In this series this week about the farm’s meat harvest, it feels important to start with what we raise. Next, how we raise it. And finally, why we raise it. (these posts will be longer than usual)
We have a small flock of mixed breed, predominantly old English wool sheep. They are raised here, as they have always been, for their meat, wool and sheepskins. We like to call them our mountain mutts.
We raise hogget. In the United States hogget is not a term people are familiar with anymore and because being an unconventional sheep farm is already weirdly marginal, we usually say we raise lamb. The difference is in the animal’s age, and in that difference lies contrast in size and flavor.
This first picture is one of our mamas. Every year in the fall she is bred with all the other mamas and throws a lamb in the early Spring. When she is of retiring age, or chosen for culling, this meat is mutton (roughly 3 years and older).
The second picture is a lamb, raised on its mama’s milk and pasture. It stays a lamb until it is 1 year old.
The third picture is hogget. Hogget is what you call a sheep between roughly 1-3 years. It was born last year, so it’s 15 months old in this photo. That means it has eaten 2 seasons of green forage before it is harvested for meat. We like to harvest at 15-18 months.
We raise hogget because it has a far superior flavor and size. We raise hogget because in order to get our lambs bigger faster, we’d have to feed them grain, which we can neither afford to buy nor grow. We raise hogget because honestly, we aren’t in a rush. And these animals grow slow and steady on green forage and we aren’t interested in changing that. So we have created a shepherding model that allows them to take their time to thrive here. To become healthy and strong and vigorous and flavorful on the abundant green pastures that we tend.