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Sep 15, 2018

Hanging a Pig for Skinning and Gutting

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Edited: Sep 18, 2018

 

 

Being in my late 50's, I utilize as many tricks as I can to get a 300+ lb pig hung from my tractor bucket to skin and gut.

 

My go-to method was to tie a strong rope to one leg, run the rope behind the arms of the tractor bucket, then tie the end of the rope to the other leg. When the tractor bucket is raised the pig comes off the ground, but usually there are some adjustments that need to be made, like if the rope was tied too long or too short the bucket needs to come down again so the rope can be retied at a better length. That method works fine and I've done that for years, but last year a friend who has a mobile butchering business showed me her trick of utilizing ginormous carabiners and hooks to hang the pig from to get the task done. The beauty of that system is once the pig is fully skinned, gutted and cut in half, each half can be removed from the hook leaving the carabiner in place. Once the half is taken in the walk-in, the carabiner that's still on the leg is placed over the waiting hook in the walk-in to hang. It's much more simple than tying and untying rope, then maneuvering the heavy half onto the hook in the walk-in.

 

When I'm butchering animals large enough to hang from a tractor bucket, I put a sheet of plywood on the ground right under where the animal will hang. I have a sheet of plywood I keep in a shed that I use just for this purpose. Since I don't have a place to butcher on grass or cement, the plywood creates a 4' x 8' 'clean spot' under the animal as I'm skinning and gutting it. Of course I'm walking all over the plywood while I work, so it's not that clean, but it is easily rinsed off with a hose as I work and if something is going to hit the ground that I wished hadn't, it hits the plywood instead of dirt/mud and is easily cleaned.

 

Sheet of plywood, rinsed and ready to go.

The first step to getting the pig hung is to cut off the feet, or trotters. I start by finding the space between the tibia and tendon that I'm going to cut through to put the carabiner in. If you're in the right spot, you can press your thumb and index finger together and feel them meet without hitting bone or tendon.

 

My Thumb and index fingers are pressing together in proper spot between the tibia and tendon on the back leg, just above the joint.

Once you have that spot between your fingers and are sure of it. Use a knife to cut through the skin and muscle below that spot, at the joint or just below the joint of the trotter, and then use a hand saw or sawzall to cut through the bone, removing the trotter. Do that on both hind legs.

 

Using your knife, insert it into the space between the tibia and the tendon, pushing the knife all the way though until it comes out the other side. Make a 2 - 3" slit in the leg then remove the knife. Now you can put a giant carabiner through the slit to use as a hanger, or you can tie the end of a strong rope through the slit and knot it well.

 

Using the knife to make a 2-3" slit in the space between the tibia and the tendon in the hind leg.

Once the carabiner is in place, you can put hooks onto the tractor bucket, slip the carabiner over the hooks then slowly lift the bucket. After you get 1/3 of the weight of the body in the air adjust the hooks on the bucket so they are spread far enough apart to make gutting easier. Finish lifting the pig into the air to a height that works for you.

 

Large S hook resting in the lip of the upside down tractor bucket. The carabiner will slip over the end of hook that's in my hand.

I start with the bucket at a height that allows me to work without bending or reaching to start the skinning process. As the hide comes off I move the bucket up so I can work at a physically comfortable height for as long as possible. Eventually I'll be bending over and working on my knees to get to the front legs skinned and remove the head, but that's at the end, the bulk of the work being done at a more comfortable height.

 

Once the skinning and gutting is done, I use my knife to make a 1" deep cut down the spine as a guide for my sawzall, then using the guide I saw the body half.

 

Fully skinned, gutted and rinsed, then cut in half.

 

Now that I have two halves that have been rinsed, I take two old bed sheets and tie one around each half, holding it in place with rope.

 

Old bed sheets tied around each half.

I slowly lower the bucket, easing the halves down onto the cleaned sheet of plywood. From there I load the halves into the cleaned tractor bucket and drive it to the walk-in. Once I have slipped the carabiners over the waiting hooks in the walk-in, I untie the sheets from each half.

 

Easy Peasy.