Pasture Raised Lamb

Pasture Raised Lamb

Imagine being confined in a small, malodorous and dank space with room just enough to stretch your legs. You feel hungry, but there is no sign of food. Then suddenly the door opens and in comes a person carrying buckets of something. He comes forward and tips over the buckets into a big bowl in front of you. You smell it but can’t connect it to anything. Gingerly, with the hunger cramps clouding your thoughts, you take a bite. It is bland and tasteless, but it feels something like food. You eat it all. You save it in your memory as the only food you are going to get in this alien housing.

Not pasture raised lamb
Confined Sheep Eating

Does that description sound humane to you? Most probably not. You will be surprised to hear that this is how sheep raised exclusively in indoor sheds are treated. Feedlots are not any better either where cattle are densely packed into a small area over piles upon piles of their own excrement. There is a reason why the infamous Harris Ranch Beef Company feedlot in California is called Cowscwithz, after the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz.

not pasture raised sheep
Cowschwitz

You will be pleased to know that there is an alternative, a more natural way of raising animals called pastured. This technique is on the rise since the issue of animal welfare has become a talking point in recent years. In the arena of animal welfare, pasture-raised animals are much happier. Freely feeding on grass excels because not only does it benefit the lifestyle of the animal being raised but it also positively affects the quality of the end-products obtained from these animals.

Grass Fed Sheep grazing
Grass Fed Sheep grazing

According to a 2002 study conducted by the Agriculture Department of the University of Uruguay, the pre-slaughter handling of ruminants, particularly sheep, has a considerable effect on the quality of meat acquired. Practices such as indoor confinement and uses of batons were found to increase the stress levels in the animals and thus proving detrimental to the quality of the end-products obtained.

Grazing circumvents these disadvantages because the animal is allowed to flourish in its natural environment thereby proving beneficial to its health and comfort. On the pastures, the sheep can feed, run, trot, hop or lie down whenever it wants to thus contributing to its psychological tranquility. Furthermore, the UV light from the sun catalyzes the formation of Vitamin D3 in the sheep which results in stronger bones.

The resilience to disease is also increased in grass-fed sheep. For example, foot rot, one of the most common diseases in the US Sheep Industry, is caused by the sheep’s hooves being exposed to damp and unsanitary conditions. This disease leads to the sheep going lame and thus results in premature culling. It can be avoided by trimming the hooves (which can be an arduous business) and considerably mitigated by allowing the sheep out in the open where the natural moisture in the grass keeps the sheep’s hooves clean.

Additionally, the milk of grass-fed ewes is higher in antioxidants, vitamins, and essential fatty acids. Thus, when they lactate their lambs tend to have a better immune system and overall health.

Grass Fed Katahdin Sheep and her lamb
Katahdin Sheep and her pasture-raised lamb

Another interesting fact is that being ruminants, sheep are naturally designed to feed on greens. Microbes in their four-chambered stomach are predisposed to the digestion of complex molecules found in grass and thus don’t cope well with an exclusively grainy feed. Pasture raised lamb have greater access to a natural balanced diet.

Conclusively, sheep that live their life beginning as a pasture raised lamb and finishing on pasture, rather than on a feedlot or in a contained space, are living naturally. They don’t require antibiotics pumped into their bloodstreams to mitigate the rapid spread of disease observed in a confined holding. They are not “force-fed” on unnatural or genetically modified feeds. They are free to eat and do whatever they want. In short, they live how God intended for them to live.

And that, my friends, is why the sheep we raise at the Ten Mile Farm and Market are grass fed, free ranging, happy animals.

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