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Those Who Raise Lambs -

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  • Those Who Raise Lambs -

    What would you consider to be a good dressed weight for a lamb that is young enough not to have a muttony taste? I've been offered some at around 35 lbs dressed, but I wasn't sure if that was too mature. Does it vary by breed? TIA!

  • #2
    By dressed do you mean hanging weight? If so, then that should be a fine tasting lamb. My neighbor who raises a lot of lamb shoots for 110 or so live weight and hanging weight is usually about 40% of live weight.


    • #3
      "Lamb" for market purposes is an animal under 1 year of age. My nephew raises lamb for 4-H market sale, and his last 3 years he's brought his boys in at 120 or so, live weight. So...is this a whole lamb or half, butchered, hanging? A whole lamb that butchers out at 35lbs. was either small or pretty young.

      American lamb tends to be less "muttony" than NZ or Aussie lamb, I think. My nephew actually raised a heritage breed--Oxford?? Something like that, and the flavor is really good.
      Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


      • #4
        Originally posted by Kestrel View Post
        What would you consider to be a good dressed weight for a lamb that is young enough not to have a muttony taste? I've been offered some at around 35 lbs dressed, but I wasn't sure if that was too mature. Does it vary by breed? TIA!
        it will depend on the sheep's age at hanging...
        Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
        I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.


        • #5
          We also did the 4-H lambs, but our target weight at Fair was 130 pounds, which is the target of commercial flocks when they sell.

          I don't think I would get a lamb that weighed ONLY 35 pounds, unless I was going to roast it whole in a cookout.

          For me, the smaller the live weight, the less you get back when it is dressed out. I can easily see losing 60% of weight if lamb only weighs 70 pounds live. With our 130-145 pound lambs, I figure to lose 30%, giving me a good 80 pounds of meat. The cost of the meat goes up per pound, if you get a very small return of that meat. I have to figure a processing fee per head, plus the cutting and wrapping cost per pound, to give me a final total in the meat cost to me. Does end up about $3 the pound in my freezer.

          I have had no taste issues with letting a large breed lamb go 10-11 months before getting him processed. I do this if we have an extra lamb who wasn't quite good built enough for Fair showing. We couldn't get a processing date and one lamb was almost 200 pounds on the hoof, which made the hanging weight HUGE on just grass! Only lost about 1/4 of the total in waste. My husband is VERY PICKY about the flavor of lamb, so the least bit of mutton taste is a "not going to eat this stuff" deal.

          I was told the meat changes when the lambs get adult teeth at about a year old. Never let mine get quite that old before processing, flavor is always excellent. Ours are grazed, not so much pellet fed, though they are EXERCISED to be muscular as the show ring wants them. And on those large breeds, Hampshire, Suffolks, waiting till they are older can add quite a bit more meat to the frame. Still tastes great, with larger chops and more roasts. We don't leave the legs whole unless we are hosting a family gathering, we couldn't eat that much. Such a large leg will easily serve 15+, with leftovers to send home. My family LOVES good lamb. Cut the same size leg into roasts and you get 2-3 easily.

          Buying leg of lamb in the store, you want to check the packaging for where it was produced. I have NOT enjoyed the shipped lamb from Australia or if it is marked "Western Lamb" from the USA. It IS older, has usually had the mutton flavor for us. I quit buying it before we raised our own lambs, since we couldn't eat the stuff anyway. The Western Lamb is a Trade Name under special laws, because the sheep sold that way are over a year old. The Western States sheep raisers can't get the lambs to market weight of that needed 120-140 pounds unless they kept them until the next year. Grazing is just not as good as the Eastern States, to get the size on market lambs. Yep, turned to mutton when I tasted it, since sheep that old will have adult teeth.

          So if you LIKE to eat good lamb, buy local, attend the Fair and purchase an excellent product from the 4-H or FFA kid who can use the money. My daughter saved and used her lamb and calf sale money for College expenses. Was VERY HELPFUL to her. Our local Fairs have agreements with local processors, so lambs, steers, pigs, are delivered for the buyer, who just goes to collect the bags of meat. Wonderful service and makes it easier to sell the animals. One Fair also took animals people purchased and then donated to the County Food Pantry, which benefitted enormously. The Processor did those Pantry animals free, just a really nice guy about it. Everything we have purchased at Fair Auctions has been a great flavor, super product from those kids. Quite a few folks buy animals and split the meat, can't use a whole one by themselves. Works out for both families!

          I guess you need to do your money figuring on such a small lamb. Would be VERY EXPENSIVE meat if had to get my lamb that way, and the hanging weight still has bones, which are not edible, so even more lost that you paid for. You are not going to end up with much to eat.


          • #6
            depends on age. we butchered ours at around a year old; it was delicious.
            “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey


            • Original Poster

              I think I may try finding a lamb at the fair, since it seems like I may be able to make sure it's a younger animal. What are some of the best-tasting breed to look for? The ones that were offered for sale were whatever breed are usually raised in New Zealand, and hanging there weighed between 32 and 38 pounds. I couldn't get any more information on how old they were when they were slaughtered.


              • #8
                I don't think breed matters so much in flavor, as age and what the animal ate. I have friends who sell lambs to the Middle Eastern folks, and have developed a special diet of mixed grains, which gives lambs the flavor these buyers want.

                Our lambs have all been castrated before processing. Some folks say uncastrated lambs give meat a flavor, but others say that doesn't matter in flavor, if lambs are eaten young. I don't want to deal with ram lambs, so they get castrated quite young. Fair's Market lambs sold at Auction would all have been castrated. Castration actually helps lambs grow faster, put on weight easier, since growth is all directed towards muscle growth. Without male hormones, there is no growth redirection in the development of masculine areas.


                • #9
                  Ours were Targhee, Colombia and Suffolk, any variety from pure to mix out of those three. A Suffolk/Colombia cross always did the best at the fair when we sold to the 4H kids.
                  “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey


                  • Original Poster

                    Thanks for all the info! We will try to find a lamb connection at one of the fairs.


                    • #11
                      I buy a lamb every year or so from my vet, it butchers out to about 80 lbs of tender, flavorful, not muttony meat. I love lamb.


                      • #12
                        We still buy lambs and butcher hogs at the fair-you can get a good deal and you support the kids. We haven't had lamb for a few years, I miss it! Aussie lamb is a lot stronger tasting than what we had...
                        “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey


                        • #13
                          Well...market sale animals aren't a "good buy", since you are buying them live weight, and it the price is usually bid up fairly high and you then pay for kill/cut/wrap on top of that. (say, $4.50/lb. like my nephew got last summer!). Market lambs are 5-6 months old, and weigh around 120-130lbs. The most common lambs raised locally are Suffolks or Hampshires, while my nephew's are Oxford Downs. You'll end up with a whole lamb, butchered out, weighing around 80lbs. in your freezer. (so a half of lamb would be around 35-40lbs. of locker meat).

                          Two years ago, we cut and wrapped two butchered lambs ourselves. Educational and satisfying, not to mention delicious!
                          Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


                          • #14
                            Ours are a good buy-we buy the animals that went over weight for a fraction of the price.
                            “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey