Raising and Eating Sheep

Katahdin, St. Croix, Dorper, etc., are different types of what are known as Hair Sheep. They require no sheering, and shed according to climate. While a poor choice for textiles, they are an excellent source of red meat, and come at a far lower cost of time and money to produce.

Here is a quick guide on how I produce over 500 lbs of grass-fed lamb each year from 9 ewes and 1 very happy ram. I average 15 lambs born every year (30 - 40 lbs of meat per lamb).

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From April 1st through October’ish (depending on grass growth), the sheep graze on 5 acres of grass. I personally use Katahdin sheep for their drought and famine-resistant traits. During the warm months here in Missouri, there is enough dew on the grass in the mornings to sustain every bit of their water needs (fuckin-A, right?).

This means that as long as the grass is green and the morning dew forms, this herd comes at ZERO cost to me.

For the 5 - 6 months of the fall and winter, here is the typical costs for feeding them:

One 700 lb hay bale every two weeks at $25 per bale.
Forty Five 50 lb bags of 12% sweet feed at $5.50 per bag.
Twenty 40 lb square bales of straw at $4.55 per bale.
One 40 lb protein block every 6 weeks at $20 per block.
One 40 lb Sulfur block per year at $15 per block.
One 40 lb mineral salt block per year at $15 per block.

$300 for hay
$250 for sweet feed.
$90 for straw
$80 for protein blocks
$30 for minerals

$750 dollars for 500 lbs of lamb per year.

It’s a two time deal at 30 minutes of work to lay straw all around the pen area, 20 minutes of work every two weeks to get another bale, and 5 minutes of work to water them every morning.

15 hours of watering for the year.
4 hours of setting new hay bales for the year.
1 hours of straw laying for the year.

20 hours of actual labor per year to raise them. Add another 30 hours from slaughter to refrigerator for a total of 50 hours of work per year (although, I prefer to stretch the butchering out over a week, so I can round them up 4 at a time).

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I wait until sundown for the execution, then I take them by a leash one at a time to the back of the garage and shoot them behind the ear with a .22LR. During the month of April, the temps still get down into the lower 30’s (F) at night here, so I quickly get them hung up, drained out, and cleaned off so the meat can rapidly cool down while it drains and relaxes.

The next morning at sunrise, it’s a simple carving project before vacuum-sealing everything up. I let the meat sit in the fridge at about 35°F for 2 weeks before deep-freezing them, then let them slowly thaw back out in the fridge for 7-10 days before I cook them.

My lambs are typically born between the end of November and the 1st of January, and this cycle has been consistent for the last 5 years so far. As I speak, there are 4 cadavers freshly sealed and refrigerated, with 4 more lambs in the holding pen waiting for this evening.

There were 18 lambs born this year. My family typically consumes about 150 lbs of lamb per year, so we sell off the leftover frozen meat from last year at a ridiculously low price of $5 per pound, recovering every penny spent, plus a 100% ROI each year.

This is as “free” as food gets, folks, and there are few things in this life that are truly more satisfying than raising and producing your own sustainable food-source.

He who depends on others to feed him is a slave. He who feeds others is free.

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I could not kill a lamb ( or a duck ). I could eat them, but I could not kill them. I know, Jim the hypocrite. Actually, if I had enough land, I would have poultry & livestock. And I was kidding about greasing food animals. As long as you’re humane.

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lol I totally get it, man. I wasn’t born a farmer, I had to work on it. The first year, I threw up from the smell of the lamb’s insides reminding me of Iraq. It gets a little easier each time.

When I was a kid, my grandmother’s neighbors had an enormous red pig. His name was Rudy Vallee. I hated Rudy Vallee. He had to have been 900 or 1,000 pounds. Then comes he day they decided to slaughter Rudy Vallee. My father said, corral him and shoot him in the back of the head ( quick & humane ). The goofy neighbors ( I guess some Old Country tradition ) decided to cut his throat. Bad move, since the knife didn’t go deep enough, and the feckin pig took off; through the picket fence and he was found dead in the middle of town. Then, since he was a semi pet, they couldn’t eat him. We ate him; so it all worked out.

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I grew up with lots of livestock. I’m with you. I could never kill a lamb or a goat. They are too cute and I get too attached to them. I tried to kill a lamb once and when I put my hand on his head to steady him I just got all weepy and walked away. I distinctly remember how soft his head was and what I was about to do. Shook me right up. I’m not ashamed to admit it either. I got no problem killing deer because those things are pests. I’ve put down a few heifers as well but could never kill a calf.

Guy in the next valley raises bison. Told me the first time he slaughtered one was tough; but he knew he was raising them for food. I take the grandkids when a new calf is born. It’s the cows that are dangerous if they have a calf. Right through the fence if they feel threatened.

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Bison - are you out in the Dakotas? They need a lot of room to move.

This is precisely why I don’t name the lambs. All the adults have names, because their only purpose is to eat and breed. The adults will produce offspring until they are about 10 - 12 years old. They have another 3 - 5 years, at which point I will sell the adults off at the cattle auction, keep the lambs from that year, and buy a new ram.

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That’s just it. Once you get attached to them there is nothing you can do about it. Try as hard as you want you’re never going to pull that trigger.

For me when I was a little kid I grew up with them. Lots of family pictures of me petting them and hugging them. I used to jump around like an idiot with the baby goats when I was really small. Everyone got a good laugh out of it but when it came time for me to contribute and help my old man out there were lots of things I couldn’t do. He never made me feel bad about it either which was good on his part.

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PA Coal Regions. The guy has maybe 1,500 acres. Possibly more. In the 1800s the entire valley was owned by 3 families. Now parceled out; but a state park at each end; so totally safe from industry ( watersheds ). State parks & farms. Nothing else.

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Wow I had no idea that there were bison here on the East coast. I’m a bit south of you on the NC/SC border. I’m on the North Carolina side.

My sister-in-law abandoned her husband and kids here to go shack up with a bison rancher in South Dakota. That’s what made me think of the Dakotas and bison.

Do you do vegetables or do you just trade in meat? What made you want to get into this lifestyle. Most people do it because that’s how they grew up.

I dabble in everything I can that feeds me while bringing in profit, especially when it involves a deceptively low amount of labor (just did a thread on organic gardening).

This may sound cliche, but after I got tired of killing Muslims, I felt the primal urge to work the land and raise life instead.

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When the herds were almost wiped out ( God forgive us ), the few that survived were bred and slowly spread around the US & Canada. That would prevent a disease from wiping out the remaining bison. Spread them around. There was a time when one herd ( more or less ) was spread over 4 states. Hard to believe.

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Oh man I miss those days.

Now I’m going to include your cost doesn’t include rosemary and garlic. :wink:

Why would it? Those are growing in the garden from last year’s seeds. :sunglasses:

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I think it might be good time to start rotating em. Figure ever year raise two fresh breeders and sell off the less producing older ones…or turn em into mutton. Ground lamb with pork sausage is good…specially in Lazana.

I was never much of gardener. :wink:

They’ll get rotated out when they get closer to 9 years old, but for now, I’m still getting the same 50/50 twin rate as when I started. Had to open the reply bubble to figure out you were talking about rotating the animals and not the crops. Maybe I started too many topics today. lol

Raising and eating sheep? Ewwwwww lol