As all these things seem to start it began with a throw away comment around the kitchen table, the seed of an idea and an ideal image of being self sufficient… “now we produce pigs and goats we should start a flock of sheep to produce our own lamb…”
These seeds of ideas seem to quickly sprout roots, particularly with all the changes that have happened in our business since covid. Before we knew it we were researching breeds of sheep on the internet in the snatched minutes when all the current animals and children and fed, looked after and safely tucked in bed for the night. Now I should comment here that sheep and goats are technically very similar. An example of this is that most medicines the vet will administer to a goat are not technically approved in goats, but they are in sheep “so that will have to do”! It’s not unusual for sheep farmers to branch out and welcome a few goats onto their farm and apply their knowledge of sheep to their care. I do, however, think we are in a VERY small minority of people that have farmed a considerable number of goats first, and then incorporated sheep!
We decided to go for Lleyn sheep (pronounced Clen). They are native to the British Isles, Anglesey to be more specific. Being a native breed is important to us because as well as supporting the heritage of the natives we wanted a breed that would be naturally acclimatised to our environment, and would thrive on a grass based system. Not having to supplement feed with cereal based milled food leads to a much lower impact finished product as less recourses have been used along the way. After deciding that lleyn were for us, we took to the Amazon prime of the farming world, sell my livestock .com!
So late in 2021 we had 10 in lamb lleyn ewes arrive in the farmyard. Then slightly later in 2021 we had another 10 in lamb lleyn ewes arrive!
Since taking ownership of those 20 girls, we have learned A LOT! The main things are:
-Sheep are nothing like goats!
-Sheep need shearing, and shearing is hard, thank goodness we found an excellent shearer!
-goats have very unique personalities that you need to get to know to care for them, sheep behave much more as a single pack
-kids and lambs need very different care in the first 24 hours, and goats and sheep react very differently to assistance in birth
-sheep eat grass, goats eat everything (particularly hedge) and grass as a last resort
-You haven’t lived until you’ve spent your birthday queueing at the vets to buy maggot oil and then apply said oil
-And lastly sheep are nothing like goats!
We have gone on quite a journey to get our first finished lambs in the late 2022 summer, and we are so proud of what we have produced on a small scale. We have had some devastating losses and some heart warming wins. Having a ewe with 2 lambs that rejected one, and the moment the adopted mum (who lost her own lamb at birth) began to treat the adopted baby as her own was just beautiful!
So as we are getting our first lambs back in late summer and the intense heat this year has brought the blackberries on early, I’m combining the 2 with a hedgerow roast rack of lamb recipe. I thought it was quite fitting as the hedgerow is where we spend most of our time mending gaps in the fence and shooing them back in.
Hedgerow Roast Lamb
Rack of Lamb, French trimmed
Salt and pepper
Finely sliced onion
1 tbsp golden granulated sugar
Red wine, 2-3 tbsps
Drop of water
Couple of handfuls of wild blackberries
I’ve kept the lamb really simple in this because there’s no need to over complicate it if you have good quality lamb. Pre heat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade, a nice hot oven will crisp the fat. Put the lamb fat side up in an oven dish and season well. Cook for about 45 minutes for pink and an hour for well done, this is not an exact science because it all depends on the thickness of the rack. The best test it to poke it, if it’s very springy it’s still quite rare in the middle and if it’s very firm it’s well done- we always prefer somewhere in the middle of these 2! Take it out of the oven for about 10 minutes to rest before cutting and serving. In the resting time, prepare the blackberry sauce.
In a frying pan heat the oil and then turn the heat down to medium to add and slowly caramelise the onion. Once it’s starting to soften put in a tbsp of red wine and a sprinkle of sugar and keep stirring and caramelising. If it starts to stick add another splash of wine or water. When the onion is sticky and very soft add another tbsp of wine, the rest of the sugar and a splash of water, turn the heat up and bring together. Add the blackberries and stir until the sauce is thick and the blackberries have started to breakdown. Put a scoop of sauce over each serving of lamb. I served with freshly podded peas and broad beans and some scraped new potatoes to make it extra seasonal!
Hope you enjoy the lamb. Now our next challenge, locating a daddy sheep for the autumn!