Sullivan describes herself as a “nerd at heart” so she has the ability to throw herself full-tilt into any endeavor — including keeping track of numbers and stats for her brood. With goats, that means Sullivan has kept tabs on ways to improve milking and prolong the lives of the animals, but she is able to translate those skills to her sheep as well.
At the core of sheep economics is the fact that, even though sheep’s milk is richer than goat’s milk, female sheep have shorter lactations and give much less milk overall. Meat and wool breeds of sheep have a lactation of approximately three to five months, giving 100 to 200 lbs. of milk. Dedicated dairy breeds lactate for four to six months, giving 400 to 1,100 lbs. of milk depending on age, feed management, and genetic capacity. By comparison, goat dairy budgets generally cite a milk estimate of approximately 1,700 lbs. per goat, although the best large goat dairies average closer to 2,500 to 3,000 lbs. per goat.
2014 – I wrote an article about mutton, why I love it, and how to procure it. Check it out in Vermont’s Local Banquet Magazine!
I didn’t grow up eating mutton, but my love of lamb and commitment to local and humane meat on a budget led me to the idea of buying live cull sheep from local flocks (always fully diclosing my intentions): a 4-year-old Icelandic that couldn’t breed, a 2-year-old Border Leicester wether whose care was costing more than the value of his wool, a Romney ewe with a bum udder. These animals gave me valuable sheep experience prior to buying my own flock in 2012.
Although our farm has not been in operation for very long, we’ve been cooking lamb creatively since we first home-slaughtered two Icelandic sheep a few years ago. It didn’t take long before we branched out from shepherd’s pie to simple curries to more adventurous curries and finally to the recipe I offer now. This recipe is just as good if not better when prepared with mutton, the much-maligned meat that almost no one has actually tried! We choose younger sheep (under 5 years old) and those from mild-flavored breeds (Icelandics and Border Leicesters are great). The meat of older animals just has more flavor. This recipe also works well with more awkward cuts, like shoulder, breast, and stew meat.