BEEF CATTLE-WHAT THEY ARE.
Much stress is always laid on mere form, and quality to cattle too often sacrificed. But the first requisite in a good steer is quality ; yet too few breeders, feeders, and even batchers, know thoroughly what quality is. The best form outside is nothing if the beef inside is not good. Quality is above form. There is a flabby animal whose beef is flabby and never juicy, and that will never set into firmness after slaughter unless frozen. There is a rigid, hard animal whose beef is tough and never juicy. Both flabby and rigid beef are never marbled. Of the two, the rigid is preferable, if one can have a preference between two bad things. There is a third kind of animal, whose beef is not flabby nor hard. It is firm, and when fed to ripeness is well marbled andjuicy. It sets quickly after slaughter, and cuts eventy, both on the block in the butcher’s Jshop and on the table when served as a roast or steak. It is difficult to neatly cut flabby beef on the block uncooked, or on the plate cooked. It shifts under the knife. The hard beef cuts evenly, but with none of the ease and neatness seen in the cutting of firm beef. On the plate the flabbly beef gives no juice or gravy, and the hard beef hardly any; but the firm beef pours out an abundance of gravy, rich and delicious. The flabby beef in cooking absorbs fat, and is not palatable.
Now these three characteristics are as apparent to a first-class, experienced butcher in the living animal as they are to the eye after slaughter. It is the duty of the iudge to know these things in the living animal, and if he cannot do this, he is not fit to he a judge. It is for this that we have always advocated the selection of first-class butchers to act as judges on fat animals. It is their business to know how the living animals will die, and a good butcher learns it by experience, and knows
it better than most of the persons who are selected as judges—not being butchers. There is nothing so stupid as the decision of judges at exhibtions on breeding animals, in nine cases out of ten. At these shows all the cattle shown are fat to excess, or, if not, then only the very fat ones ever get prizes. Yet, without exception, every soft, flabby animal wins ; and the flabbier the better, if his shape be good. The judges will exclaim, “How soft! Why, he handles like a glove.” Now every fat animal that is good when fed fat, and when his hide is full with meat, to be good must be as solid as a board. That is firmness. Yet how few but thorough butchers know this 1
A good judge can always tell in looking and feeling (handling is the proper term) a fat animal whether he is prime beef, and whether his beef will marble. This knowledgeisgained by experience—learned bv comparing the touch of the live animal with his dead exhibit in his beef. Nothing but touch (handling) can determine in life what slaughter will reveal. A competent butcher, with his eyes closed, by touch would say, “ this animal is flabby ; this one hard ; this one firm,” and that of the three, only “ the firm one will give marbled beef of the first quality.” Men without experience have read and been told that a good animal must be elastic in his handling. This means that the store animal alone must be elastic. When the good store animal is fed full and is ripe, he is solid to the touch and he shows his solidity to the eye. The flabby animal is flabby and soft, not elastic, when in store condition, and is always flabby and soft from a calf to killing age 'when _ fed fat. Softness or flabbiness and elasticity are two very different things. The hard animal is always hard, ever either as a store or fat. He is a slow feeder. The flabby and the firm ones feed quickly. The firm one always pays the feeder, and so does the flabby one when a fool of an ignorant purchaser is found, who pays the nrice of a firm, fat animal for the flabby one. But the hard one never pays anybody, breeder, feeder, butcher, or consumer.
Now the great art in breeding is to produce elastic flesh in the store animal. He is the one which feeding quickly makes profit; sold to the batcher he pays to him a profit; and eaten by a consumer, he gets value for his money, gratification to his palate, good food for his stomach, and health from it to his body. But the flabby or hard steer does none of these. He pays nobody, gratifies nobody, gives health to nobody. It should be the object of the breeder of cattle to learn all these things, and to breed cattle that living represent them to the eye and hand, and dead realise them.
Now these things can be known in life. They go with distinctive kinds of hair, mossy and dense coats of' it, with good mellow hides of good thickness; with elasticity of flesh in store condition; increasing firmness as feeding progresses, and entire firmness when the result of full feeding is obtained. A flabby animal always has a thin hide, and thin deficient hair, and is never elastic when lean, and never firm when fat, but is always soft both lean and fat. The hard animal has a harsh, stiff hair, never mossy nor dense. His hide is very thick and rigid. In feeding the hide yields slowly to the meat laid on. It is a band that ties down development, and increasing size within, and forces the animal to a slow growth. Beef to be first class, must be fed rapidly ; and long feeding ruins the best of flesh in the far end. In fact, long feeding begets diseased conditions, and they deteriorate the flesh. Long feeding begets fatty degeneration. The feeder may quickly ripen the firm or flabby animal, but the flabby one makes bad beef and oily tallow. Only the animal —elastic as the store one. and firm as a ripe beast —is the one that, living and dead, satisfies all who feed, kill, and eat him. The hard one is never fed rapidly, and cannot be, and pays nobody and gratifies nobody. To know all these things, is the power to be a good breeder, butcher, and meat purchaser. In them exists the science of breeding. And the chief of the knowledge of good cattle is that quality is before form, though form should go with quality, and more often does go with high quality, as shown in the lean elastic steer —firm when fat, and marbled in his ripeness—than with low quality, as seen in the flabby or hard steer. Good and had quality both go often with defective form, but entirely perfect form never does go with utterly bad quality. The flabby beast always has an excess of paunch with weak plates, the one a want of paunch, and so no sufficient store room for food. The excessive paunch of flabbiness, at a given point of fatness when filled, added to the weight of,flesh, brings on nervous irritation of the spine, and feeding is arrested. In the hard animal there is never a capacity to take up a full force of feed at will, and hence feeding is slow; but the elastic fleshed steer has just that happy medium that gets full feed and appropriates it without the disturbance or hindrance that checks growth in the flabby steer, or that want of food which checks growth in the hard one.
And in the end the lesson taught is, that quality is the first of the merits of a good animal, and without its knowledge no man is, or ever was a first-class breeder. —Kentucky Live Stock Record.
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