Celeste of South Africa wrote with some good questions on Red Leaf on Stone:
Hi Walter, I came across your blog a few days ago while surfing for homesteading. I have been reading your archives so long. We have a small farm of 146 hectares and I currently have a sow and her daughter, both pregnant. A 2 year old boar and recently aquired a euopean wild boar crossed with a large white, she is only 4 onths old though. I also have cows, sheep, horses and ducks, chickens and geese and 20 dogs :-).I have some questions for you about the pigs though:
1) Do you skin your pigs when you slaughter?
Celeste, I have both skinned and scald & scraped. Skinning is easier for me right now although I think I should be better at the scald & scrape method which removes the hair and leaves the skin on. The skin is good food and especially desirable for a pig roast. In the ‘old days’ the skin was left on to help keep the meat from spoiling as part of the ‘packaging’. When I skin it off I can’t use it for us due to the hairs so I cut it into squares, roll them up and freeze the extras for dog treats.
The butcher we work with right now scalds & scrapes the pigs we sell. All the other butchers we’ve worked with skin the pigs. I think a lot of it has to do with what equipment they have on hand. He has a very nice scald and scrape machine that automates the first part of the process. Then they finish up by hand with knives.
2) We slaughtered our younger sow’s brother recently and my husband shot him first with a .38
I would use a lower caliber if you have it, perhaps .22 hollow point. Better not to have it pierce the back of the brain case and go into the body. The goal is to stun the animal.
before we slit his throat.
Rather than slitting the throat it is better to insert the knife about 2″ forward of the top of the sternum and cut down and then slice up to severe the arteries just above the heart. This gives maximum bleed out. This starts on the ground, then after it stops thrashing hang the pig by the hind feet to let the bleed out finish. Note in the picture above how I also lift the front legs to maximize the bleed out. You can collect the blood – some people eat it or use it in the compost as it is full of nutrients or simply slaughter in the garden.
It was our first home kill and he thrashed terrible after being shot
You probably did it right and the boar didn’t suffer. Thrashing is normal. The animal drops cold and is still, then about 10 seconds or so later there is thrashing. The first time you see this it is very shocking if you don’t understand what is happening. The shot stuns the animal. At that point it is dead – no counciousness and no pain. There are some tests for this – Google up “Temple Grandin” if you’re interested as she has written a lot about this.
I happen to have a first hand report on this issue: My wife Holly says that you are indeed feeling no pain at that point. You see I killed her one time – by accident, honest! She said she “simply ceased to exist” about five seconds before the blow. Fortunately she came back and can tell the tale – A story for another time.
After the stun the pig stops breathing. The heart is still pumping so you can do a proper bleed out. Thus don’t shoot a the animal in the heart. In fact, shooting it in the heart would actually be painful for the animal since the brain would still exist but lack blood flow and get a system shock.
You need to do the knife cut immediately after the stun. You have about a ten second window of opportunity before the thrashing starts. Getting in there when you are inexperienced is tricky. Once the thrashing starts you may get kicked so be careful. Grab a foreleg, bend it at the wrist and pin it against the chest rolling the pig up on it’s back a little. Even if it starts thrashing before you cut you want to still start the bleeding. I repeat, be careful and don’t get hurt. The hind legs are particularly strong in pigs.
If you don’t get the bleed out started the blood pressure can rise too high as the heart races without a control mechanism and you may get little red splatter blotches, blood spots, in the meat, particularly the hams and up to the loins but it can appear elsewhere as well.
So why the physical activity? According to what I’ve been told and read, the thrashing is caused by the hypo-oxygenated state of the remaining nervous system. This is not conscious activity.
I have some help with your boar taint experiment. The above male was slaghtered at 18 months with no boar taint whatsoever, he was however not around females and we skinned him.
Wonderful! Thanks for the info. Fascinating to have more data and from half way ’round the world no less. What types of food were in your boar’s diet? Was he pastured or penned? If penned then indoors or outdoors? Was he exposed to females in the last month of life? Any other details?
We are however planning on slaughtering the 3 year old boar as he is aggressive
Smart. It is important to cull aggressive animals. Failure to do so causes behavioral problems in the future generations.
and I do not want to continue this temperment in my herd. He is still entire, I plan to seperate him from the sow for 3 months or so
From what I’ve heard from another pig farmer who’s been doing this for 30 years, one month of separation for a boar is enough. That may vary with breed or other conditions. He keeps his pigs in pens, feeds them cheese trim and commercial hog chow and is whom we got our boar Archimedes. I have mixed breed large whites with the occasional red, black, etc. Your mileage may vary – keep us posted.
and then slaghter him, we will see how the meat turns out, if it has a taint then I am sure the dogs will enjoy it :-)
Aye, they would! :) If he is tainted I have read that the taint is mostly in the fat and that people take the lean meat, mix it with sow or barrow fat and spice it to make sausages and such. Keep us posted on how this goes!
Another related article to read is To Kill or Not. The photo above is Little Pig, one of our original sows who I had to slaughter during the Valentine’s Day blizzard this year because she was about to die of a prolapse.
Outdoors: 52°F/41°F Partially Sunny
Farm House: 70°F/65°F
Tiny Cottage: 68°F/53°F Attic scaffold & catwalk done, exterior parging