Author Topic: Can you eat old sheep?  (Read 3619 times)

robd

  • Joined Aug 2011
Can you eat old sheep?
« on: August 30, 2011, 04:01:46 pm »
Hello all, this is my first post, and I appologise in advance for any stupid questions I may ask, but if you don't ask, you don't learn!

We are new to sheep and have recently acquired a small mixed flock of 25 (15 2yo shetland ewes, 2 shetland whethers, 3 very elderly exmoor horn ewes and 5 9yo Hill Radnor ewes). We don't have enough space to keep them all so I need to thin out the flock fairly quickly and would appreciate some advice.....

My intention was to cull the exmoors as they are very elderly, and probably the Hill Radnors too. Are they likely to be edible at this advanced age (probably as mince or for stews etc), or am I best just sending them to the hunt kennels?

Is there anybody who would be interested in purchasing some ewes (either Shetlands or Hill Radnors) in East Anglia?

We are intending to keep around 6-12 Shetland ewes to put in lamb, so will need to find a local ram. I'm flexible about which breed to use and wondered if anybody in the Suffolk/Norfolk area may be able to point me in the right direction.

Many thanks in advance for any help

Rob

shearling

  • Joined Mar 2011
Re: Can you eat old sheep?
« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2011, 04:13:37 pm »
Yep - We keep Portlands and they taste better as mutton rather than lamb. I will dog out some reciepts if you would like?

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Far North West of England
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Can you eat old sheep?
« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2011, 05:01:24 pm »
Can you eat old sheep?


Heck yeah!  Tastes absolutely fabulous.  Just cook long and slow; use wet, casseroley cooking methods rather than grilling or roasting; pour the fat off.  There'll be a LOT of fat, you'll need to pour it off frequently during cooking, even better if you can let casseroles cool and skim all the fat off, then reheat - but save the fat to cook with, it tastes tremendous.  Roast potatoes are, in my opinion, as good cooked in mutton fat as they are in goose fat.  And it's great for toad in the hole or other battery recipes.  Also in pastry for meat pies.  In fact anywhere you would use lard and a meaty taste is appropriate.

Dry roasting is not best but pot roasts are stunning.  Pot roast chops too - cook on a bed of onions, carrots, other root veg, tomato if you want and a bit of red wine in a well-sealed casserole for 40 minutes then, if you like a crispy outside, finish off open-topped with the chops clear of the fluid.  Let the meat rest in a warm (not hot) place for at least 15 minutes before you eat it if you've had it exposed to dry heat.

I posted a recipe for Navarin on a thread about smaller cuts of old ewe here:
http://www.accidentalsmallholder.net/forum/index.php?topic=15951.msg153371#msg153371

You'll see that VSS doesn't think it worth getting smaller joints and chops from an old ewe - but then she's never tasted my Navarin of Old Ewe, has she!  ;)

You'll also see that I wax lyrical about old ewe lasagne being the best lasagne you'll ever taste, so if you decide to just get the old dears minced you will have some great lasagnes, cottage / shepherd's pies, etc.  I imagine the sausages would be tremendous, too.

Enjoy your meat, and enjoy your flock.  :wave:
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

robd

  • Joined Aug 2011
Re: Can you eat old sheep?
« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2011, 05:20:11 pm »
My stomach has started rumbling already!

Many thanks for the rapid replies so far, I'm very impressed and I'm sure I will be posting many more daft questions in the future!

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Far North West of England
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Can you eat old sheep?
« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2011, 05:22:24 pm »
... I'm sure I will be posting many more daft questions in the future!

No such thing as a daft question, the daft thing would be to not ask  :D
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: Can you eat old sheep?
« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2011, 05:43:17 pm »
It was definitely not a daft question.

We send off a number of old ewes and I usually make them into burgers or sausages - not because that is all they are good for, but because we love home made burgers and sausages and we have enough hogget for roasts, chops etc.  Old tups are a different question, and it depends very much on personal preference whether you enjoy eating them.

I will try your Navarin of Old Biddy Sally  :yum: :wave:

Just check before you send them off that your old ewes do have some meat on them and are not just toast racks.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2011, 05:45:19 pm by Fleecewife »
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robd

  • Joined Aug 2011
Re: Can you eat old sheep?
« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2011, 05:48:54 pm »
Just check before you send them off that your old ewes do have some meat on them and are not just toast racks.

Sensible advice - I'm not very confident of my condition scoring yet, but I'll go through them all and have a good feel.

egglady

  • Joined Jun 2009
Re: Can you eat old sheep?
« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2011, 07:38:48 pm »
brill thread!  we were just wondering what to do with our girl that seems to be quite old and spent the latter part of her pregnancy on her knees for the last 2 years.  cant afford to just let her be a lawnmower so this sounds ideal.

SteveHants

  • Joined Aug 2011
Re: Can you eat old sheep?
« Reply #8 on: August 30, 2011, 08:12:37 pm »
I'm interested to hear that people would eat a 9 yr old sheep. The only sheep I have seen that age were mules of a neighbours and they really were bags of bones. I'd expect to replace a ewe at 5 or 6, and had wondered if they would be worth eating......now I know.  :)

shep53

  • Joined Jan 2011
Re: Can you eat old sheep?
« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2011, 08:37:02 pm »
Much prefer old ewe mutton to lamb more taste and texture so long as cooked slowly. Old ewes in any condition are worth a fortune at the moment :farmer:

egglady

  • Joined Jun 2009
Re: Can you eat old sheep?
« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2011, 09:23:26 pm »
Much prefer old ewe mutton to lamb more taste and texture so long as cooked slowly. Old ewes in any condition are worth a fortune at the moment :farmer:

shep who are they worth a fortune to?

shep53

  • Joined Jan 2011
Re: Can you eat old sheep?
« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2011, 09:40:28 pm »
Don't know who's buying them apart from the muslim community but big old ewes £100+ are common and talk of £200 next spring even lean ewes £40+

Collie26

  • Joined May 2011
Re: Can you eat old sheep?
« Reply #12 on: August 30, 2011, 10:25:17 pm »
Just thought id add something on aging ewes the flock im buying my shetland sheep out of has ewes 9,10 and 11 year olds still having lambs, albet singles but still bl**dy good going??

Anyone else heard of this?? Just intregued and excited about getting them

Fronhaul

  • Joined Jun 2011
    • Fronhaul Farm
Re: Can you eat old sheep?
« Reply #13 on: August 31, 2011, 10:33:28 am »
Where are you getting them from Collie26?  I bought four Shetlands from a breeder who had an old retired girl of 13 and they have completely changed my view of Shetlands to the extent I am buying two more from the same source.  The only problem is that I haven't the heart to send these up to the rough fields so ended up buying some wilder ones for that job.  These four (and the two additions) will stay close to the house and are pure pleasure sheep.  Great for getting dogs used to sheep and teaching them manners and fun to be with (and husband loves them because he no longer has to mow the orchard area which is a job he hates).  And it is good having sheep so near the house.  Means I can watch them and learn from their behaviour while I am doing paperwork and the like.

Fleecewife

  • Joined May 2010
  • South Lanarkshire
    • Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep
Re: Can you eat old sheep?
« Reply #14 on: August 31, 2011, 12:03:41 pm »
The age you keep lambing a ewe will depend in part on her breed and breeding, your system ('commercial' or just a few sheep), the quality of pasture, elevation, hardness of winters, feeding regime etc.  This spring we had twins from our 15 yo Hebridean with no problems but she had a bit of extra feeding throughout the winter and we kept a very close eye on her condition throughout. Commercial ewes are I think culled so young because that is when they tend to start losing their front teeth and it is not cost-effective to carry a large number of ewes through that stage.  We breed for long-lasting teeth and might cull a ewe young if she starts to lose teeth before about 8 or 9, as the tendency can be inherited.  What we do find though is that while a ewe is in the process of losing her front teeth, she will struggle to get enough nutrition to carry lambs, but once all the front teeth have gone she will be able to eat properly again with a little support from extra hard feeding, and be back to lambing again.  Our 15 yo lost her teeth at 13 and fortunately was carrying only a single that year.  We would expect about 50% of Hebrideans to go on lambing until they are about 12, but Soays don't seem to be so long-lived, lambing up to about 10.  Shetlands we would expect to lamb up to about 10 too, although a few will go on far longer than that - these figures are for our land, our management and will be different for others.
From the genetic point of view, if you are breeding breeding stock, especially primitives which are expected to be long-lived, it is better to breed from older ewes and tups, so you can know their longevity, how long they keep their teeth, what their feet are like after a good few years and so on.
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