The Book of Household Management, by Isabella Beeton

Chapter XVIII.

General Observations on the Calf.

845. ANY REMARKS MADE ON THE CALF OR THE LAMB must naturally be in a measure supplementary to the more copious observations made on the parent stock of either. As the calf, at least as far as it is identified with veal, is destined to die young — to be, indeed, cut off in its comparative infancy — it may, at first sight, appear of little or no consequence to inquire to what particular variety, or breed of the general stock, his sire or dam may belong. The great art, however, in the modern science of husbandry has been to obtain an animal that shall not only have the utmost beauty of form of which the species is capable, but, at the same time, a constitution free from all taint, a frame that shall rapidly attain bulk and stature, and a disposition so kindly that every quantum of food it takes shall, without drawback or procrastination, be eliminated into fat and muscle. The breed, then, is of very considerable consequence in determining, not only the quality of the meat to the consumer, but its commercial value to the breeder and butcher.

846. UNDER THE ARTIFICIAL SYSTEM adopted in the rearing of domestic cattle, and stock in general, to gratify the arbitrary mandates of luxury and fashion, we can have veal, like lamb, at all seasons in the market, though the usual time in the metropolis for veal to make its appearance is about the beginning of February.

847. THE COW GOES WITH YOUNG FOR NINE MONTHS, and the affection and solicitude she evinces for her offspring is more human in its tenderness mid intensity than is displayed by any other animal; and her distress when she hears its bleating, and is not allowed to reach it with her distended udders, is often painful to witness, and when the calf has died, or been accidentally killed, her grief frequently makes her refuse to give down her milk. At such times, the breeder has adopted the expedient of flaying the dead carcase, and, distending the skin with hay, lays the effigy before her, and then taking advantage of her solicitude, milks her while she is caressing the skin with her tongue.

848. IN A STATE OF NATURE, the cow, like the deer, hides her young in the tall ferns and brakes, and the most secret places; and only at stated times, twice or thrice a day, quits the herd, and, hastening to the secret cover, gives suck to her calf, and with the same, circumspection returns to the community.

849. IN SOME COUNTRIES, to please the epicurean taste of vitiated appetites, it is the custom to kill the calf for food almost immediately after birth, and any accident that forestalls that event, is considered to enhance its value. We are happy to say, however, that in this country, as far as England and Scotland are concerned, the taste for very young veal has entirely gone out, and “Staggering Bob,” as the poor little animal was called in the language of the shambles, is no longer to be met with in such a place.

850. THE WEANING OF CALVES is a process that requires a great amount of care and judgment; for though they are in reality not weaned till between the eighth and the twelfth week, the process of rearing them by hand commences in fact from the birth, the calf never being allowed to suck its dam. As the rearing of calves for the market is a very important and lucrative business, the breeder generally arranges his stock so that ten or a dozen of his cows shall calve about the same time; and then, by setting aside one or two, to find food for the entire family, gets the remaining eight or ten with their full fountains of milk, to carry on the operations of his dairy. Some people have an idea that skimmed milk, if given in sufficient quantity, is good enough for the weaning period of calf-feeding; but this is a very serious mistake, for the cream, of which it has been deprived, contained nearly all the oleaginous principles, and the azote or nitrogen, on which the vivifying properties of that fluid depends. Indeed, so remarkably correct has this fact proved to be, that a calf reared on one part of new milk mixed with five of water, will thrive and look well; while another, treated with unlimited skimmed milk, will be poor, thin, and miserable.

851. IT IS SOMETIMES A MATTER OF CONSIDERABLE TROUBLE to induce the blundering calf — whose instinct only teaches him to suck, and that he will do at anything and with anything — acquire the knowledge of imbibition, that for the first few days it is often necessary to fill a bottle with milk, and, opening his mouth, pour the contents down his throat. The manner, however, by which he is finally educated into the mystery of suction, is by putting his allowance of milk into a large wooden bowl; the nurse then puts her hand into the milk, and, by bending her fingers upwards, makes a rude teat for the calf to grasp in his lips, when the vacuum caused by his suction of the fingers, causes the milk to rise along them into his mouth. In this manner one by one the whole family are to be fed three times a day; care being taken, that new-born calves are not, at first, fed on milk from a cow who has some days calved.

852. AS THE CALF PROGRESSES TOWARDS HIS TENTH WEEK, his diet requires to be increased in quantity and quality; for these objects, his milk can be thickened with flour or meal, and small pieces of softened oil-cake are to be slipped into his mouth after sucking, that they may dissolve there, till he grows familiar with, and to like the taste, when it may be softened and scraped down into his milk-and-water. After a time, sliced turnips softened by steam are to be given to him in tolerable quantities; then succulent grasses; and finally, hay may be added to the others. Some farmers, desirous of rendering their calves fat for the butcher in as short a time as possible, forget both the natural weakness of the digestive powers, and the contracted volume of the stomach, and allow the animals either to suck ad libitum, or give them, if brought up at the pail or by hand, a larger quantity of milk than they can digest. The idea of overloading the stomach never suggests itself to their minds. They suppose that the more food the young creature consumes, the sooner it will be fat, and they allow it no exercise whatever, for fear it should denude its very bones of their flesh. Under such circumstances, the stomach soon becomes deranged; its functions are no longer capable of acting; the milk, subjected to the acid of the stomach, coagulates, and forms a hardened mass of curd, when the muscles become affected with spasms, and death frequently ensues.

853. THERE WAS NO SPECIES OF SLAUGHTERING practised in this country so inhuman and disgraceful as that, till very lately, employed in killing this poor animal; when, under the plea of making the flesh white, the calf was bled day by day, till, when the final hour came, the animal was unable to stand. This inhumanity is, we believe, now everywhere abolished, and the calf is at once killed, and with the least amount of pain; a sharp-pointed knife is run through the neck, severing all the large veins and arteries up to the vertebrae. The skin is then taken off to the knee, which is disjointed, and to the head, which is removed; it is then reflected backwards, and the carcase having been opened and dressed, is kept apart by stretchers, and the thin membrane, the caul, extended over the organs left in the carcase, as the kidneys and sweet-bread; some melted fat is then scattered suddenly over the whole interior, giving that white and frosted appearance to the meat, that is thought to add to its beauty; the whole is then hung up to cool and harden.

854. THE MANNER OF CUTTING UP VEAL for the English market is to divide the carcase into four quarters, with eleven ribs to each fore quarter; which are again subdivided into joints as exemplified on the cut.

Hind quarter:—

  1. The loin.
  2. The chump, consisting of the rump and hock-bone.
  3. The fillet.
  4. The hock, or hind knuckle.

Fore quarter:—

  1. The shoulder.
  2. The neck.
  3. The breast.
  4. The fore knuckle.

855. THE SEVERAL PARTS OF A MODERATELY-SIZED WELL-FED CALF, about eight weeks old, are nearly of the following weights:— loin and chump 18 lbs., fillet 12–1/2 lbs., hind knuckle 5–1/2 lbs., shoulder 11 lbs, neck 11 lbs., breast 9 lbs., and fore knuckle 5 lbs.; making a total of 144 lbs. weight. The London mode of cutting the carcase is considered better than that pursued in Edinburgh, as giving three roasting joints, and one boiling, in each quarter; besides the pieces being more equally divided, as regards flesh, and from the handsomer appearance they make on the table.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31