What is grass-fed lamb?
The answer depends on the producer - there are no official (i.e. government) guidelines. In our case, we raise our sheep with grass as their primary source of nutrition during the natural growing cycle of our northwestern pastures. Our young lambs also eat alfalfa, a legume. In this photo, you can see that we have set up paddocks or cells for the sheep to graze using polytwine reel fencing. This means that the sheep are rotated through movable paddocks every 2 to 3 days. This makes them eat all of the grass in that paddock (rather than just the tastiest ones) and it allows the grass in other parts of the pasture to rest and regenerate. As the sheep move from paddock to paddock, they spread their own manure which acts as a fertilizer and adds to the organic matter of the soil.
Why is grass better for sheep?
Sheep are ruminants. This means that they have special bacteria in their rumen that digest the cellulose of grass, allowing the sheep to benefit from the plants' nutrients. When sheep are fed grain, they typically gain weight and grow faster than on grass.
So you might think that in the days of cheap grain (which have disappeared with the promotion of ethanol) that it would make sense to grow sheep on grain. However feeding grain changes the pH of the sheep's rumen, making it more difficult for the animal to get nutrients from its natural food, grass. Grain feeding also comes with its own problems, such as potential fatal bacterial imbalances in the digestive tract (overeating disease or clostridial infection) and urinary calculi in rams.
Why is pasture raised lamb better for people?
When lambs eat pasture, their fat contains Omega 3 fatty acids. These are considered "healthy" fats that are easily metabolized. When lambs eat a lot of grain, their fat contains Omega 6 fatty acids. These are the fats that clog your arteries and are associated with heart disease.
Lambs grown out on pasture are leaner lambs. They are put through a pasture rotation system that requires less fertilizer because the animals do the fertilizing themselves. Pasture rotation allows paddocks to rest for over 14 days, breaking the life cycle of many internal parasites, requiring less use of synthetic wormers. In fact, our sheep are only wormed twice a year, once prior to breeding and right after lambing. Less use of medication and wormers, means that the bacteria and parasites don't have a chance to become resistant.
Interested in pasture raised lamb?
Please e-mail or call (503)332-3105 to reserve your grass fed lamb today. We sell by the half or the whole and offer free delivery to your house if you live in the Portland metro area. We also ship via 2 day express delivery. The price is $180 for half a lamb (approximately 20 lbs. of meat) or $330 for a whole lamb (approximately 40 lbs. of meat.) Please note that prices do not reflect shipping costs, if those are necessary. However cut and wrap is included; all of our lambs are humanely processed in a small family-owned facility, Sharps Custom Cutting in Hubbard, Oregon. Click here for the link to the ordering page.