28 February 2012

Goat (and Sheep) Horns

We finally got around to culling seven of our goats last week. Each had some kind of "issue" that made it undesirable for us: a few were very small and stunted, one had kidded before but never developed much of an udder or teats, two were males we didn't need for breeding (and were becoming obnoxious fence-jumpers and bullies), etc.

I've been so swamped with work, I haven't had the time to butcher them myself. Besides, with goat meat, we prefer to just have it all ground up --- something I don't have the equipment for. And yet, I'd been hesitant to take these things to the butcher; one mature male in particular had a huge set of horns, and I feared he'd smash the windows in my old Ford Bronco.

Finally, a thought occurred to me: could we perhaps kill the animals here, bleed them out, and have our butcher take over from there? I called the shop that usually slaughters and processes our lambs, and they agreed to take the goats already-dead.

So, last Wednesday morning, I backed the Bronco up to the barn. The two oldest Yeoman Farm Children lead each of the seven culls out to me. I dispatched each goat with a single shot to the back of the head, then pulled the head straight back and cut the throat all the way open. As it bled out, the YFCs led another cull from the goat pen. And so the process continued, until we had seven goat carcases piled up.

Before continuing, I must add a quick word about the method of dispatch. In the past, I've usually put sick animals down with a shot to the forehead --- with mixed results. Sometimes it scores a direct hit to the brain; sometimes not. It all depends on the angle, and whether the animal moves at the last instant. The butcher suggested shooting the back of the head, and this definitely proved to be a better way to go. Because I could stand behind each goat, straddling its body between my legs, I was able to control and stabilize the animal much better. Shot placement was much more sure, and very effective. Each goat immediately crumpled, and then barely even twitched.

As a further aside, the experience gave an opportunity to test the pistol and hollow point ammunition that I regularly carry around the farm with me in a belt holster. (I carry it not only for personal protection, but because of the number of predators that have gotten away while I ran to the house for a firearm.) Although I'd obviously test-fired the pistol before, this was my first chance to see how well the ammo would work in an actual kill situation. Of course, a shot to the back of the head will always be effective --- regardless of the ammo type. But I was still impressed by how smoothly the pistol cycled, and (as noted above) just how quickly and painlessly the animals went down. The Hornady 95 grain XTP rounds were extremely reliable and effective, and I won't hesitate to rely on them in any kind of situation. The pistol itself is an old CZ-82 military handgun chambered in 9x18 Makarov; I'll say more about it in another post.

But back to the goats. Four of them had some kind of horns. These ranged from little stubby things on one of the females, all the way up to the huge set that I'd feared going through the Bronco's rear windows. Before loading the carcases into the truck, I used a hacksaw to remove all four sets of horns. I wasn't quite sure what to do with them, but I hate seeing anything potentially useful go to waste.

Before I put these things up on eBay, I wanted to offer them to my readers. Is anyone out there a knife-maker? A button-maker? Or just looking for some nice horn material for some other craft project? This is your lucky day!

I don't have specific prices in mind; I'm mostly interested in seeing these go to someone who will appreciate them and get some good use from them. I'm thinking $10-$20 for each of the larger horns, and $5-$10 for each of the smaller ones. Plus whatever the actual shipping is. But I'm flexible. Maybe we could do a package deal for multiple horns?

I'm going to show them below, in pairs, with some commentary on each set. These are fairly high resolution pictures, so you should be able to click on any of them to open a larger view with more detail.

First, the stubby things from the smallest female. These are only a few inches long, but at least won't cost much to ship. If you need material for a small knife handle, this could do the job nicely. Obviously, the cost for these would be minimal.
Next up are some larger horns. Note that these have a lot of interesting ridges, from the way in which the horns grew. They're about seven inches long.
Here is the flip side of those same horns:

These horns are a little over an an inch across, at their widest point:
The third set is much smoother, and slightly longer than the previous horns:
These are about two inches across, at their widest point:
The largest set came from a yearling buck, the one I was most worried about transporting to the butcher still alive. I'm certain that he would've put these horns through a window, or at least taken down the headliner in the back of the truck. And then I would've been chasing him down a rural road, or across a field. Anyway, you can see that the horns are very long and have some interesting contours:
This is the other side, which is smoother. This horn set has a number of smooth sections, and a number of ridged sections; plenty to choose from:
These horns are about three inches across, at their widest point:
While I'm thinking about horns, we also have a nice set of ram horns that came off one of our sheep last summer. They're much more curly than the goat horns, and have a lot of ridging. The black color also gives some variety. These have been sitting in a box in my office, as one thing after another distracted me from selling them:

If you're interested in anything on this page, please send me an email and we can make arrangements. I'd like to see these horns go to someone who can put them to good use!


Pat said...

Chris, after doing one of our lambs last year before Easter, I personally found the meat grinding a lot easier than the rest of the butchery. We already have a kitchen aid mixer and bought the meat grinder attachment on Amazon. Very easy to use and reasonably sturdy. Of course this then gave us the excuse to buy some of the other attachments, which made making apple sauce a snap. I guess if you don't already have a kitchen aid mixer you'd also have an excuse to get one of those too :) I think I got ours off of EBay for $100-150.

TYF said...

Pat - good to hear that the Kitchen Aid grinder attachment works for you...but we've never been able to get satisfactory results. I used to have a top-of-the-line KA mixer, with that attachment and a bunch of other cool ones (including the grain grinder, pasta roller, etc). But unless we first got the meat near-frozen, the grinder would simply turn the meat to mush and the whole thing would get gummed up. And if you let the meat get too cold, it would freeze solid. With practice we could probably figure this out; perhaps we could join you on butchering day some time and take notes.

I liked my KA mixer a lot, but because of our kids' special dietary needs, we ended up using it very seldom. Plus, it had a large footprint on the counter, and it was so big it was hard to store / get out from cabinets. Ended up selling it when we left Illinois.