Tonight's dinner was one of those that reminded me why we do what we do. We had shepherd's pie made with meat from the spring lambs. It had a deliciously mild lamb flavor, and I could have eaten until I painfully regretted it, but luckily my son came out with the left-over containers and started putting it away.
After trying a couple of times, we finally got this one right. The first time we butchered lambs, they were a year old and had been castrated. They were 25 to 30 pounds, hanging weight, which is not big. I remember the woman at the locker saying, "Those chops are going to be dinky!" But they were yummy! We did that for a couple of years, but I knew that without testosterone, they just don't grow that fast.. Last year, we butchered some intact yearling rams, which were 45 to 50 pounds, but had a strong lamb flavor. I was not crazy about that. In fact, the more I ate it, the more I disliked it, and the past few months I've been saying that we should sell the sheep. Then we butchered the spring lambs, which were only about six months old and had not been castrated. Jackpot! They weighed 24 to 29 pounds hanging weight, which is about the same as the yearling wethers, but we didn't have to feed them over the winter. And the flavor of the meat was, I think, even more mild than the yearling wethers.
This is a win-win for the the humans and the rams. They don't have to get castrated. We don't have to feed them over the winter. And we get just as much delicious lamb as if we had put them through that unhappy ordeal and spent the money on feeding them hay over the winter.
I announced at dinner tonight that we'd be continuing to raise sheep on Antiquity Oaks. I'm glad I didn't have time to advertise the flock and sell them all. I'd have been terribly disappointed if I had tasted this delicious meat and realized I couldn't have more next year.