Here lambing in the dead of winter, January, will get a good sized lamb by the end of summer when they come off pasture. But to do that one must have a good barn and excellent personal stamina to ensure lambs are not frozen before they are dry. That does not work for me, since I don't have a barn. Later lambing means either keeping the lambs over the winter or butchering them very very small in the fall. The butcher costs remain the same, from a 10 pound animal to a 200 pound animal, it is still 40 dollars to kill it and 10 dollars to dispose of the remains and 80 cents a pound to cut and wrap it.
Here in Alberta, all meat sold to the public must be government inspected. A farmer is permitted to butcher animals for personal use only. The option is to sell the lambs for $2.oo or so, per pound live weight, to an animal buyer. But, the buyer is only really interested in big meat lambs. They will take the others and pay less. So, if a lamb weighs 90 pounds on the hoof, it is worth $180 live. It still has to be trucked to where they buyer is, for me, not 2 hours, but 5 each way and then there is the day wasted and the profits eaten at by the transport again.
Lamb producers have one breed of sheep and the lambs all look the same. Buyers like that the best. The lambs are fat and grain fed and again, buyers like that the best here. They do not like grass fed organic meat at all and hesitate to even consider it.
I am hoping that these butchered lambs, who will have never seen vaccinations, antibiotics, hormones or grain, will be able to be sold as cut and wrapped sides of lamb from the freezer at the farm store. The Fat Ewe Farm does not raise animals for meat specifically, therefore our breeds are not meat breeds of sheep. The lambs are smaller and not uniform, but they are healthy and have been grass fed only. The sheep are kept for their unique wool, but when there are too many ram lambs, they become meat lambs, unfortunately.
It is hard. I see the lambs being born, and I cuddle them as they grown. I pat them on the heads and tell them they are good boys and give them a scratch under their chins. All along, I try to sell them live to smallholders who want to start in sheep without a large outlay of cash. When they do not sell, they become meat lambs. I have 5 of them at that stage now and they have a date with the butcher for June 8. So sad really. And that is the story of lamb meat on the Fat Ewe Farm.