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. Rosemary Meyer says:

    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 !!

    1. Melissa says:

      Thanks for your thoughts Rosemary! (I love your name by the way!)

  2. Kimberly says:

    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. Melissa says:

      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?

  3. Melanie says:

    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.

  4. Marcia Santos says:

    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!

  5. Autumn Harris says:

    So you casterated the male, right? 🙂 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! 🙂 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).

    1. Melissa says:

      SOOO good to connect with a kindred spirit! I have a whole pot for you in the making. All of your thoughts were perfect. Thank you!

  6. Erin @ Texanerin Baking says:

    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. 😉

    And what lovely little lambs! Love the pictures of them and the kids. 🙂

    1. Melissa says:

      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…

  7. Heather says:

    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. 🙂

    1. Melissa says:

      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!

  8. Becky says:

    This is a beautiful post Melissa. I can’t believe I missed it. Beautiful beautiful lambs. Hope to see them soon!

  9. Erica says:

    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.

  10. Michelle says:

    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!!!