How the animal lived
Our small flock have life pretty good. They essentially run wild on the farm, we keep them mainly to add species diversity to the farm. The fencing on the farm is designed to keep the cattle where we put them but the sheep can pass under them. So they are free to roam most of the farm as they please.
Because the flock is relatively small and the area they have is large they have virtually no parasite issues. As a result unlike most lamb, ours are never medicated. Once a year they are rounded up for shearing, the the ram lambs are castrated on the same day. Apart of this they do as they please we manage them from afar and make sure they are healthy and well.
We have cross-bred with a range of traditional hardy genetics: blackface-mountain, Jacob, and some Suffolk. They are out-wintered, meaning they are not housed. They lamb on their own and mind themselves.
Sheep are interesting animals in that they are short-day breeders. This means the number of hours daily that light enters the eye of the animal affects the brain, which governs the release of certain precursors and hormones. Most sheep are seasonally polyestrus and short-day breeders. They will begin to exhibit “a heat” when length of day begins decreasing. They will come into heat every 16 to 17 days until they are bred or return to anestrus. Thus, the most natural time for sheep to breed in the Uk and Ireland is the autumn (Oct-Nov).
This means that they will naturally be born from late March to April when the weather starts to warm and grass starts to grow.
Easter lamb is not seasonal. This is forced lamb that is born indoors mid-winter and fed and high protein grain diet to reach target weights for the premium Easter market. Ironically this lamb is the poorest quality.
Lamb is in season and at its best late June to early Sept. This is in the natural cycle of a spring birth and slow natural growth on their intended diet of summer grass. Ewe lamb continues to be good into October but Ram lamb can start to become strong and gamey due to the rise in testosterone at rutting season.
We aim to process all our lambs early in September at the latest to avoid any risk of this.
How it is prepared
We use a small family abattoir that take every care in treating each animal with the respect they deserve.
They are delivered the night before so they have the night to relax in the lairage after the stress of the journey.
In the morning they are walked calmly down the chute, as they pass through a screen they are quickly dispatched with a captive bolt gun before being slung up by the hind legs, cut and bled out. In a well-run abattoir the animals are calm before a quick and painless death.
Following this the carcasses are skinned and the heads, hooves and innards are removed. They then hang in the cold-room for one week to dry-age before being jointed and butchered.