Tag Archives: Lamb

Lambing Time – Wins and Losses

As you may or may not realise, I live on a lifestyle block. In the UK it would be called a small-holding.  This time of the year is lambing season in New Zealand. All over the country millions of lambs are being born.  Last year I was going to get rid of all my sheep and just run another couple of beef cattle.   Imagine my surprise then when all my ewes fell pregnant, especially seeing  as I didn’t have a ram.  The previous couple of years I had borrowed the neighbour’s ram to do the necessaries.  As it turns out I had one wether left that had escaped the freezer from a year or two before.  There were two left, I grabbed at one, it got away but the other one ended up as roast. The lucky survivor was lucky in more ways than one.

Turns out he was what is called a cryptorchid.  When I nutted him as a lamb, I missed a testicle. He had one left, and apparently, one is enough. So, instead of becoming food, One Nut is now the proud leader of a small flock.

So, there are three ewes, The first one had a healthy lamb and the second bore twins.

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The other day I went out to check on the third girl and discovered that she had a prolapsed uterus. This happened when the pressure inside basically pushes the uterus out her vagina. The trick is to shove it back in and use one of these bearing retainers to hold everything in place. They can lamb through them which is rather nifty. You put the spoon part into the vagina and tie the thing in place so it holds her insides in.

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Not my sheep but an example of a prolapse.
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Bearing retainer

However, by the time we got to this stage she had been distressed for some time, was exhausted  and had partially delivered a lamb. The poor girl was on her side with a lamb stuck halfway. Yanked that one out and it was alive. A bit of rubbing and it was breathing. Had to go inside her and deliver the next one.  It too was alive. At this stage the bearing retainer was inserted and we left them too it. In the morning I discovered she had lambed again. Triplets. Once she had finished lambing she rejected one lamb a few hours later and despite spending a night feeding it inside in front of the fire the lamb died. The other two were feeding vigorously so I had high hopes for them. However, in the morning one was dead. So from three am down to one from this ewe. Saying that, the survivor seems to be doing very well.

The joys of rural life.  Wins and losses.

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Rural Life: Homekill.

When I started this blog I thought that from time to time I would do posts on rural life in New Zealand. This is my first such post.

Living in an urban setting it is easy for people to become distanced from the source of the foods they eat.  Meat, for most people, comes in bloodless packaged and wrapped portions nicely sitting on a styrene tray. When we moved to the country I had to learn a whole set of skills that were not needed as a ‘townie’.  Probably the most interesting was learning how to process meat.  I will take you through some of the steps involved in getting that lamb from the paddock to the plate.

The first step is killing the lamb.  I hold the animal down and cut it’s throat, simultaneously breaking it’s neck. Death is almost instant.  The head and lower legs are removed. I hang the animal to drain all the blood.

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Then it is a matter of removing the fleece. A few cuts with the knife to get started and then it is in with hands and forearms to peel the fleece off the carcass, starting at the rear end and working down to the neck.  You end up with this.

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The next step is to get rid of the insides. You have to be careful when slitting down the belly that you don’t perforate the guts. If you are careful you will note that nature keeps everything enclosed in it’s own neat and non-smelly packaging.

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Once the insides have been removed, the carcass is cleaned up and left for a day or so for the meat to set. It can then be cut up into the cuts you want. I am no butcher, so I do leg and shoulder roasts, chops, a nice lamb fillet and a big pile of mixed lamb meat that I can mince or use for stir fries or whatever. The meat goes in the freezer and we no longer have to ponder the price of a lamb roast at the supermarket. The first bit that gets eaten though is the offal – heart, liver and kidneys make a great fry up for breakfast the next day.

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When it comes to beef there is just too much there for me at the moment. If I stuff up a lamb I am out less than a hundred bucks. With a steer it is more like being out thousands. So, I use a local homekill professional to kill and process my beef. He comes along and dispatches the animal on site and does the preliminary butchery here. The process is basically the same as for the sheep except on a larger scale.

Here is the first steer I had processed. Bubba was a four month old calf when we got him. Killed at 2 years. He was the guest of honour at our inaugural Bubba-que.

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Here is Kevin the homekill guy skinning the carcass. He kills the beast with a shot to the head and then cuts the throat to let it bleed out.

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This is what is left – a side of beef. Or in this case, two sides of beef. It goes away and is hung for 2-3 weeks and returns packaged into whatever cuts I ordered. I like to get it mostly as steaks, roasts, stewing cuts, mince and a variety of small goods such as sausages and salamis.

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The quality and taste of homekill meat is fantastic. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that the animals are killed when they are not stressed. An abattoir killed animal has been removed from it’s familiar surroundings, been jostled about in a stock truck, been penned up with animals it doesn’t know in a strange location.  The stress and anxiety levels are huge. Bubba, by comparison, was happily munching grass in the paddock in which he was king, and then blammo – light’s out.

And how does this relate to wargaming? How else do you think I feed all those hungry wargamers who come to stay for a weekend of gaming?