Saturday, May 21, 2016

*Back Yard Butcher Lambs*

~Taco and Squeeze~
They just might be pigs in sheep's clothing.
(Taco is lighter, on left. Squeeze is darker, on right.)

We acquired these 2 characters a few weeks ago.
They are "bummers," and though he is slightly smaller,
Taco is about a week and a half older than Squeeze.
They are suffolk which is a meat breed and
should finish out at about 105-125 lbs. each come fall.
I raised sheep years ago, but that was years ago,
and it was primarily breeding stock.
Market lambs were a very small part of it.
The other thing is that grain was the feed of choice "back then."
We are raising these on grass - and a bottle at the moment.
There are reasons both for and against doing this.
I'll share some of the rewards and sacrifices that have gone into making this decision, and will attempt to show how our little operation functions.

The For or Rewards List~
*The most prominent reason for embarking on this little venture is that we want grass-fed meat and the various health benefits of it.
*Lambs take minimal space (as opposed to beef or hogs)
 and minimal / non-permanent facilities.
*They are easily handled due to size.
*They are a meat product that we don't usually purchase (expensive.)
*They have a quick growing season (just until fall.)
*We should be able to process them ourselves with little difficulty.
*And 1 more, I am hoping to process their skins so might (if I don't mess up) have 2 lamb skin "rugs."

The Against or Sacrifices List~
(This list is small but mighty.)
*They still cost money.  Though start-up is the most expensive, they don't just give bummers away like they used to.  Many I looked at were over $100 and didn't appear to have had first milk.  Ours were not that much, had first milk, shots, castrated, tails docked, and were eating well on the bottle before they were sold.  Finding such a breeder, we have already made an agreement to be in contact again next year.
*They take time.  This is huge!  Mr. LB and I both work outside the home and have nearly an hour drive at each end of the day.  Also, if we plan on leaving, even for a weekend, we will have to find someone who is physically able and willing to tend our critters.
*A clean and manicured yard is out of the question.  They don't "mow" evenly.  This might not sound like a big deal to some folks, but kinda like the fall back - I'm no beauty queen, by my clothes are clean and my hair is brushed, for the property (to me) it might not be HGTV, but the lawn is mowed.

What we are doing~
Their pen was made from a 3/16" wire mesh that comes in an 8'X20' sheet.
Mr. LB cut it in half both ways, a few zip ties and they have a 10'X10' pen.  When they are gone, we can simply cut the zip ties and the panels will store flat.  He also put the scrap of tin over where the feeder hangs.
They get moved every day.
This is much more labor intensive than the good ol' days when they were kept in a solid pen and fed grain, but we are hoping it's worth it.  Also, they have 
the Bird Mobile following 2-3 days behind.  Then the dog(Rip) is tied near them at night.  We have bear, cougar, wolves, coyotes, fox and more in this area.
It looks like animals on parade around here.
Humans could play a nice game of "Name That Poo" after they've tracked by.
(Sorry, I'm still kinda struggling with the yard part.)
I know that blue tarp looks high-class, but we have had some major thunder showers go through.  Like kids, they don't seem to mind getting wet, but it makes us feel better to offer them some coverage.


Their diet~
Water of course, and they get a bottle for a few more weeks.
We do give them a very small amount of alfalfa about every other day just because they were already nibbling on it when we got them, and it should help them transition over to the haylage more easily.
I have been mowing certain areas of the yard with the push mower and bagger in order to gather the clippings and make haylage.  That process is kinda like planting carrots or spuds - you don't know how it will turn out until you open the bag after 8 weeks (or dig into the soil come late summer.)  About the time they are weaned, the first bag of haylage should be ready.  This will be in addition to they grass they are eating as we move them daily.

(Rip, hard at work!  This is how he prefers to spend his days.)

We can't get attached!
They are way cute.  They have a ton of personality.  Squeeze is a demanding brat, and Taco is an ornery stinker.  They are a hoot to watch as they pounce around and "act tough."  Mr. LB has actually been the one who takes care of them most of the time just due to schedules.  I'm making dinner as he's making bottles and moving them.  The other night he commented, "Squeeze likes his throat scratched.  He goes all hypnotic."
I asked if he remembered that they would one day be dinner.  He assured me he would be okay.  There is a different mind set to raising animals for butcher.
It doesn't mean we can't love and care for them, it's just different.
In the end, they will provide us health and nourishment in return for the care we have provided them.  We will offer a prayer of thanks to them for being such an important part of our being.
In the mean time, we will make sure they have a safe and pleasant life.



  1. This sounds like a great thing to do, but I know I couldn't - I'd be too attached to them and couldn't eat them. I wouldn't have a problem with them being butchered, but I wouldn't want to have to think about them when I was eating.

  2. I would probably have either milk goats or Boers, if it wasn't for the missus. She loves lamb, but she could never eat one she'd met, and she doesn't like goats. Meat in the market is both high and unhealthy, though, so I'm hoping to get back into rabbits after many years, IF I can keep her away from them.

  3. A good idea to raise your own cannot remember the last time I could afford to buy lamb to eat. One advantage is unlike cows they eat the weeds as well as the grass, such fun to watch them frolicking around be caerful not to get to fond of them though

  4. We are part time lamb owners. I'm definitely not as fond of the lambs as I am of the goats, but we never mind a freezer full of lamb meat!

  5. Wow, you will process them yourselves! We are going to be butchering chicken in a couple weeks and that will be a challenge for me. It would sure be hard to not get attached to these cute guys. I made sure to not like our meat chicks but they are not cute. LOL!

  6. Raising bottle lambs for meat can be tough.
    My girls have a hard time even selling them when the time comes.
    We are looking at a steer this evening, to possible bring home to raise for meat.

  7. I'm too much of a coward to use my sheep for meat, but I'm not a real farmer. I have great admiration for REAL farmers. (I use their wool however.)
    I'll never forget bottle feeding my little alpine goats, what voracious appetites they had!

  8. Oh my goodness, they are so adorable! I will have to stick with raising vegetables!