Raising baby sheep: the cutest animals around

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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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  1. TJ says:

    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.

  2. Dana says:

    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.

  3. Veronika says:

    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 🙂

  4. Tara says:

    I think those lambs are lucky! 🙂 And I am very curious to know how it ends up cost-wise. Good luck!

  5. marseille says:

    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.

  6. Chantal says:

    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!

  7. Jessica Bartlett says:

    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.

  8. ashli says:

    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 says:

      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 🙂 Thanks for the support too!

  9. Elaine Ellen says:

    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 says:

      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!

  10. Amanda says:

    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 says:

      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 says:

      My ladies love grapes too. LOL! I’m totally with you on this 🙂 Balance.

    3. Melissa says:

      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 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

    4. Autumn says:

      Lamb is delicious if cooked right. Practice makes perfect, so don’t give up!