Premier 1 Sheep Supplies had a great article written by one of the participants of their Ireland tour. It’s interesting to me to see how different their meat sheep look, and I love the author’s reference to the “tubular” shape of show meat sheep here. The Irish Texels are extremely “beefy” by comparison.
In the WSU Lamb 101 class I took a few weeks ago (and darn, I’ll try to write more about that) there was discussion on dressing percentage. They felt that average dressing percentage for sheep is around 50%. This is the percentage of weight lost between live weight and when the slaughtered animal has been bled out, skinned, beheaded, de-footed and the abdominal cavity emptied. So all of what’s left is what can be cooked, though there are still a lot of bones in there.
At the class, they discussed that shipped sheep, which have been eliminating for 8-24 hours and not eating or drinking, can yield higher dressing percentages- high 50% and maybe sometimes topping 60%- because they are very “empty” at the time of slaughter. And by comparison, they said to expect grass-fed sheep to yield very low dressing percentages, because they are full of grass and water. They were training us to be mock auction buyers (and we held a mock auction using photos and descriptions of sheep)- and that you’d want to pay less per pound live weight for a grass-fed sheep straight off of pasture, versus one that had been shipped overnight.
I find that the Katahdins hit the mid fifties coming straight off the pasture. And Katahdins are fairly fine boned, so the loss of bone weight post-hanging is probably less than a lot of big-boned show sheep breeds. So I do think the shorter-statured, heavy-bodied sheep tend to yield more pounds on the table, despite their dwarf-ey appearance. And it would seem the Irish think so too!