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How to Kill a Cow & Butcher It

| Updated August 11, 2017

Things You'll Need

  • Hose

  • Winch

  • Gambrel

  • Meat saw

  • Container

  • Rifle

  • Pointed knife

  • Butchering knife


  • Withhold feed from the cow for 24 hours. It is easier to butcher the animal if it has an empty stomach.

Many people choose to slaughter their cattle themselves, both saving money and allowing them to have more control over the meat production process. It takes practice to efficiently slaughter and butcher a cow. It is best to have the help of an experienced person the first several times it is attempted. It is also best to conduct the process in both a sanitary and humane manner. Fall is often considered the best time to butcher, because the flies are less bothersome and there may be inadequate pasture heading into winter.

Lead the cow into a clean, sanitary area. Shoot it between the eyes with a rifle strong enough to penetrate its skull, such as a .22.

Drain the blood by slitting the veins and arteries along the neck with a pointed knife.

Remove the cow's head by slicing the skin all the way around it with the pointed knife, keeping it between the flesh and the skin. Saw the head off with the meat saw.

Remove the cow's feet at the joints in the same manner. Make slits in the Achilles tendon in the rear legs of the cow and insert the gambrel. Raise the animal with the winch.

Slit the hide of the cow, starting at the Achilles tendons of the rear legs and moving toward the center line of each leg. Slice down the body of the cow all the way to the neck.

Pull the flesh away from the meat, using the knife to help separate the skin from the flesh when necessary. Work from the anus to the tailbone, making Y cuts because the skin is hard to loosen. Do not puncture the gut, or the meat may be contaminated. Remove the penis from a bull.

Remove the intestines, bladder, stomach and other internal organs by carefully pulling them out of the body. Gently use the knife to separate them from the body wall when necessary, but do not puncture them. Place them in a container.

Remove the meat from the bone with a butchering knife according to the desired cuts. It may help to have a diagram to explain where the various cuts can be found. The ultimate goal, however, is to remove as much meat as possible, even if it is not in neat pieces.

Wash and freeze the meat. Hose down and sanitize the killing area. Dispose of the carcass in compliance with local regulations, such as having a rendering service pick it up.