Posts tagged jacob sheep

Evaluating ethical lambing practices

Tail docking and castrating of ram lambs… is it ethical? Is it necessary?

Last year we decided to embark on an experiment in ethics and best practices. We decided that we would leave all lambs intact, which means that we did not castrate any of the boys, nor did we dock (cut off) tails.

lamb photo for webOne of the primitive traits of Jacob Sheep is their ability to still fully articulate their tails. Common modern farming technique requires the docking of tails, as lore suggests that many modern commercial breeds of sheep no longer have the ability to articulate their tails sufficiently to move it out of the way of feces and urine (which can lead to disease and infection). This is certainly not the case with Jacob Sheep, and after doing some investigating, we have arrived at the conclusion that it is unnecessary.

Removing appendages, such as the tail,  for “looks only” is not ethical care in our opinion. One of the reasons we began to question this practice in the first place was because we lost a lamb to anaphylactic shock after giving her the requisite anti-tetanus injection that is needed to keep them from getting tetanus in their tail when you band them. We watched a perfectly healthy lamb die within minutes in horrible agony and convulsions due to a shot we had given her so that we could perform an unnecessary procedure on her. Was this typical? Obviously, no. Does it happen? Yes. In fact, that same year another breeder friend of ours had a similar experience in two of his lambs.

In 2013 we raised all of our lambs without incident with tails fully intact. They thrived and we did not have any increased incidents of fly strike, infections, or otherwise. They were able to articulate their tails as needed for their bodily functions, and the ewes bred without any trouble. Breeders in some areas of the country have been leaving tails intact for quite some time, so this is not a new idea. We are simply reinforcing the idea that docking is purely an aesthetic choice, and here at Fat Toaster Farm we aren’t in the business of chopping off animal appendages in order to gain style points.

As for castrating, we have not castrated ram lambs since we began our farm in 2009, and the meat lambs taste mild and indistinguishable. As foodies the quality and flavor of our food is very important. We eat the sheep we raise, and so we want the best tasting meat. Castration can be extremely painful for the lamb (if you see them writhing in pain, you realize that yes, they do feel it — there is no way to explain that away and remain honest with yourself). Castration can also open an opportunity for infection, fly strike (trust me, you don’t want to mess with this), increased care, and sometimes death due to aforementioned complications. Again, if there is no practical gain, there is no reason to perform unnecessary surgical processes. Less work for us, less pain for the lambs, and the meat is fine both ways. Win/win.

Overall we encourage breeders to consider the implications of our findings. For one, it is significantly less work for the shepherd when you don’t need to catch every single lamb yet another time to band their tails or castrate. It is one or two less shots that you must catch them to give (and less risk of anaphylaxis). Certainly it is best for the critters this way also, as they endure less pain, enjoy a higher quality of life, and you don’t have to listen to their cries of pain. Again, win/win.

Happy lambing!

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Recipe: Local Lamb Chops with Red Wine Reduction

Local Lamb Chops with Red Wine Reduction… a perfect and well-balanced preparation for our Fat Toaster Farm Jacob Sheep lamb chops. With hints of middle eastern spices, this is one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever put in your mouth. Here is how to make it in less than 30 minutes.

Ingredients:

6-8 small lamb chops (cut 3/4″ – 1″ thick)
1 cup of your favorite red wine
1 Tbs butter
2 Tbs canola oil
2 Tbs garlic powder
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
pinch of fresh ground pepper

Procedure:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Mix the garlic powder, thyme, cardamom, and cinnamon in a mortar and use pestle to mix up the ingredients and crush the thyme. Lay chops out on a flat surface and place 1/2 of the salt across the surface of one side of the chops. Liberally sprinkle the spice mixture across the surface of the chops. Turn the chops over and season the other side with the other 1/2 of the salt and a coating of the spices.

On the stovetop place a cast iron or other oven-safe 10″ (or larger) saute/frying pan over high heat. When the pan is very hot, put the canola oil in the pan and immediately add the seasoned chops. Sear for 2 minutes on one side, turn the chops, and then place in the preheated oven. Bake for 6 minutes for medium rare (recommended).

Remove pan from oven and immediately move chops to a single layer on a plate. Cover with foil for 5-8 minutes to rest. While the chops are resting you will make your wine reduction sauce. Heat the pan over medium-high heat and add the wine. Use a spoon or whisk to scrape the bits in the bottom of the pan as the wine reduces. When the wine is reduced by at least 1/2, turn off the heat and whisk-in the butter until incorporated. Arrange 2-3 chops per serving and spoon the wine reduction over each chop. Freshly cracked pepper over the top and you have completed this amazing dish.

Wonderful when served with creamy au gratin potatoes or your favorite vegetable.

lamb chops

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Farming is hard

When I first tell friends that I have a small farm, I often hear the response, “Sounds neat, but hey, isn’t that hard? Like, a lot of work?”

My response isn’t typically what they expect. I tell them, “Yeah, farming and caring for these critters is a lot of work, but that is the fun part! The parts of farming that aren’t easy often have to do with the unpleasant things that don’t often come to mind until you’ve lived ’em.”

We’ve been doing this for about three years, and we’ve experienced great joy — The first time you have lambs born on the farm, and the first time that one of those lambs becomes your best friend. The times when you have 50 peeping little chicks making the most ridiculous racket in a box in your garage. The times that you can invite friends over to enjoy your space, comforts, and good eats.

Then there are the times that don’t come to mind but will be experienced, ready or not. These are the times that are hard — The time when a dog gets in to your chicken coop and kills every single last one before you go out to find the dog gone, and the carnage left behind. The time that a sheep gets injured by some freak accident and you have to spend hours and late nights calling vets and wondering if it will live. The times when an animal gets randomly sick and needs daily antibiotic shots for weeks to get better. The days filled with great joy as new life is born, and then the sadness of seeing such fragile new life perish. There are the times many pet owners know — when you lose your old friend. When you have a whole pasture full of friends, you have that many more to lose. Then there are the times of great unpleasantness, like having to save your sheep in distress from an attacking dog in your pasture, knowing that you are likely shooting someone else’s beloved pet out of horrible necessity.

All farmers experience such things, and the smaller and more sustainably you farm, the closer you are to each animal and their daily care. So, next time you eat that locally grown meat or enjoy the beauty and wondrousness of a small family farm, realize that the farmers who so lovingly share that experience with you have a deep well of experience — both joy and pain — that go unseen with each moment.

Farming and animal husbandry are worthwhile and wondrous undertakings, yet the difficult times will come with surety. Weathering them takes far more energy than cleaning out the barn or hauling some feed out to a flock of eager faces.

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Goats Milk and Cheese Adventure with Whey Bread

So, after our first foray into learning how to milk goats, we acquired 1.5 gallons of fresh raw goats milk and needed to do something with it. The following was that adventure.

First, we poured all of it into a large dutch oven and brought it up to 160f degrees to pasteurize the milk we wished to consume. We dipped-off the amount we wished to use as milk, and left the remainder still heating to the suggested cheese-making temp of 180f. We then followed the recipe link below:

How to Make Goat Cheese

Notes: I only added salt-to-taste to the finished product. I did not add herbs or garlic, as I considered the possibility of using it in a pastry context. I’m also planning lasagna… mmmm…

Upon the cheese-making-venture’s completion, I had a couple of quarts of whey left over. Waste not, want not… so, I looked for good recipes that might utilize the whey and go great with the soft ricotta style cheese I had just produced. That is when I adapted the recipe below for my own purposes:

Buttermilk cluster rolls

And here is my adaptation. Tested DELICIOUS!

Goat Milk Whey Roll Cluster

Makes 12 to 18 rolls, depending on sizeGoat Milk Whey Roll Cluster Bread

6 to 6 1/2 cups (750 grams) bread or all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 envelope (2 1/2 teaspoons) active dry or instant yeast, or 1 15 gram cake fresh yeast
1 tablespoon warm water
2 cups goat milk whey (leftover from cheese-making)
1 tablespoon sorghum molasses

Glaze:
1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Topping:
1-2 tablespoons seeds (poppy, sesame, flax) or grains (cracked wheat, rolled oats)

Bloom yeast in the tablespoon of warm water for 10 min (use a small dish).

Mix flour and salt, add in bloomed yeast and molasses (honey or maple syrup make great substitutes). Mix gently until ingredients are combined thoroughly. If weighing the flour, the texture should be about perfect. If using cup measurement, add flour slowly to assure the right dough texture. I found that 750 grams was less than 6 cups, but it depends on density.

Knead dough for 10 minutes on floured table. Place dough back in bowl and allow to proof (rise) for around 1.5 hours, or until doubled in size.

dough after first proof

Dough after first proof, I made a double batch. The egg carton is there for size comparison

Turn out proofed dough on a floured table and cut into equal size rolls. Make nice balls, and place them in a greased dish (spring form pan, or any walled baking dish). Allow for a bit of space between the rolls, as they will increase in size. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to proof (rise) for another hour or so, or until double.

Dough before second proof

Dough before second proof

Dough after second proof

Dough after second proof, egg washed, seeds on top

Preheat Oven to 425f degrees.

Beat egg in a small dish and add in 1 Tbs of water. Brush the egg wash on the top of the proofed rolls. Sprinkle with your favorite crushed grain or toasted seeds.

Bake the rolls for around 30 minutes, or until rolls are firm and spring back when tapped. Tops will be dark, but check often to prevent burning. The whey causes very quick browning near the end.

Brush tops with melted butter for the ultimate in deliciousness. Serve warm with homemade ricotta-style goats milk cheese!

The finished product(s)

The finished product(s) hot out of the oven!

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Follow us on Facebook!

In addition to our WordPress blog, you can now follow us on Facebook!

Short updates, photos, and videos will be posted there regularly. Check it out: CLICK HERE TO VISIT OUR FACEBOOK PAGE.

Fat Toaster Farm on Facebook!

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Back in Spring, Lambs were born!

I know it is the middle of August, and clearly I’m behind (as usual) in my blogging. I thought you might be interested in our lambs from this spring.

Our Jacob sheep ewes all twinned this year, and in addition we obtained a Shetland ewe with young ram lamb at the side… so in total, we had 7 lambs on the farm. All three of our Jacob ewes lambed when we were away, and without incident. They are wonderful mothers, and their lambs are now happy and healthy. My only complaint? Of the six lambs born here this year, five were pesky boys.

Cecilia was the first to lamb this year on 4/3/10. She had two very healthy 4 horn rams, Calvin and Hobbes.

Calvin, Hobbes, and Cecilia
Zach and Cecilia's CalvinTop photo – Calvin, Hobbes, and Cecilia

Bottom photo - Zach and Calvin

Baby was the second to lamb with a ram (Bocelli “Bo”, 2 horn) and a ewe (Andrea, 4 horn) on 4/8/10

Baby and her lambs, Andrea (top photo) and Bocelli (bottom front)

Baby and her lambs, Andrea (top photo) and Bocelli (bottom front)

And Finally, Roberta came in third a fitting three weeks later with two playful ram lambs on 4/29/10. We dubbed them Conan (2 horn) and O’brien (4 horn)

Roberta with Conan and O'brien

Roberta with Conan and O'brien

And finally, Jasmine, our black Shetland ewe and her white lamb ram. We named him Jasmine’s Aladdin, but his nickname is “little ramb lamb” forevermore. He is now a wether who will live a long life on our farm as a fiber animal. He is a big fuzzy puppy dog of a sheep, and the highlight of anyone’s visit to our farm.
"Little Ram Lamb" Aladdin

"Little Ram Lamb" Aladdin

Of course, it is August as I write this, so all of the lambs have grown significantly.  Many updated photos can be found on the “For Sale” page!
Zach with "Little Lamb Ram" in August, 2010

Zach with "Little Ram Lamb" in August, 2010

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Spring sheep shearing 2010

Our saga began on Friday night as we picked up a friend’s pickup truck complete with a rack/cage in the bed perfectly suited for sheep transportation. It had been raining all week, so we had kept our sheep in the barn for several days to stay dry. My dad arrived at the farm just in time to help me load my three Jacob ewes in the truck. We backed the truck into my barn to keep the ladies dry overnight.

8am rolled around very quickly, and we gingerly drove the sheep over to Hillside Jacobs in Sparta, Michigan where we were going to shear my sheep, Gary’s sheep (Hillside), and one of Gary’s brother’s flock of Columbia sheep.

Setup was relatively simple. The professional shearer needed a 6′ x 6′ footprint, and myself and a few other guys worked to keep the sheep flowing around him. On one side, one of Gary’s brothers helped get the unshorn sheep from the paddock. The shearer took about 4 minutes per sheep, and when done, I grabbed the freshly shorn sheep, brought it over to get a quick vaccination shot (tetanus and a few others), and then returned her to the paddock.

Click here to see a video of my ewe Cecelia getting sheared

Once the fleece was off the sheep, it was carried over to a skirting table where two ladies (Gary’s wife and sister) worked hard to remove the bad or soiled wool and categorize the wool quality. The wool was bagged in individually marked bags so that hand-spinners could know what sheep their wool came from. Wool from the stomach area as well as the rear is usually discarded. Jacob wool is highly prized by hand-spinners for its natural two-tone color and generally good quality.

The shearer worked from around 9am until nearly 5pm without an extended break. Many spectators joined the fun over the course of the day. The Columbia sheep, over 200 pounds, were certainly a huge task when compared to the Jacobs or Shetlands that Gary and I had. It was a busy day, but filled with great learning experiences.

A late lunch was had by those remaining, and we drove our newly naked ladies home to their warm barn.

Lambs are soon to be on the way!

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