Slaughter procedures vary among the domestic meat animal species due to anatomical differences in size and shape of animal and type of skin covering (i.e. hair, wool, feathers, etc.). Many of the basic procedures and objectives in sheep slaughter are similar to those of beef slaughter. In many small commercial sheep slaughter plants the animal is exsanguinated and most of the hide is removed with the carcass positioned on its back in a cradle on the floor. In the remainder of this presentation I will use words that may not be familiar to you. I suggest that before practicing this, you learn any unknown vocabulary.

The objectives of sheep slaughter include observing sanitary dressing procedures for sheep and learning anatomical location of the internal organs. These two things are very important and mandatory for the procedure.

Sheep Slaughter procedure

  1. Hold animals off feed for 18-24 hours prior to slaughter, but provide ample drinking water.
  2. Record live weight (this is mostly done after sheep has been shorn to get more accurate results).
  3. Confine the animal in the restraining chute
  4. Immobilize the animal using a captive bolt stunner or other provided device. The stunner may be placed either at a point in the center of the forehead or centered immediately behind the pole. The stunner should be held firmly against the heat at the time of firing. (The purpose for immobilizing the animal is the render the animal unconscious. We don't want to stop the heart because we need it to pump the blood out when ensanguinating.)
  5. Release the immobilized animal from the restraining chute and shackle by one hind shank at a point below the hock.
  6. Hoist to convenient height for exsanguination
  7. Exsanguination. With a sterilized knife, make an incision in the hide just anterior to the point of the brisket and extend to 12-18 inches toward the anterior end of the jaw. Keeping the incision on the center line, thrust the point of the knife upward behind the breast bone (6-8 inches deep). This will sever the carotid artery and jugular vein providing a thorough bleed.
  8. Remove the head. Start at the exsanguination incision and skin out the head and neck. The esophagus should be tied off immediately above the larynx before severing. Remove head at atlas joint and sterilize knife after head removal. The inspector will check lymph nodes in the head.
  9. Place the head on a rack for inspection making sure that all the hair is removed. Wash the head completely in preparation for inspection. After inspection remove tongue and check meat.
  10. Remove the foreshanks at the metacarpal-carpal joint
  11. Remove sweetbreads and skin out neck area
  12. Move the carcass to cradle to remove rest of skin. Always use long, smooth strokes with the knife when skinning.
  13. Remove tail
  14. Loosen rectum, tie it, and allow it to drop into the body cavity (this prevents fecal matter from getting on carcass)
  15. Move the carcass to the hydraulically operated dropping rail section
  16. Lower the carcass to a comfortable working height, but do not allow it to touch the floor
  17. Spread the carcass with the hydraulics spreader
  18. Split the aitch bone (the can be done with a knife in yearlings) and loosen the penis on rams
  19. Saw the breast bone, then dip saw in sterilizer
  20. Open body cavity along the ventral mid-line from the aitch bone to the posterior end of the brisket. Use caution to avoid cutting or puncturing the intestinal tract during this operation
  21. Remove the intestines and stomach, leaving the kidney and kidney fat in carcass. Remove liver leaving the gall bladder and portal lymph nodes in tact until after inspection.
  22. The esophagus is sometimes tied two places then severed between the two ties
  23. Remove the diaphragm membrane and lift out the lungs, heart, trachea and esophagus
  24. Free kidney from kidney knob and surrounding membranes, but leave kidney attached by the ureter and blood vessels
  25. Split the carcass down the center of the spinal column
  26. Trim blood clots for the stick wound area
  27. Weigh the carcass
  28. Wash the carcass completely
  29. Pin up the neck
  30. Shroud the carcass. The shroud should be wet and must be pulled taut over the carcass. Shrouding improves the appearance of the carcass by smoothing and bleaching the fat on the outside
  31. Tag each side on the carcass, indication carcass number, hot weight, date
  32. Chill as rapidly as possible. A 28 degree F chill room recommended for the initial chill


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