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Lamb harvesting

 
Posts: 228
Location: Northern Puget Sound, Zone 8A
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Slaughtered one of my lambs on Saturday.  Everything went really well from the kill through to getting it in the fridge to age a while.  

Only disappointing thing is that the one I slaughtered was clearly the largest of the 3 and still only dressed out at 41lbs.  I'd like to have seen closer to 60-70lbs.  These were a cross of Cheviot and Blue Face Leicester.  I chose them because they were cheap and available.  Not sure when they were born, but I'd guess March.  Maybe April.  I got them in late June, and have kept them on grass since.  

We're getting very close to having a proper perimeter fence and then I can set about creating paddocks with interior fencing.  Once I have that I'd like to get 2-3 ewes and a ram.  For purposes of "hybrid vigor" I'd like to get the ewes from one breed and the ram from another.  Hair sheep would be ideal, I think, as I really don't want to deal with shearing and the market value of wool is less than the cost of shearing.  But, if I have to get a wool breed to get what I otherwise want, that's OK.

So, what are good options for breeds that will produce lambs that reach a big enough size to dress out at 60-80lbs (or higher) by the fall from a spring lambing?  Preferably on a mix of grass/weeds and blackberry.  I'm thinking Katahdin ewes and Dorper ram or possibly St Croix or Barbados rams.  There's plenty of Katahdin sheep in my area, and I've seen at least occasional posts for St Croix and Barbados sheep on Craigslist and FB marketplace.  Pretty sure Dorpers are available locally too.  But, will any of those combinations reach the weight I'd like to see?  Will any breed (i.e. am I being unrealistic)?  I actually don't mind in some sense holding them longer to get them bigger.  When I lived in New Zealand I ate quite a bit of "hogget" which is sheep that is 1-2 years old ("lamb" there is under 1 year old, "mutton" is over 2 years old).  So that might be the answer even with a larger breed.
 
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My st crolx are small. But deer here are small here compared to up north. It might be the hot summers.
 
pollinator
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I've only had St Croix, Black Bellied Barbados, and Dorper. Based upon my experiences....
...Barbados taste the best, by far.
...Barbados give the smallest carcass.
...St Croix are meatier than Barbados.
...Dorper are the meatiest, but finish out better with grain supplements.
...Dorper are far more parasite sensitive. You need to keep a closer eye on their worm loads.
...mixing Dorper into the other breeds results in lambs that don't totally shed out without help. They tend to carry a rug on their backs. In my area, that's bad because it becomes a place for flies to lay eggs resulting in flystrike.

Personally we prefer 6-7 month old lamb. Yes, the carcass is small. But the meat is superior. And since we like the flavor of Barbados and Barbados-St Croix mixes, that's just fine with us.

Of the hair sheep, I think that the Dorper Has the quickest growing and largest lambs. But I'm not sure. I've never seen a Katahdin.
 
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To get the carcass size you are looking for, you will have to go with woolies, but it is not a bad thing. Shearing will cost a little bit of money, but the bigger carcass size MORE than makes up for it. It goes beyond just the extra weight they will put on, it means you get a longer loin, and that is what EVERYONE wants with lamb...lamb chops!

If your farm can carry a few lambs, lets say (3), you will be getting at least 75 more pounds of hang weight just by going with a woolie breed. Suddenly the $6 per sheep, and $30 farm call for sheep shearing, makes shearing very inexpensive. It is like paying 50 cents a pound for LAMB! LAMB....which is $14 a pound in the stores.

($6 X 3=$18 + $30=$48)

(75 extra pounds of lamb=$500) Because you have to remember, a woolie sheep has a much longer loin, so you would have to BUY $7/pound lamb chops for what you are getting from your own pasture raised sheep.

If you still are not convinced, remember all sheep need their hooves trimmed, dewormers given, and vacinations. On my woolies, I do that on shearing day because they are on their backs anyway. i always wonder what sheep farmers with hair sheep think when they are doing that, AND losing money?

If you still, still are not convinced, you might when that 9 year old irl still thinks your sheep is a goat because sheep are just supposed to have wool. All the explanations in the world will not convince a child that sheep do not always have wool.

I can see if people live in the south where it is hot; then yes, hair sheep do make sense, but when it comes to comparing hair sheep and woolies, carcass size more than makes up for $48 in shearing costs. It is easy math: it requires (2) hair sheep to equate to (1) woolie sheep. Can you raise (3) hair sheep per year for $48? I can put it another way, if I handed you $500, and then told you to hand me $48 back, wouldn't you take the deal? That is the way it is with woolies. You pay $48 for shearing, and get $500 more in meat.
 
pollinator
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wayne fajkus wrote:My st crolx are small. But deer here are small here compared to up north. It might be the hot summers.


My sheep (Icelandic x Dairy) grow and gain a lot of weight in fall and early winter. The cooler weather and fewer parasites works wonders.
If you go with a wool breed and only keep a couple ewes, a decent pair of fabric scissors will shear your sheep. The woolies you slaughter I would not shear and harvest pelts. The breeds you have should have nice pelts.
 
Andrew Mayflower
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Butchered the first of the lambs last week.  Picture is the results of that effort.  Got one more in my fridge aging for a couple more days.  That first one was definitely the biggest, dressing out at 41lbs.  The other two dressed out at 37lbs and 33lbs.  I sold the 37lb lamb to the friend of a coworker.  50-80lbs would definitely be a more desirable size.  Not sure if those 2 smaller lambs would have even hit 50lbs dressed if I'd let them grow to a year old.
lamb.jpg
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wayne fajkus
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Nice job Andrew. That pic looks like it came off a Scott Rea youtube.
 
Andrew Mayflower
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wayne fajkus wrote:Nice job Andrew. That pic looks like it came off a Scott Rea youtube.



Given I did it the same way he does, that's quite a compliment!
 
Andrew Mayflower
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Butchered the remaining lamb last night.  Got both back legs and racks of ribs curing.  Making fenalar and pinnekjott respectively (traditional Norweigan products).  Pinnekjott is apparently the traditional meat for Christmas dinner in western Norway.

My oldest's Greek and Latin tutor is married to a Norweigan gal.  Planning to give one of legs and one of the racks to them for Christmas.  The leg won't be ready by then most likely, but they can either hang it in their house or leave it hanging in mine until it is ready.  But the racks should be easily ready by Christmas.

Edit - I did trim the spine and tail from the leg before putting in the salt.  But otherwise I did the bare minimum of trimming (just to remove any flaps or loose bits of fat).  Each leg was right about 4lbs 14oz.
leg.jpg
[Thumbnail for leg.jpg]
curing.jpg
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