January 21, 2009

Cattle farm husbandry – home killing of meat

Cattle, farming, husbandry, meat, killing, slaughter of stock, farm meat for home consumption, the law, good practice.
By Dr Clive Dalton

Home killing on the farm
  • It’s very important to have your home killing done by a licensed “home kill service provider” Operators are required to be licensed under the Animal Products Act 1999 and can provide their service on their own licensed premises or on your property. The welfare standards for home killing must conform to those given under the MAF Animal Welfare (Commercial Slaughter) Code of Welfare 2006.
  • Home killing of livestock is subject to legal restrictions because of concerns that home-killed meat which has not been inspected by an approved government inspector in a licensed slaughtering facility may get into the export meat trade and threaten market standards.
  • Our export markets view this as a risk, and farmers who kill stock for home consumption need to fully appreciate this. The risk is not so much with those who understand and stick to the law, it’s the illegal operators who are the worry and those who are tempted to look for and buy “cheap meat”, some of which is of very suspect origin and without a doubt is a human health risk.
  • “Home kill” is the slaughtering and butchering of your own animals, either by yourself or by a licensed home-kill butcher for your own consumption which includes your family and household.
  • A “family” normally includes parents, children and grandparents and does not include an extended family living elsewhere. Great grandparents miss out!
  • A “household” are the normal occupants of a house and does not include an institution or tourist accommodation.
  • Only animal owners who are actively engaged in the day-to-day maintenance of an animal, or keep animals of the same kind for a period of 28 days, may use home kill. In other words – someone making a serious attempt to farm them and not just dealing in stock.
  • Home killed meat cannot be sold, raffled, or bartered for goods or services. It would not even be wise to give it away.
  • You can feed home kill meat to your staff if they are regular employees, and they can feed it to their families. You cannot feed casual workers or contractors or your vet, accountant or bank manager, and you cannot feed home kill to paying guests.
  • It’s very important to use a home kill butcher with a good reputation for producing top meat. A freezer full of tough meat is not a good prospect, nor is the nagging concern that you may think you didn’t get all your own beast back from the butcher, or why you have so much mince!
  • When killed on the farm, the beast is shot from a short distance in the paddock with or near its herd mates so stress levels are very low. This single shot should put the beast down and it should not need more than one shot to kill it.
  • It is very important to realise that under the Animal Welfare Act 1999, all animals must be slaughtered in a humane way without causing any pain or stress to them or their herd mates.
  • Cutting the animal’s throat is not acceptable as humane, and it must first be shot correctly with a rifle or captive bolt pistol before sticking (bleeding).
  • Generally other stock in the paddock don’t realise what has happened to their mate that has suddenly dropped down. However, if you want more than one beast killed there could be problems if other stock then realise what’s going on and may smell blood.
  • As soon as the selected beast has been shot, then quietly move the others out of sight and smelling distance, and give them some hay to occupy them.
  • Some operators will bury the offal on your farm or will take it away for disposal in an approved site. This will be part of the charge.
  • Check with MAF for the latest regulations on home kill and for regulations to provide meat for Marae and ethnic and religious groups.
  • Realise the potential hazards with home killing of meat. You would do well to consider sending a beast away off the farm to a licensed slaughter facility to be killed and processed. Then at least you have no human safety concerns, animal stress or food safety issues to be concerned about.
  • Before you fill the freezer, check it with a thermometer to make sure it’s reaching the correct temperature and tape the plugs into the sockets. Also lay some rat poison near the freezer as they love the plastic on the cable and you don’t want to come back from holiday and find a freezer full of nice pink water with your meat floating in it!
  • And remember that not all of a beast is fillet steak! Just think of all that fatty mince the family is going to have to eat. Consider spending the money the home kill will cost you on prime steak when your supermarket runs specials.
  • If you are tempted to get the beast’s hide cured to make a rug, then you’ll have to deliver the rather unsavoury skin to a proper tannery that will accept single hides if you want a proper job done. Don’t try to home-tan a cattle beast’s hide - they usually end up like a sheet of plywood with turned up edges! And how can you walk on the skin of a beast that may have been your friend?
This material is provided in good faith for information purposes only, and the author does not accept any liability to any person for actions taken as a result of the information or advice (or the use of such information or advice) provided in these pages.

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