Thinking of Raising Sheep for Meat

mylilchix

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I'm considering raising sheep for meat. I would like to get a few lambs, possibly dorpers, katahdins, or a cross. How long does it take to finish out meat lambs?

Thanks, Sonja
 

Four Winds Ranch

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I think the amount of time it takes to finish a lamb depends on the breed and the feed!
For example, I have Tunis sheep which are med. sized sheep and those lambs will finish in 7 months, but I do have to grain them to get good carcass quality.
My Suffolk lambs will finish in 6-6 and a half months just on grass.
Lol, I don't know if that helps at all cause I don't know a lot about Katahdins, or Dorper, except that they are a med. sized sheep.
 

Remuda1

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I just sold a Dorper ram lamb that was born on Feb 21st. I think he easily weighed 75 pounds. But the norm seems to be more like 60-70 pounds in 2.5 to 3 months with them.
 

SheepGirl

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Lambs will usually gain about 0.5-1.0 lb/day post-weaning provided they are fed a nutritious diet. Hair lambs will generally finish out around 90-110 lbs. Wool breeds, particularly Suffolks will be able to finish out at 135+ lbs.

What are you planning on feeding them?
 

mylilchix

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I was planning on feeding forage, grass hay, and some grain. I'm working on the cost analysis of how much a lamb would cost per pound. What is the vaerage market weight for lamb? I've been researching it, but haven't found a good answer.
 

goodhors

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Commercial flock lambs are expected to weigh in around 130#, when sold on the hoof.

You need to figure in the weight loss, after processing. This would be hide, head,
removing the inner works, lower legs. You can lose from a third to almost half the weight
of the live animal. So you would get slightly over half the poundage back in edible meat.

Processing a bigger lamb, weighing in at 150-175#, you still lose those non-edible parts.,
But because you start with more size, the loss side is lower. That loss could be
from a quarter to one third the weight of the live animal. You end up with more meat
in the freezer, even if deboned.

Commercial meat breeds are able to get those bigger lamb weights, without being all fat,
because they get larger as adult sheep. Our friends raise smaller breed sheep, Dorset and
other breeds crossed, with their market of selling to ethnic people locally. Those lambs
top out at 100 pounds. Anything over is just added fat, since they won't get any larger.
This size is exactly what their customers want, good for a cookout, family meal with company.
Buyers tend do home processing, sometimes religious, may cut up or cook the lambs whole.
Friends sell their lambs at smaller sizes too, but nothing gets over 100 pounds. Another
friend sells her Katahdin lambs live, also going to ethnic folks locally. Very tiny lambs who
are well fed and have some age to them, just no size to the breed.

I want bigger lambs, so we buy commercial breed lambs. We have plenty of grazing, lambs
get some grain, corn and oats. They do put on weight pretty easily, so reaching the 130 #
size for 4-H Fair lambs wasn't hard. If we didn't sell at Fair Auction, we would bring it home and keep
feeding so it was a larger lamb before processing.

You have basic costs with processing, one is the kill fee, per head. It cost the same to do the
75 pound lamb as it does the 175# lamb. You will then have costs for cutting the meat up,
wrapping it, usually charged by the pound of meat quantity. Not charged for waste parts.
So for me, I got more meat, CHEAPER per pound, by processing BIG lambs. Meat cuts from
those lambs were sizeable for serving the family. Lamb chops the size of your hand, not a quarter!
We had the legs cut into 2-3 roasts, couldn't eat a whole leg in one meal! Some places have
a flat rate for smaller animals, not doing the per pound charge for wrapping and cutting. Get
everything clear before taking in your animal. Vacuum packing is best, if they offer it. No freezer
burn!

While the little lambs are very cute, they just don't have much meat on them. The cost is
high, for less return in freezer meat. Still not as much cost as Store Lamb, which usually is from
Australia or out West and doesn't taste very good.

Don't think your meat processor is "shorting your order" when you only get back 40 pounds or less, from a
75 pound lamb. When the bones and entrails are gone, there just is NOT MUCH left of it. Cattle
are the same thing. Huge loss from bone and entrails removed, so that 800 pound cow is down
to 500 pounds or less, if you haven't had the roast bones removed. Smaller the size at processing,
the less meat you get in return, because the percentage proportion of bones and entrails are higher.
Goats are terrible in meat return unless you get a REALLY big kid to start with. Makes the price of
the meat higher too, when everything is figured on paper.

I love being able to graze our lambs, it saves a lot in producing that food animal. They keep the paddock
grazed, add fertlizer and are cute to pet. I wouldn't raise the smaller breeds because there is such
a small payback in meat, but still costing so in getting it processed. We give gifts to family of meat
packages, which they love. You don't get that flavor in meat from the big store! Lamb meat in the
freezer has worked pretty well for our 4 person family, usually 2 lambs each year and lasting quite a while.
We really don't need so much now that the kids are mostly gone, so the gifting works for any excess quantity meat.
 

mylilchix

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Wow! Thank you very much for that explanation of things. I'm going to have to print it and keep it on hand. I was thinking of doing dorpers or katahdins. Would those be a good choice?
 

mylilchix

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What is a good choice for a meat sheep?
 

boykin2010

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I have Katahdins and they are an excellent meat sheep. I also have one dorper ewe I cross with katahdin rams and she produces nice lambs. Her lamb this year weighed 70 pounds at 10 weeks! My Katahdin usually weigh differently depending on age of the dam, and how many siblings it has. The lamb that weighed 70 pounds this year was a single so that explains that. I try to feed mine the least grain possible but I do supplement. Usually my lambing takes place in Jan-Feb and by August- September I have some really nice meat lambs. I actually butchered two last year and took it to the processor. I think they probably averaged 90-100 pounds. They were on the small side but then again they were twins from a yearling mother and I didn't give much grain. Another really good thing about Katahdins are they are one of the most parasite resistant breeds out there if you select from good stock. I have never wormed any of my sheep.

Were you planning on getting some purebreds? If so, I have found that for my area at least, it is more profitable to do purebred and registered. Registered purebred ewe lambs are selling $100-150 more than just purebred Katahdins or commercials.

Katahdins are also a good choice if you dont like to shear sheep. The choice was easy for me once I realized how back-breaking it is to shear wooled sheep!
 

mylilchix

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Thank you so much!! I've been leaning towards the Katahdins. We don't want to shear, so I think they'd be perfect. I also like the fact that they're very hardy! It's nice to get some advice from someone who has raised them. Thank you again!!

Sonja
 

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