Lamb


This has been a great growing year, more lambs than usual are hitting weight this fall and winter. Whereas usually I have more stragglers that wait til 9-12 months old to be ready to go. Now it’s looking like the last of the lambs may be going in December, January and February, and we’ll likely be out before Easter. If anyone was holding back on ordering, now is the time, before they are gone until fall 2018! I have a couple of spots left for the December butcher date, just in time for a Christmas lamb leg roast!

Lambs are $200 each live, and will be above 85 lbs live weight. This will render hanging weights in the forty-pound range, with final cuts in the high thirty pound range, depending on how many bone-in vs. boneless cuts you order. You also pay me $60 for the slaughter truck crew, I pay them in one check for each batch to simplify their lives. Then you pay Kelso’s, the custom butcher, directly for their cut & wrap services, which is typically $45+ tax. This pencils out to about $8/lb averaging over all the cuts, which is less expensive than grocery store retail, because there is no distributor in the mix taking his cut. You can find a deposit order form on our website here.

Our lambs have been raised naturally on pasture all summer, and they come into the barn to finish for their last 4-6 weeks on local grass hay, alfalfa, and a small bit of whole grain corn/barley for extra energy in the cold. These are very lean, healthy lambs with mild flavor. I’ve been told by some that lamb raised in this region is some of the best they’ve tasted in the world!

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EweLineFall is definitely here, with cool nights, and finally, some rain, after a long drought. In August, I weaned all the lambs, and put the ewes in drylot on hay for the short term. This saves the green grass for the lambs, giving the fields a rest until fall rains refresh them. It also gives me a good opportunity to walk the line and look at the condition of all the ewes, survey their udders, and spot any problems that need addressing before breeding season in November.

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I have a crew of complications housed in the barn, where it’s easier for me to keep an eye on them. These resting ewes may look like they have whole litters of lambs, and in a way, they do.

 

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imageA few notes from a meeting I attended in early August, on the newly-forming farmers’ cooperative, North Cascade Meats (also on Facebook here). We have very limited options for USDA slaughter in our area, which makes it nearly impossible to sell meat by the cut to consumers and restaurants. This group intends to change that, by creating a cooperatively-owned USDA slaughter option.

Currently, I only sell lamb on the hoof, to either customers who have it processed by a local custom-exempt butcher, or to customers who can do their own processing. This works for me right now, as I don’t produce that many butcher lambs, and they all sell out. But looking ahead, I am interested in other channels in which to sell lamb, as I increase the size of my herd. And, it would be nice to be able to give out, or sell, samples to people considering buying my lamb. Thus, I have been watching this group with interest for quite some time.

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imageI frequently have people ask me how to figure out live- versus hanging-weight, and how much they are paying per pound for their final cuts of meat. It can be very confusing figuring out the whole “weight thing”. I worry that consumers will feel misled and be frustrated if we aren’t transparent with them about how it works.

Case in point- here is an anonymous post on craigslist from a week or two ago, from an obviously disappointed lamb customer. I have no idea who this is, nor do I know the two farmers to whom he/she is referring (but I know from the descriptions neither one is me!).

A lady advertised her lamb weighs 110-120 lbs and the actual hanging weight was 75lbs according to the butcher’s written receipt, and I received about 40 lb of meat. The second time, the other farm processed the whole lamb for me. They bagged and wrapped the box and put in the trunk for me. It weights only 40 lbs from a 100 lb lamb, and visually inspected after I got home – all four leg meat were missing. Buyer beware, so I learned.

So, how does it really work? This person’s example is actually a great one!

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imageThe sheep industry in the United States has been on a long decline. Sheep were popular here since the Pilgrims landed, but post World War II, the inventory started to tank. And has been ever since. In recent years, components of the Farm Bill have invested in figuring out why, and how to reverse the trend. This National Academy of Sciences consensus report, written in 2008, outlines an analysis of the problem and indicators of where things look to head in the future.

The Lamb Board was established in 2002, and has been investing significant effort in branding lamb (not the hot iron kind, but rather the marketing kind) to help it make a comeback. Given the beef industry’s powerful Beef, it’s what’s for dinner campaign, at some point, somebody must have realized lamb needs the same marketing oomph. Plus some, because it’s so far off the radar of most Americans, we can’t just encourage them to eat more of it; we really need to re-introduce Americans to the meat to get them to start eating it.

Of course this initiative needs to be paid for. So a law was introduced to tax sheep at the time of slaughter. It’s called the Lamb Checkoff. The beef industry also has a Checkoff program.

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This and that which I read recently and thought was interesting…

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