Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Last spring my son acquired a small herd of milking goats. Among them was a Nigerian doe bred to a Boer buck. We have since learned that this combination is not healthy, as it could cause kidding problems because Nigerians are small. Nevertheless, this doe had two healthy Boer/Nigerian bucks that were soon banded, rendering them wethers.
This fall we still had one of these wethers, and after a discussion with my son on the resources necessary to keep him, he had to choose to either sell him or butcher him. After a moment of contemplation, he replied, “I'm going to butcher him and take him to Bill's.” (Bill is our neighbor whose smoked meat is a favorite in our house.) So, seeing his conviction, I knew it was an experience we needed to pursue.
We all had been exposed to goat meat, called “Chevron,” but having never butchered one I knew we would need some advice and help. Our friend, Chris, was able to assist in the slaughter. Fortunately, he had butchered goats before and offered experience and insight. Chevron is best if it is allowed to age — similar to beef or venison — as this promotes natural tenderization and flavor. If you can butcher in the winter during cold but not freezing weather, the meat can be hung outside for up to a week before cooking or freezing for storage.
The day we chose was about 40 degrees and perfect for this chore. I had read that it is good to isolate the animal so they are only able to drink water, but I did not do this. I hated to separate him from the herd in fear that it would stress him. So, when we were ready for butchering, we brought some grain out for the herd. While the others were eating grain, we quickly separated the selected wether and he was immediately shot behind the head with a .22 and moved to a downhill position. Once moved, his neck artery was cut and he was left to bleed out for a few minutes. The goat was then carried from the pasture to a tree where the carcass would be hung.
Cuts were made to expose the tendons in the back legs (without actually severing them), ropes brought through and tied, then hung to a tree at arms height to make work easier.
The first job is to completely skin the animal. Starting at the belly, the skin is cut open and slowly a slit is made vertically through the length of its body (without cutting into the body cavity at all). Carefully, the skin is pulled back and cut away from the meat. Slits can be made up to and around the forearms and the skin then removed from each leg, then the neck as well. Once the back is all that remains, the skin will quickly release. At this point the head can also be removed. Make a cut between joints in the spine as close to the head as possible.
After the hide is completely removed, the belly can be cut open and internal organs removed. This is not hard, but should be done very carefully. Clean water should be easily accessible in case of a tear in the intestine. It is also good to have a large container or bucket underneath to catch the entrails. The anus must be cut around so it will release from the body, and a slit made through the entire vertical length of the abdomen. Attention must also be paid to the urinary bladder to prevent any urine from contaminating the meat. Once open, it will all easily come loose after a few cuts through connective tissues to the backbone. The windpipe will need to be released from the neck to allow everything to let go. If you have experience cleaning a deer, you will find this process very similar. If you care to save the liver and heart, cut them from the entrails (being careful about cutting the bile sack from the liver), and place in a clean bowl.
Once the entrails are released, butchering is complete and the carcass can be covered with a light cloth or towel secured with safety pins, and hung in a tree or off of a high deck where it won't be bothered by animals.
We left our goat meat to hang for three days. This was a small goat, so I just split the back in half to make two portions, then wrapped it well with freezer paper and froze it.
Part 2 of this blog post will cover how we later ate the chevron.