Kindest Killing Blow

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.

Also see:
The Kindest Killing Blow
Of Pig Brains and Tea Cups



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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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7 Responses to Kindest Killing Blow

  1. Anonymous says:

    Woh. Almost I say almost more information that I want to know! But I shouldnt complain since I like to eat meat. Good to know they die without pain after a great life

  2. Woody says:

    Fantastic information Walter. Thanks

  3. Celeste (South Africa) says:

    Thanks for the info Walter unfortunately we only have the revolver and two hunting rifles both large caliber .308 and .302.

    The young boar was penned I would guess his pen was about 6 x 12 meters. He ate “horsefood” its a mix of corn, oats, alfalfa, molasses meal, bran and salt that is mixed up for all my animals sheep, cows, horses and pigs, makes life much easier and cheaper. He was not around females at all except for the first couple of weeks after birth.

    I am in the process of fixing up my fences and then I plan to let my current pigs also freerange. My sows get to come out for about 20 min morning and evening when the sheep go out to graze and come in at night as the sheep sleep in the pigs pen, their pen is about 12 x 60 meters.

    Oh all the pigs do get alfalfa hay once a day and any excess veggies and all my duck eggs as I am not to fond of them :-)

  4. Martin says:

    Woow! What a giant animal! How large the skin was?

  5. Podchef says:

    Standing above a hog and shooting down into its brain at close range is effective with at .30 caliber rifle. We recently did 6 with 30-30’s and while there was a minor amount of bruising at the back of the head, I only found two tiny pieces of shrapnel in the neck meat.

    The only downside to this method is that there is no way to salvage the brain as food, and that dealing with the heads for meat takes a bit of extra work. I have some video of my latest hog butchering adventures which I will be editing and putting out soon–with recipes.

    In the UK they no longer allow on farm slaughter, and never allow animals for food to be shot. They always use electrocution. After dispatching 6 pigs with shooting I am thinking of other ways to go for on farm slaughter. A rifle makes a heck of a racket, and while the other pigs could care less at the loss of one of their own–especially while there is food on the ground–I wondered about their hearing and the percussion blast effect on the hogs closest to the ones being shot for slaughter. While not desirable at all, sometimes it is impossible to separate out the hog you need from the ones you don’t. A humane, captive-bolt stunner, like vets use–powered by a .22 shell–might be an alternative.

  6. Janice says:

    Thank you for this clear explination of how things really work in the real world. Too many politically correct people have become diassociated from the realities of their food.

  7. peter says:

    hello… ive processed a two and half year old boar who lived with his sow. And also had been bred within a week of slaughter and it was excellent!! He stunk as far as his hide and urine went but meat was absolutely fine. And wow there was alot!! he weighted alittle over 600 and was a berk X tam.

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