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NMSU Northern New Mexico Outreach promotes mobile matanza unit

TAOS - When the meat processing plant in Mora, N.M., closed, ranchers in Northern New Mexico found themselves in a dilemma - the cost of transporting their cattle to facilities in other regions of the state was impacting their livestock production profit margin.



Fred Mondragon, right, New Mexico Economic Development's cabinet secretary, complimented Taos County Economic Development Corporation for its mobile matanza unit during a demonstration of the unit at the Pojoaque Pueblo bison project corral. The livestock slaughter facility is brought to the producer. At left is butcher Gilbert Suazo who contracted the demonstration. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

To help resolve that issue, the Taos County Economic Development Corporation (TCEDC) obtained $200,000 from a state legislative appropriation to establish a mobile matanza unit that takes the processing plant to the livestock producer's corral and slaughters their market animals on site.

The Northern New Mexico Outreach Project, provided by New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service program, based at the Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde, has helped introduce New Mexico's first mobile livestock slaughtering unit to ranchers in the region.

"This is a great opportunity for the rancher to slaughter his cattle without having to drive hundreds of miles to a processor," said Lucia Sanchez, community development agent with NMSU's Extension Service, during a demonstration slaughter at the Pojoaque Pueblo bison corral.

Matanza is a Spanish word for the act of slaughtering and butchering a farmer's livestock. Traditionally, the matanza done by the Spanish settlers in the north differed from that done in the southern region of the state. In the north, where the weather helped prevent the meat from spoiling, the settlers would store the carcass after the slaughter. In the southern regions, the meat was cooked or dried immediately to prevent spoilage.

NMSU and TCEDC hosted viewing of the bison slaughter for area ranchers so they could observe the mobile matanza unit process. Pojoaque Pueblo used the meat from the matanza for its feast day activities.

Fred Mondragon, New Mexico Economic Development Department's cabinet secretary, attended the demonstration and announced the state will be giving additional funds to TCEDC to build a storage facility.

Butcher Gilbert Suazo spoke about the traveling facility that he and butcher Victor Mascareņas operate.

"When I first heard about a unit like this, it made sense to me. It is economical because the slaughter unit goes to the farm and slaughters there," Suazo said.

The matanza unit is a self-contained butchering unit in a 36-foot semi-trailer, which is divided into the butchering room, refrigerated storage area and mechanical room where the generator, air compressor, hot water and sterilizing fluids are stored. The unit is able to transport 10 to 12 cows, 20 hogs or 30 to 35 sheep.

The unit can be parked beside a corral where the animals are waiting to be processed. After an animal is humanely killed the carcass is hoisted by its feet into the trailer's butchering area where it is skinned, trimmed and the internal organs removed. Once the USDA meat inspectors determine that the meat is healthy, the carcass is moved into a refrigerated storage room in the trailer and taken back to Taos where it is cut and packaged. Typically a staff of two butchers can slaughter five to 24 animals per day, depending on the type and size of the animal.

For more information about the mobile matanza visit www.tcedc.org for a brochure or call the Taos County Economic Development Corporation at (505) 758-8731.