We will have some delicious lamb and 100% grass-fed beef for sale by the cut this fall. email email@example.com for more info.
Sign up for a Farm Share
Our freezers are stocked with delicious grass-fed and pasture-raised beef, pork, chicken and lamb. You can sign up for 3, 6, or 12 months at a time and choose between 7, 15, and 25 pounds a month. Our members have found the farm share to be a fun way to keep a steady supply of healthy meat in your freezer. By becoming a member you are supporting a farm that puts animal and human health first – sustainably raising pastured heritage breed pork, pastured chicken and 100% grassfed beef and lamb. Visit our farm share page for more info or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (802) 439-3804 Thanks, Hayley and Gabe
About two years ago a pair of sheep farming friends of ours, who shall remain nameless but happen to have one of the largest grassfed lamb operations in the state, live about two miles away and are amazing people, knocked on our door one evening. They held up two zip-lock baggies labeled “A” and “B”, asked us to cook up the contents and let them know which we preferred.
Inside each bag, of course, was a small portion of ground meat and while we were pretty sure what our friends were asking, after all we had raised a few lambs ourselves by this point and wondered the same thing, we were more than happy to play along in the hopes of finding the answer. The question they were looking to answer, of course, is rather important on a sheep farm, perhaps even the ultimate question when raising lamb for meat. And, just in case you haven’t already guessed from my title and lead-in, the question is:
Is “lamb” distinguishable from “mutton”? If so, which is honestly (in a blind taste test) preferable?
There. I said it. Mutton! Mutton, mutton, mutton! And let me tell you all, when Gabe and I cooked up our friends’ fresh samples of ground meat, we chose (remember this was a BLIND TASTE TEST) the mutton. The meat was less fatty than its lamb counterpart and had a very mild flavor. Yes, that is right, the mutton was LESS fatty than the lamb sample and had a MILD flavor! These two descriptors go hand-in-hand, of course, as it is the fat in the mutton or lamb that makes for the flavor. The more fat, the stronger the flavor.
Wait, wait, wait, you may be saying right now. Back up a minute. Mutton more mild than lamb? Impossible! Well, if that is your opinion, I have news for you and, if you are willing to keep an open mind (and mouth), you just may be persuaded…
There are a number of reasons why mutton may be found to be more mild or more delicious than lamb…first and foremost, is grass. When animals are fed grass their meat is automatically less fatty and while lambs are grazed alongside their flock elders they are also generally afforded partial, and sometimes unlimited, access to grain. The grain aids in the development of the lamb’s digestive system, provides extra calories needed for rapid growth and (surprise, surprise) puts fat on the animal. An older sheep usually receives far less grain than a lamb, only in and around lambing time on most grassfed operations, and will in turn develop a healthy, lean physique. That said, upon slaughter, an older sheep (to be clear, once an animal reaches 2 years of age it will be classified as “mutton”) frequently has a lower fat content than a lamb and, if properly conditioned on grass, will be quite tasty upon reaching your dinner plate.
Now, if I were to scour the internet on “mutton misconceptions” (or have Gabe put in his two cents right now) this newsletter could go on indefinitely, however as I am going to do neither of the aforementioned, I will conclude with this: Mutton has been unjustly given a bad reputation. JUST TRY IT!!
Sincerely (from a born and raised 31-year-vegetarian who now prefers mutton or lamb to all meat),
Oh, and for those of you out there that do NOT receive lamb in your farm shares, don’t worry you will not have mutton forced on you from now on. Lamb lovers however, your September shares will have your first mutton installment. You have one month to scrounge up some mouth-watering recipes!
I have a hunch. I am pretty sure most pregnant women do not spend their third trimester fretting over where to house the sheep for the fall, how many beef cows to overwinter, how to manage pig farrowing in and around one’s due date or what milking the family milk cow will look like upon the baby’s arrival, but lately my mind is a swirling wash of such questions. And so, even though it is late-July, and I should be focused entirely on summer grazing rotations and hot little boys, October is at the forefront of my every decision.
Sheep preparations: By October 1 we aim to have the sheep in their breeding groups. Provided I don’t go into labor early, we should be able to accomplish this pre-baby. The big question is, how will the grass hold up? Will we need to truck all 60 animals home or will they continue to have enough feed up the road. Hmmm, no way to know!
Beef cow preparations: We just received word that the herd of 11 cows I mentioned a few newsletters ago will be ours as of September 1. This will bring our herd total to 28 animals for the winter. Again, will there be enough grass in the remote pastures to carry all of these beasts into October or should we plan to truck them home early? And, as we count up our growing pile of hay bales, exactly how many bales will we need this winter?
Pig preparations: Here’s one area I THOUGHT we were all set on however Gabe informed me last week that two of our sows are due to farrow in early-October. Now, if I had realized this was the plan when the boar was put in with the girls I would obviously have voiced my disdain, but alas, times are busy and the pig gestation was poorly, or perhaps not at all, planned. Good luck Pansy and Posey, you might be on your own this time!
Jeannette preparations: Perhaps the most planning, at least this moment, revolves around my milking schedule. Usually I milk around 5:30am and 4:00pm, not exactly 12 hour intervals, but Jeannette doesn’t complain and it seems to fit into our family’s daily rhythm. There is no way however, I will be trudging out to the barn come October for an early morning milking AND I have decided that milking just once a day would be much more convenient as we enter this new phase of our lives. This means, I am in the midst of transitioning Jeannette to once a day milkings. Her morning milking will remain unchanged for the time being, but each afternoon I milk her a bit earlier. For example, the past two days I milked her at 1pm and today I will head out at 11am, just 5 hours after her morning milking. What this means: In a few short days (if all goes well) our girl will be down to one milking each day and I will be resting with my feet up come 4pm…well, at least the former will be true, as for resting with my feet up…we’ll see.
So, yes, while it is July and we are moving animals about on grass, checking watering troughs vigilantly and squeezing in trips to the beach with Eben and August, October 10 is my focus. Perhaps the so-called “nesting” phenomenon so common among late-pregnancy women is simply manifesting in a slightly different way for me – scouring the house, not so much…animals all snug and accounted for, a constant concern.
Join us for NOFA-VT CSA/Farm Share Day
- Meet the farmers.
- Learn about our Pastured Meat Farm Share.
- Sample and purchase local, sustainably raised meat at the source.
- Special open house pricing for lamb roast, pork roasts, and pork ribs
- Learn about rotationally raised, grassfed and pastured meats.
- See baby lambs, piglets, cows and chickens.
Directions: From Bradford, VT: follow Route 25N for ~7mi. Turn left onto Brook Road. Follow Brook Road and turn right onto Center Road. Take the second driveway on the right, “Towle Hill Lane”. We are up the drive to the right, #138.
Change is a funny and contradictory concept for me. Perhaps this is true of all of us or perhaps it is just me. In any case, my fickle side craves change…as in, “I wonder what it would be like to live in New Zealand for a year…” or “maybe we should try adding a few more animal groups to our grazing plan this year.” Despite these passing thoughts, my slightly obsessive, orderly self resists change as though it is a contagious disease…as in, “I am NEVER leaving Corinth, VT again!” or “we CANNOT increase ANY of our animal numbers until we reach 100% success with what we have!” And yet, regardless of my unresolved feelings on change, spring on our farm is a time brimming with change: new life, new systems and a new outlook on the season ahead.
New life on the farm is undeniably a wonderful and joyous occasion. Since our last correspondence, one of our four sows has farrowed. The first litter of piglets, while given an extreme start with the frigid temperatures we saw a few weeks ago, seem to have overcome the worst of their early battles and are snuffling about with their mama. We hope that our remaining three sows, all of whom are bred, will farrow within the next month. In addition to our pigs, our ewes continue to demand our regular attention. Six of the nine ewes that we bred last fall have lambed. Each mama has lambed, no matter our frequent checks, on her own with healthy, vigorous lambs in each case. Eben has selected a bear theme for our naming scheme this year: Panda and Black Bear (twins), Polar Bear, Grizzley, Kodiak, and Ursa Major and Ursa Minor (twins) are now bright spots in our daily routine and perfect examples of change on the farm.
New systems on the farm, ahhhhh new systems on the farm. What can I say? Every year we try something new. From a new chick brooder, a necessity as we continue to increase the number of chicks we brood in each batch of broilers, to a new grazing rotation, another necessity that we constantly tweak based on the health of each pasture and the ability of different animal groups to thrive on said pasture, new systems are a must for us. We try to record what works and what does NOT work each year in order to keep on top of such changes, however many times we are forced to fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants as well. Sometimes a system we thought was simply genius upon its implementation turns out to be a dismal failure. Alas, more change.
As we enter our 2014 grazing season, we are, despite my moments of hesitation and indecision, making changes like crazy around the farm. We are also, and perhaps most importantly, feeling quite optimistic about our upcoming season. The addition of a sizable, fenced pasture of decent quality grass to our preexisting pastures, will enable us to add mature animals to both our beef herd and our flock of sheep. We have also decided to hire a farm worker for the summer. A college student at Gabe’s alma mater, this young woman will bring dedication, demonstrated through years of hard work on a local vegetable farm, and a passion for livestock, demonstrated through her home and college life, to our farm this season. Many changes, both exciting and intimidating in the works.
And, finally, before I sign off for the month, we have one more, VERY large change coming up this season. If you happen to notice me slowing down, or growing rather round, as the months pass, do not worry! It is simply Baby Zoerheide #3, due to arrive October 10th! Our most thrilling change to date!
When thinking back on the past month, I pondered my possible newsletter topics. My options seemed to include: (1) cold weather – I’m pretty sure we’ve all had enough of that, (2) snow – beautiful, but I have certainly had nearly enough of that, or (3) farming in the winter – positive Gabe and I have had enough of that…so, I have decided to look ahead this month rather than behind. Looking ahead to March, to warmer days, to spring…
“March comes in early spring,
Little birdies begin to sing,
Build their nests and hatch their brood,
With love and kindness provide them food.”
This little poem, which Gabe’s family members traditionally race one another to recite on the first of March each year, perfectly illustrates what is to come on the farm this month. As temperatures gradually rise and the snow steadily recedes, we are preparing for babes to be a part of the farm once again.
Crescent, our “prize” sow, is cozy as can be in the barn. Her nest building appears to be complete (an act that all sows go through prior to farrowing) and we are patiently awaiting her first signs of labor. Each morning I enter the barn to her soft, rhythmic grunts unsure if her noises are simply those of a sleeping pig at rest or rather, those of a large mama laboring through the birth of her brood. One morning soon, I am certain the latter will be the case.
The ewes, while slightly behind Cres in their gestation, are also gearing up for their big day. Last weekend we moved them all into a new pen in the barn where we can easily monitor their progress and isolate each ewe when her lamb(s) “drop” – a lowering of the lamb(s) into the ewe’s birthing canal that leaves hollow-like depressions on either side of her spine and tells us that lambing is imminent. With any luck, we will have a healthy lamb crop springing around the barnyard within a month. And, for those of you who have never witnessed a baby lamb in all its glory, let me tell you they are the epitome of springtime joy.
The final mother-to-be preparations around the farm revolve around Jeannette. Although she is not due to calve, or freshen, until the first of May, she will be dried off by March 1. “Drying off” a dairy cow is the standard practice of ceasing to milk a cow for a period of time, most generally about 2 months, prior to freshening. This break in milk production allows the pregnant mother to put her energy into her growing calf and maintain a healthy condition. Hopefully a little break will also serve to cheer up our girl who has been full of “spirit” lately…otherwise known as a shifty, shaving-kicking beast that I will be glad to take a brief respite from!
And so, in closing, if you too feel that this winter has dragged on long enough, remember to look ahead rather than behind. Focus on the changing light, warmer days and the “little birdies” that are beginning to sing overhead and remember that this too shall pass and spring will come again!