I read about this one woman that did the deed straight between the eyes, and when a very ticked off hog chased her around, she did some research and discovered that this angle was the best, and has not done it any other way since then. uh huh. Well. . . no. .22 will not do you. It took 3 shoots and slitting the throat to kill her. All of us were feeling awful. My husband was the one doing the killing, and you could tell he was heart sick. He was talking to her, apologizing, and trying to sooth her while he had to shoot her again. After the third shot, I asked if she was down (they were in the trailer) he said yes, but not dead. You'll need to slit her throat. Please get it over with, I pleaded with him. Us women folk were distraught, but I can't imagine what my husband was going through as I handed over Melissa's husband;s knife, and my husband had to slit her throat. 7 inches deep, all the way across, hitting the aorta. Blood poured out of the trailer.

The men pulled her out, and to the tree. Time to hang and bleed.
Picture 610
Tying her feet, they threw the rope up to the oldest son of Blessed Nation Ranch. With the rope over, the men began to pull, and. . . snap! Rope broke. Blessed Nation Ranch grabbed a lasso, and they tried again.
Picture 614
My son climbed the tree this time, and my husband had to give Mrs. Meat a hug.
Picture 615
Pull boys pull!
Picture 624
With the pig up, we allowed her to bleed out. Of course this is another thing that homesteading books seem to neglect, how long to bleed a pig? 1 1/2 is what it took us. No one had an extension cord, for various reasons, so the husband of Blessed Nation had to drive 30 minutes to get it. We waited for the bleeding to stop, then it was my turn to get to work.
Picture 628
That would be me and my youngest son. I am cutting the skin and meat around the head to the spine.
Picture 630
My hands were so cold, that at one point I placed them into the hogs neck and blood to warm them. Once I got the meat cut through, my husband grabbed the hacksaw to cut the spine. You do not need to remove the head, but we wanted a little less weight to scald.
Picture 636
With all the feet tied, the guys moved the hog to the water.
Picture 637
There was some issues with getting her into the water. We were informed that Melissa's husband was freakishly strong, and my husband holds the State record in the Dead Lift. hahaha! It wasn't easy.
Picture 643
We got her end and allowed her to sit. After 20 seconds, I had the guys lift her so I could check how easily the hair came off. Pretty easy, so they had to flip her. another difficult task, we need a forklift next time. With her flipped and scalded, it was time to take her to the garage where we would finish up.

This is a two part series because of the shear amount of photos. Stay tuned, the second part is coming up.

Part 2


Bonnie Story said...

Hi! Thanks for being brave enough to put this online. Next time I know you'll have a.32 or a .45 caliber weapon to get the job done. How hard for you to get thru the first step. In any case, nice job and it's good to have lots of big strong men around for the huggin'. Well I'm off to read part II. Thanks again for keepin' it real! Bonnie

Anonymous said...

Yes, thanks, Phelan. I'm pleased to read about your homesteading feats.

One thing I didn't understand. You said, " long to bleed a pig? 1 1/2 is what it took us." What are you referring to here? Did it take 1 1/2 hours to bleed a pig, or are you describing the length of rope to hoist her up?

Otherwise, great job. Keep it up!

Phelan said...

Bonnie, yes, bigger gun. Thank you.

Kate, sorry, thank you for catchin that. It should read 1 1/2 hours is what it took us to bleed her out.

Country Girl said...

We had a similar experience. My husband did as the homesteext ading books said and started with a 22 and then ended up using a 44 to complete the mission. lesson learned the hard way :( I look forward to your pork roasts because we brought ours to be prepared (hams, bacon, etc) but the next 2 we have we are going to do it all ourselves.

Anonymous said...

I used a .22 on both of my hogs this year and on a beef steer. If the bullet is angled properly, they fall immediately. The key is to sever the spinal cord from the brain at the end of the shot. Were you using hollow-point bullets? That's the mistake most folks make. A larger caliber can really make a mess of things when it travels into the meat of the carcass. Just my .02! Keep it up, hopefully the kills get a little cleaner.


Desert Cat said...

Yikes. Looks like the first comment here covered my comment.

My dad used a 12ga slug to kill our pigs. I'd probably use my .45. If I recall correctly, Dad's slugs would stop just inside the neck, through the skull. I don't recall that it messed things up too badly.

Unknown said...

Enjoyed your story. When stationed in Charelston, SC. we had a pig roast. Unfortunately I didn't go with them to get the hog. It turned into a great sea story though, they (6 squids), arrived drunk to pickup the hog. Then they all got into a fist fight over who was going to get to shoot it, the Chief won. And then while driving carcuss back to his farm to prep it, it stood back up in the bed of the truck with skull and brains hanging down the side of it's head, and three of them screaming like little girls, cause the truck was going to fast to jump out. I always seem to miss the good times.

Anonymous said...

It's been quite a few years since I've had the pleasure to butcher a hog. My family was from the south of the tracks and we butchered twice a year until I was out of high school. We used everything but the squeal. We never shot a pig we would use a single tree to hang and then would cut the juggler vein and it would bleed out in to a tub, the hog would just "go to sleep" and would bleed out quickly. My Dad and Grandfather would not be happy if you didn't keep the hog from getting excited.

Anonymous said...

I witnessed about a dozen different hog killings in my childhood and I see that there are different ways of doing it. My Grandfather and dad always used a .22 at close range although I did witness a man that we bought a hog from one time bring it down with a .22 at about 50 feet away. We could have used him the time that one old mean hog didn't go down and broke out of the pen. He had him a little tantrum and then headed straight towards the shelter area where the tables were set up for the meat cutting. I lie not, I witnessed my dad jump up and grab a hold of a rafter 2X4 and swung towards the hog and kicked the hog right between the eyes. He stopped in his tracks and fell over. Always as soon as they knew that the hog was down for good my dad always did the job of taking a long sharp knife and cutting the main artery on the hog’s neck. Usually that didn't make but a small hole but boy did that baby bleed. Then it was time to hook the hog to the tractor and pull it over to the barn shelter where the large cast iron pot was that they used to scald the hair off. Then it got hung up and then they gutted it and took the head off. After reading your blog I learned that there was more than one way to skin a hog. Boy those were great times. No one in my family does that kind of stuff anymore.

Anonymous said...

You don't want to kill the pig when you shoot it. You want to stun it so that you can cut its throat or put a stake in its heart so it can bleed out while its heart it still beating. We have lost our abilities to make a living doing this sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

I had a hog that took 7 shots of a 357 magnum to put him down.. First shot was point blank between the eyes, 2nd in the throat, 3rd in the neck and the last 4 in the front part of the side. Mind you, we had to chase him around an acre field while doing this and it took 4 hours. He ran around like a trooper, refusing to die....
He was our mulefoot boar and we had to put him down over getting in with our goat giving birth and he ate the babies and killed the mother. This wasn't done out of malice, but we had to protect our herd... and who knew it'd take so many shots with a high powered handgun?!?
If I had to do it again, I would do more planning, have a strong pen/area to contain them and shot them in the side near the heart; that's what dropped him was the last heart shot.
Oh, and FYI the first point blank shot did go through the brain and came out in his shoulder. While butchering I followed the trajectory though just to see if it didn't bounce... it didn't. The hog ran around with a bullet through the brain for 4 hours and took 6 other shots to kill him! It amazes me the shear rigidity of a pig!

Nicholas Tunney said...

The problem with using a large caliber shot is that it comes back out, as evidenced by other comments, and will require more shots. A .22 will take down a 500lb sow with no problem if you take the time to line up your shot and learn what you are doing. The shot placement is imperative. The bullet needs to penetrate and then reflect back through the brain inside the skull. The proper spot can be found by drawing an X in your mind between the hogs ears and eyes. The center of the X is the spot to shoot. The pig will drop, but will not be killed. You do not want the hog dead yet. You need to either pierce its heart or cut its external jugular and let the blood pump out or it will foul the meat. It should not take 1.5 hours if you do it right. It should take about 5 minutes. This is a quick and easy process that has been done for time immemorial. Next time, ask a farmer for help for the first time, or better yet, volunteer to help a farmer during butcher season. Once you see it done once, you'll be able to handle it after that and it is much better for the hog.

Anonymous said...

Having killed a fair few pigs, and having had a couple of them not go so well, I feel confident saying what DOES work. First of all, that behind-the-ear BS you read about in the _Encyclopedia of Country Living_, well, I call BS. .22LR shot from a rifle actually goes through the top of the skull fine. .22 handgun, I'd be less sure about. Pig skull is thick. The problem with shooting behind the ear is that the entrance wound is kinda far from the brain, which increases the chance of missing the brain. The problem, for me, with shooting with a rifle is that I want to shoot down, so any exiting bullet hits the ground, and it is hard to aim a rifle down at point blank range. So, what I do is use a 9mm handgun, shot from point blank (don't actually put the muzzle on the pigs head!!!), at a point just to the side of the center of an 'X' drawn (in your mind) between the eyes and the ears. Sawzalling a head in half after you are done butchering will help you understand the anatomy. I've never had a problem killing a pig with this method, from a small roaster to a 1000# boar. As for bleeding it out, cutting across the throat is actually not best since a pig has blood flow not just in the neck, but along the spine in the top of the head as well. This is why cutting the necks of ruminants is a humane way to kill them (bleed out very quickly) but with pigs it is important to stun the animal first with a shot or sledge-hammer blow to the head (old way - I've nevr dared do this). After I have shot the pigs I use a large knife, called a scimitar to stick it. You should have ~15-45 seconds between when you shoot the pig and when it starts flopping. Sometimes they flop not much, other times they flop extremely violently. Either way, get the hell out of there when it starts flopping. Ideally you will shoot, and then stick before the flopping begins. To stick, find the sternal notch at the top of the breastbone. It feels on the pig just like it does on you. Insert the blade with the sharp edge pointing towards the spine (the point toward the rear end of the hog). Full insert the blade, then rock it back towards the spine and pull it out. This should, if your blade is good and sharp, sever either the heart itself or the aorta where it comes out of the heart. Either way you achieve two things: rapid (single digit seconds) loss of oxygen delivery to brain, causing complete loss of consciousness to the pig (if, for some reason a 9mm slug to brain didn't already achieve that), and rapid bleed out of the pig, since the heart is still beating. You also have a very small cut mark, which means less meat ruined from being dragged on the ground or scalded with hot water, or just generally bloodied up. My final tip, is to always, always - no matter how much of a hassle - kill your pigs in a hard pen of some sort. Your trailer was a good move. Messing up a pig kill is never nice. Messing up a pig kill and then having to run around chasing it with a live hand gun, all the while in the pen with its pissed-off litter mates, is a Very Bad Idea. One wire of electric holds my pigs most of the time. However, that's absolutely not true when you have just shot them through the nose. :-(

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