Raising baby sheep: the cutest animals around

I’m so excited to finally share this post with you! We got baby sheep, aka lambs, last week and they are the cutest little critters you’ve ever laid eyes on.

I’d like to introduce you to the newest members of our ever growing hobby farm – Freckles and Snow White. Of course Snow White is a boy, and Freckles is a girl but there was no deterring little Miss May from the names. We do call Snow White, Snowy.

lambs in pasture

The land that the Shanty is on is mostly pasture. A bit is occupied by the house and we plowed some up to plant a garden. The rest grows glorious amounts of alfalfa and sweet peas. The plants seemed too great of treasure to simply mow over so we decided that we would buy a very practical lawn mower of sorts.

Isn’t it pretty?! Those are apple trees and the fence is covered with wild but very much edible plum trees.

lamb pasture

The kids are big fans:
lambs with Mary

But there’s a harsher reality behind all the cuteness. I know that not all of you will agree with my on this, but hear me out.

When Thomas and I were discussing what we could buy to “mow the lawn” – cows, sheep, goats etc. he told me that we either milk or eat whatever we purchased. He’s a very practical man and I felt like his request was very reasonable. We are still paying for our remodel as well as this land and things are tight right now. We don’t have a lot of extra cash to just be buying pets. At 5 months pregnant with 3 little ones at home, I’m not in a position to be milking something right now. I just don’t feel like I have the time or energy, especially since we don’t even live on the property. Buying something to raise and then eat was the best choice. There, I said it… we are going to be eating these lambs.

This has been a really tough decision for me. I enjoy eating meat and I know that, for the most part, the commercial meat industry is something pretty yucky that we generally turn our eyes away from the truth. I’ve made and effort to buy elk in the past years and try to be conscious of the commercial meat that I buy. Raising our own meat seems like a really good option for us and something that feels responsible.

When I look at these lambs I know that they are happy and healthy. They will live a happy life wandering a pasture and frolicking as they please. I feel like they are living up to their full lamb potential and then fulfilling their purpose as an animal. Let’s be honest, if it wasn’t me buying them it was the next guy in line who planned to eat them too. I at least know that they were well cared for and happy during their lives. Am I justified in raising an animal with the full intent to kill and eat it? I feel like I am and that I’m doing it in the best possible way.

Do I still struggle with the idea? Yes. Can I really eat something I’ve raised? That’s the plan. I’ve been forth-right with the kids from before we even got the lambs. They know what the lambs purpose is. We go and check on them but we don’t make a huge effort to make them our friends or our pets. We do pet them and love them but we don’t spend a lot of time trying to bond with them. I think that having the lambs on a property that we don’t actually live at helps too. We don’t see them constantly. Will I feel sadness the day they aren’t there? I’m sure I’ll cry, but I don’t think I’ll feel regret. I hear that the first animal that you raise for meat is the hardest to part with. We’ll have to see if things change in the future.

Again, I know lots of people won’t agree with my point of view. I don’t do negative comments so don’t expect them to be published. Just know this decision wasn’t made without thought and care.

lambs sweet peas, wild sweet peas

Seriously though, spending your life in a sweet pea patch has got to be the dream for a lamb. It’s so ridiculously cute to see them out there in all of the flowers. Sometimes I feel like it’s straight out of a Downy commercial and the lambs should jump into a basket full of clean white sheets for the full effect!

We are so excited to be stewards over these kind and beautiful animals and are really excited to be expanding our hobby farm that we’ve been dreaming of for years.

I love numbers so I thought I’d throw all this in because I know I’m not the only number nut.

We bought the lambs for about a $1 per pound which was the going price at auction in our area when they were purchased.

I paid $55 for Snow White and $65 for Freckles which put me at $120 for the pair. There was an old metal trough that still held water on the property, so I just washed it out for their water and we have no cost in food. We got the fencing from my father-in-law who has lots of “treasure” just laying behind his house. We plan on them “being on pasture” their whole lives. When they eat through the quarter of an acre we fenced off for them we’ll move them to another quarter. If that doesn’t happen until the garden is done we’ll just let them have free reign on the property until the fall. The idea is to just keep them as long as there is food for them to eat, which should be until about the end of November.

It will cost $60 per lamb to have them killed on site (less traumatic then being transported and then killed) and then processed which includes flash freezing (which lends to better meat quality). So I’m already at $240 total for two lambs and I have no idea how much meat I’ll be getting back. I think I should be getting about 150 pounds of meat (bones included), but we’ll just have to see on that. So I have no clue on how cost effective this is, but that isn’t really the goal either.

I’ve had a few questions about the lambs already so I thought I’d address those too!

A friend asked how much work they were compared to chickens – chickens are about a 3 on a 1 to 10 scale and these lambs (after the initial setting up of their fence) have been a 1 so far. Their food is all around them and their water trough is huge, so I have literally done nothing more than check on them since we got them a few weeks ago. They take care of themselves because they have what they need!

Another friend asked about their wool – we don’t plan on having them sheared because honestly they won’t be around that long. I have thought about getting the lamb skins back and having them cured so that we could make a blanket or something but that is yet to be determined. I think it’s pretty expensive to have that done but I haven’t looked into it yet.

There you have it! Our two newest additions to our hobby farm.

Do you have any questions? Do you think you could raise an animal for meat? Do you still like me even though I plan to eat a lamb? I sure hope so. This post was hard for me to write but it’s something that is important to me and I wanted to share it with you.

Thanks so much for reading.

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37 Responses
  1. If raising sheep works out for you, you might consider buying a grinder and learning to butcher them yourself. My husband and I hunt most of our meat, grind it, then package it using a food saver. We actually are part of a group that went in together and bought the grinder, and it simply travels from house to house during hunting season. Its a big up front cost but it has worked out to save us hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a year! My deer (First ever, btw), cost about $.43/pound when all was said and done.

    1. We actually did that for this year’s lambs and we put two in the freezer ourselves including grinding! I was super morning sick so only bagged and wrapped and it took us probably 10 hours total but made it much cheaper! So cool and such a practical skill!

  2. Brenda Neff

    I make lamb stew on Halloween Night as a traditon for over 30 years. My kids love it and beg for it. I grew up raising animals to eat and love and there is no reason we can’t do both. We have a purpose and so do they. I bawled louder than may steer did at the first auction but he was raised for burger and I knew it from the get go. My children are grown now and the tradition continues. I like best that I know what goes into my food. You might want to have a ewe that is your breeder. Then you don’t buy 65 dollar lambs every year. My first sheep came from an old ewe bought with a lamb at a sale fpr 15 bucks. She was a bedraggled mess and looked much older than she was. She turned out to be a bargin. Plus you get fleece and you can sell it online for good prices too.

  3. We have raised lambs for the last 25 years. It’s by far one of the best flavored meats IMO. I love that you blogged only from the what you know standpoint. But I did want to take a minute and let you know that even those of us who many consider “commercial” farms still care for our livestock the same way you have cared for your two lambs. Our goals are the same just on a different size and scale. Our cows serve 2 purposes meat and milk and to produce either of those they must be well cared for and healthy. Love your blog!

    1. I totally agree… there are lots of degrees when it comes to commercial farming. Lots of folks here in Southern Utah raise beef cattle on gorgeous open ranches and they live a great life. On the other hand I grew up with an Uncle who raised hogs and it was very commercial and very sad in my opinion. I’m always grateful for folks like you who raise meat well. Thanks friend. And great blog by the way! Let’s stay in touch!

  4. Rosemary Meyer

    As children,my brother and I had pet lambs,Betsy was mine,Dad always said, be sure and close the gate to the house,on one side of the house was Ivy ,very pretty, going over to grandma’s one morning,I forgot the gate,much later in the day when.back, no one noticed the open gate,,the IVY was missing,my Dad did not say anything to me,but the next day Betsy was gone too.I was 6 yes old,so I never thought my pet lamb was butcher meat. I though a neighbor bought her and she was gone,but I have never had lamb to eat either. Good Luck in your decisions,its done every day somewhere !!

  5. Oh my goodness … could they be any cuter?!?!

    And I completely understand your comments about eating something you raised. While I have never raised lambs, I did co-host a lamb dinner (Lambstravaganza!) once a year as a partnership between our local Slow Food chapter and a local lamb farmer. Over the six years we did this dinner, we became good friends with the farmer and his family and would remark each year that the baby lambs we got to hold would be next year’s dinner.

    I know it sounds harsh to some, but you are right on target … they were happy, healthy lambs that were raised the right way, and they ended up fulfilling their purpose as animals. I never took that for granted and still don’t to this day.

    Good for you for raising the animals you eat … I wish I could do the same!

    1. Eee! I’m so glad to connect with you. I popped over to your blog just because of the great name and was so pleased! I think we’d be friends. Going to any fancy foodie blog conference next year?

  6. Melanie

    I have been struggling with the idea of eating any meat for years. I eat very little now and really only because my fiance would have a hard time with me going full vegetarian. I feel so guilty every time though. I could NEVER raise an animal to eat. I think I’d be losing a piece of my soul.

  7. Marcia Santos

    I thoroughly enjoy your blog and look forward to it. I respect your view on the lambs, but I could not do it. #1 I don’t care for lambs for eating, and #2 I would get too emotionally connected to the lambs. I am at a point in my life where I have trouble eating any meat, but cannot go all veggie either. So I appreciate your honesty in your blog, but just know I couldn’t do it. I will continue to be a fan of your writing!

  8. Autumn Harris

    So you casterated the male, right? πŸ™‚ Otherwise you might end up with a pregnant Ewe lamb if they’re together too long, especially in the fall when breeding is prime. Other than that, awesome choice! I haven’t followed your blog a lot, but I can’t wait to see an update on this and find out how it all ended up. I raised lambs for 4-H. We loved our lambs, and we cried the first 3 years we showed them, knowing they would be sold to market after the show was over. After that, we still loved them and we still sold them, and it wasn’t so bad anymore! πŸ™‚ My husband and I are talking about raising Dairy goats, and/or sheep for food, wool, etc. Someday we hope to have the property to allow us to do it. I like reading blogs like yours to find out how other people do it. Again, you may have already posted an update, but if not, I’d love to see how your story ends with the two lambs. If you can afford to have the hides cured, do it! Buying wool hide rugs, blankets, etc., from someone else is very expensive, so there has to be some small savings in doing it yourself. We see lovely hides at the Iowa State Fair each year for $90+ but we never have budget to buy one. And, consider shearing once if you get your lambs really young, or they could get too hot in the summer with all that wool. Though I knew people growing up that sheared at the end of fall each year, and that was it. And of course the more wool on them at butcher, the better hides you’ll get. Just some things to consider, but again, I’ve never raised my own for meat, just to exihibit and sell to market. (And I was a teen, not an adult owner, so I am even less experienced than I’d like to think).

  9. Oh man. I could never do this (not because there’s anything wrong with it but because I’m not strong enough). I just can’t imagine I’d enjoy eating that meat. We thought about having chickens in the future, but I’ve read that they stop producing eggs after a while and then they stick around for a while after that. And lots of people then use the chickens for meat. So I’ve decided to just move next to a neighbor who has chickens and I can buy their eggs and meat and not think about it. It’s nonsensical, I know. πŸ˜‰

    And what lovely little lambs! Love the pictures of them and the kids. πŸ™‚

    1. Melissa

      Having kids changed things for me! I’m not a total dooms-day nut but I do worry that if things got rough, how would I feed them. It puts things into perspective when you start having a responsibility for more than yourself and it made me get serious about being able to provide for them no matter what. If they weren’t motivating me I probably wouldn’t care as much…

  10. I just stumbled on your blog, and I have found it very interesting. I don’t know if I could eat meat that I had raised, but I grew up on wild game that my dad and brother hunted. You name it, I’ve probably eaten it. I have no problem with that.
    I also loved the blog post you did on 14 days of clean eating. Your definition of clean eating is mine. You summed it up so well. It’s all about balance (though I’m not gonna lie, I DO wish my in-laws would lay off the processed stuff just a little with my kids!).
    You’ve got a new reader. πŸ™‚

    1. Melissa

      I”m with you in dealing with the in-laws. And here’s the kicker – mine own a grocery store!! Treats are for sure their “gift” of choices because they have it… oh my!

  11. Erica

    I’m so fascinated by your post. I do not judge you at all for your meat choices. Nothing wrong with eating an animal that has been humanly raised. When I have the land I plan to raise chickens, guineas, and rabbits for meat. Question though – Is the female too young to get pregnant? Because I don’t think butchers process pregnant animals for meat. I look forward to hearing how much meat you end up getting/cost effectiveness of this. I’m betting you come out way ahead if you’re not buying any food.

  12. Michelle

    I think it’s funny that you feel you need to defend yourself on something like this. We live in such a “politically correct” world these days. Animals were put on this earth for man, some for companionship and most were to sustain human life. I was raised “raising” pigs and sheep for our county fair. Some of the popular names they were given were “bacon”, “pork chops”, “lamb chops”, etc because I knew what I was raising them for. Good job on your little farm. Keep it up!!!

  13. I understand you not wanting to make them pets. However…. we’re raising a steer for the freezer AND we are keeping him friendly, almost pet-like. There are two reasons: he’s not afraid of humans (unless he misbehaves) which makes life much easier on him and us; and it will make him easier to load when ‘the time comes’. I know you really can’t do that with little children right around your skirts. All our neighbor kids know that Dinner will be dinner one day, and that he’s friendly because he’s happier that way, and because it won’t be as stressful on him in the end. I’m sure some people won’t understand that view–but an animal that is raised humanely has a much better life.

  14. Dana

    I can’t stand the taste of lamb meat, but I see nothing wrong with raising your own food. I probably couldn’t butcher an animal myself, but I would have no problem stashing packages of wrapped meat in my freezer. (I know you’re not butchering, I was just thinking of what I could and could not personally do.)
    If anyone finds fault with your plans, tell them to go picket the meat counter at their local supermarket. And then tell them that at least your lambs will be treated humanely, which is more than can be said for many other animals.

  15. Veronika

    This is so awesome! Sounds like it will be hard in the future but I’m proud of you guys! We often toy with the idea of getting a couple goats to be our lawnmowers πŸ™‚

  16. marseille

    you’ve got a boy and a girl….how long are they going to be your lawn mowers? just through the summer? do you want a lamb family? When I first heard about this, I thought rabbits would be better for raising meat. but the lawn mower makes sense.

  17. I think this is awesome! My husband and I recently decided to stop eating meat (for the most part) because of the meat industry. However, we are not (in any way whatsoever) against eating meat from animals that have been treated the way we believe God intended. If we could do this very thing we would in a heartbeat!

  18. Jessica Bartlett

    My mom’s dad raised lambs to eat. It’s great you are being upfront with your kids. My mom says that they weren’t told what the lambs were for in the beginning and the first time she ever realized it they were actually eating one of her favorite lambs for dinner and she said it devastated her. Just continue to be upfront with them and don’t make a big deal out of it when you are eating the meat. My mom was raised exactly the way that you are wanting with a hobby farm and all, but because my grandpa was so inconsiderate of her feelings she grew up hating it and really doesn’t like animals all that much any more either.

  19. ashli

    When I was little, my dad raised cows, just enough to feed our family every year. It took me the longest time before I realized Where the meat actually came from. I was sad, but nothing beats farm-raised beef. I agree with you. I would be sad when dad would take the cows away to be processed, but so thankful. It has been hard acquiring the taste of store bought hamburger though.

    1. Melissa

      I assume that’s how my youngest two will be. I don’t think they will connect the animal with the meat at all which is just fine… innocence is a kind thing some times. I’m a bit worried about the 6 year old though! She’s tendered hearted like her Momma πŸ™‚ Thanks for the support too!

  20. Elaine Ellen

    Once when I was growing up my parents got each of us a lamb to raise. But we sold them at the sale barn when they were grown up. I have never eaten lamb and I think maybe the decision to sell the sheep at the sale barn was made because they were pets to us, somewhat. (My brother’s lamb was the naughty one, always jumping over the fence. Very fitting for a naughty brother. ;-D)

    1. Melissa

      We contemplating buying something to sell in the end. I think if we needed to that this is the route we would go too, but so far so good! Thanks so much for the comment!

  21. Amanda

    I applaud you for posting this!! I have never eaten lamb before, but I have always been a meat lover. I used to go deer and elk hunting with my Dad through my teenage years. I also grew up in a rural area where most of my friends raised livestock. So the idea of eating something I raised doesn’t really bother me a whole lot. When my chickens get older and stop laying eggs I will have them processed as well. In my opinion, that is why animals were put on this earth.

    1. Amanda

      But don’t get me wrong, I am definitely an animal lover too! I love to just sit on the ground and mingle with my chickens, listening to them clucking away and feeding them grapes by hand. I just keep it tucked in the back of my mind that they will be food one day. It’s all about balance.

    2. Melissa

      Confession: I’ve never had lamb either. Isn’t that funny! We aren’t super picky though and I think myself a descent cook, so I’m not too worried about the taste. I’m in love with MasterChef right now and they cooked lamb in one of the early episodes. I swear it said it was the most popular meat in the world… that much of the world can’t be wrong! I’m with you on the history of meat too. My parents butchered and processed their own beef and pork and that’s what I was raised on. The idea isn’t awful to me, though the animals I ate weren’t ever our pets our at our house, they came from our neighbors farm. I did help pluck chickens once as a young girl and hated it though πŸ™‚ Thanks for the comment!

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Bless This Mess - About Me

I’m Melissa, and I want to help you feed your family wholesome food.

As a hobby farmer and mom of five, I’m all about keeping it simple in the kitchen. I want healthy meals that feed my family well, and then I want to get back to my (messy) life. Let’s work together to find something yummy for your dinner table.

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