Saturday, October 17, 2009

Poultry Processing Day & Getting Cattle

I am never a fan of processing day. They are always a huge burden on me and they have spill-over effects into all the days around them. Processing day was Friday, but it begins Thursday. I figured I would walk you through the process.

Go to town to get cash and dry ice. Once I get home, I load a special old dead chest freezer (without a compressor) into the back of the truck along with towels, several coolers, dry ice, cleaner spray bottle, and straps to keep the freezer closed. The I hook-up the trailer and begin loading birds. We loaded 19 of the biggest turkeys but had one major hick-up and that was that the truck (my Grandpa's old, but very low miles, 6 cylinder, 2wd, 20mpg) could not make it up the wet sloppy drive way. I can't really blame it because of how steep our driveway is and how
wet it had been. If the tractor was running, I could have just pulled it up the drive with it, so I had to borrow a neighbors truck to get the trailer up the drive. On the plus side, I picked-up some chicken crates at auction this summer and they made loading 103 chickens so much easier then using the old rubbermaid containers I had used in the past. Next, try to get to bed and be ready for the early starts on Friday.

Wake-up shortly after 2:00 AM and try to get out of the house as soon as possible. By 2:50 AM I was finally on the road. I arrived at the locker by 5:45 AM (that is late though). Turkeys go in first as they take the longest to chill. By 7:00 Am, all the birds were dead and chilling. I drive back into town and try to take a nap and later get some work done at the local cafe. As usually, neither of these went too well. The truck cab was cold, and another truck pulled up behind me a dropped of a steel trailer which woke me up (it does not matter where I park, this stuff always happens). I also got chatting with the locals a bit at the cafe, which limited how much work I got done. By 10:30 AM, I headed back to the locker and check in. Then I got the truck ready by
cleaning and wiping out all the coolers and the freezer and place the dry ice in them, put a towel on top of the dry ice, and load the birds. By 11:45 AM I was headed home.
To add some complexity to my day I saw an add on craigslist for several calves in Earlham (right off I-80 on the return trip) and I responded and bought two Belted Galloway Calves (one a steer and one a heifer). I arrived in Earlham around 1:00 PM and had had the calves loaded and ready to go by 1:45 PM. I got home by 3:30 PM and got the calves unloaded and trailer unhooked by 4:30 PM. I came inside for food, water, and to see Janice who just got home. I was back outside by 6:30 PM and check on the remaining 75 turkeys before I started getting the current freezers ready to receive birds and reorganize the space. By 7:30 PM I started unloading birds. I like to weight them, label them with their weight, and double bad them, right away as opposed to putting that off, because it will never get done that way. Anyway, I bagged and tagged birds until 1:15 AM. Then I checked and watered the remaining turkeys and was in be shortly before 2:oo AM Saturday.

All and I it was a very rough ordeal on me, but the one nice thing is that I have fewer birds to take care of here. One more processing day is done, with only one more to go this year. The turkeys were larger then I was expecting, but many of the chickens were tiny. We have a large shelf with around 24 chickens that weigh less then 2.5 pounds, If you want small chickens we have then, lots of them. Birds that small will barely, if at all, cover their cost of production. I am planning on going down to the Milo to take 10 processed turkeys down to their locker to get them smoked and split in half as an experiment. They will be on the Iowa Food Cooperative as soon as they are ready. Another processing day is now done with one more this year to go.

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