Butchering ages

mystang89

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Read a few posts on here along with Google search. Found that butchering times differ for what you're taste buds want. Some butcher at 5 - 8 weeks which seems WAY to early I'm home. Not sure you'd really get anything out of it to even make it worth the trouble. Then 5 months or so and after that it just said 2 yo would be mutton.

So my question would be, what are your opinions as to when YOU butcher your sheep? How long do you wait? What's the taste especially for intact makes at whatever age?

Thanks.
 

Baymule

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I like to wait to 9 months to a year old. I have hair sheep, so don't know if that affects the taste, and have butchered a 3 year old ram. He tasted just fine to me. I want more meat, so I let 'em grow. Who the heck is giving you all this butchering advice? 5-8 weeks? That wouldn't even be enough for a meal. Is this going to be for your own consumption or for a customer? If for a customer, if they have a specific age, that's ok, but for you and your family, let the lamb grow to a good size.

Is this about a ram lamb? Do you have the extra pasture to keep him in so he doesn't breed your ewes? They can breed as early as 2 months. I sold 2 ram lambs at 3 months old earlier this year because I didn't cut them and didn't want to fool with trying to keep them separate. I kept one ram lamb for a herd sire for at least one lambing, but sold the other two.
 

mystang89

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I like to wait to 9 months to a year old. I have hair sheep, so don't know if that affects the taste, and have butchered a 3 year old ram. He tasted just fine to me. I want more meat, so I let 'em grow.
That's my way of thinking too. I didn't think it was worth the time and effort butchering so young but I didn't know if it affected the taste any.

Who the heck is giving you all this butchering advice? 5-8 weeks? That wouldn't even be enough for a meal.
From the Google search which is another reason I'm so glad to have a website like this around with knowledgeable folk.

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/glossary/lamb

Is this going to be for your own consumption or for a customer?
It's for family consumption but my wife is a bit finicky with her meat taste and the last thing I want is to butcher something and it put a bad taste in her mouth. She tends to think that because it tastes that way once it tastes that way all the time lol. I love her and all her quirks.

Is this about a ram lamb? Do you have the extra pasture to keep him in so he doesn't breed your ewes? They can breed as early as 2 months
This particular one if a ram lamb. If he doesn't sell I'll be butchering him, however in the future I'm sure I'll have ewes as well that will be butchered so I figured it would be good to have this info.
 

Latestarter

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If you look at the sales barn/markets, most sheep sales and prices are based on weight. The "ideal" sales weight (highest sales price) being between 60-80 pounds. As weight increases from there, the price per lb drops. @Mike CHS has done the sales thing several times at this point with his sheep and can most likely give much better specific advice/input. I purchased a freezer lamb from him and let him grow as long as possible before butcher to get the most meat I could. The butcher time was set to have it all complete when I'd be going out to meet Mike and pick it up (coming up - 9/15 :celebrate).
 

mystang89

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Thanks for all the replies! I would like to keep a record of their weight as they grow so I have a better knowledge of what to expect.
 

goatgurl

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first off katahdins are the breed I raise so that is all I have experience with and I don't sell the meat, its all for my family. when I first started raising them I bred for early spring and butchered in the fall but have started in the last few years to keep the wether lambs over from spring to the next years fall. they cost very little for me to feed and I get lots more meat. the meat is always is mild and tender. three years ago I butchered a two and a half year old ram and honestly couldn't tell him from the wether that was still in the freezer. also butchered a 5 year old ewe who had injured her leg and she tasted fine. just had ground meat and stew meat made from her. hope that helps you make a decision.
 

Sheepshape

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Being vegetarian, I'd prefer NEVER to butcher my sheep.....but I have to let some go.

This is what most folks do in the UK.......a)Very early slaughter (before weaning), at about 6 weeks....so called Spring Lamb. Commands a high price, but obviously they don't weigh a lot. b) Prime or 'Fat' lambs.......largely ram lambs, when they have achieved a body condition score of 2-4. This is the main market. Prices fairly high, and lambs have to be under a year old. c) Cull ewes and rams....those animals who are older, or have udder/foot etc problems which make them less than ideal for breeding. They often don't fetch much at all in the market. They make mutton, are used in burgers etc or, in the case of very old sheep, are used for animal food.

Most folk over her like the 'Fat Lamb'..... the lamb usually weighs 35-42kg at slaughter and yields 15-20kg of meat. There's a growing market in high end restaurants for mutton which gourmands say has a much richer taste. I think it's like goatgurl says older animals taste fine, they just need a slower cooking method.(Coming from someone who hasn't a clue about this from personal experience, goatgurl's assessment is the better one to believe!).
 

Mike CHS

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All good points so I won't repeat them. This past spring we took a dozen ram lambs in to the sale in April which was the the best market this year for us. The difference at that sale went from $2.05 a pound for two of our prime lambs in the 42 pound range and most of the others were also prime but 80-90 pounds which dropped down to $1.78 a pound. Like everyone pointed out, you get more per pound on the small ones but there are a whole lot less pounds to get paid for. We would rather not sell that small but we also don't want multiple trips to the market for ram lambs that need to be gone. We took two ram lambs last week and one sold for $1.65 a pound as a ram and the other for $1.30 a pound so it jumps all over the place depending on time of year.

Some folks in our Association decided to literally test hair sheep vs wool sheep taste a couple of years ago and most everyone thought there was a lot of difference in the taste.
 
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