Marketing grassfed lamb

A place to discuss where and how to market our products. Users can share experiences with value-added enterprises, ask for information on costs, and find out who's paying what for what kind of lambs.
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Postby Island Shepherd » Fri Oct 03, 2008 12:29 pm

Muleflock wrote:
Bill Fosher wrote: "Grass fed lamb isn't a production system. It's a religion."


The nations and continents of Britain, Ireland, much of continental Europe, Asia, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina (up until latley), and Chile. Who's sphere of knowledge is not confined to a feedlot would be amused with that person's assesment. He should have stayed in his seat, but evidently it was something new and unfamiliar to him. What arrogance or is it ignorance? Imagine the unmitigated gall of people to suggest that a ruminent could simply be raised on grass! In his limited experience it must of seemed like preposterous dogma promoted by religious zealots.

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Postby Bill Fosher » Fri Oct 03, 2008 1:35 pm

Muleflock wrote:Maybe Richard Ehrhardt?


I don't think so. Don't want to besmirch anyone, and I don't really remember who it was, so I'll not guess.

At the time, I think he (or perhaps she) was more or less right, at least in the context of New England and upstate New York. There were a relatively few operations that could make a go of it with grass-fed lamb, but more who fit into the sort of mold that I do -- using grass as the main feed but supplementing energy on finishing lambs using corn or commercial grain pellets. Grass fed lambs were, for the most part, grading poorly and finishing light.

The improvements in genetics and management over the past six or seven years is truly astounding in this region. I think I'm still one of the better hands at grazing in my neck of the woods, but there are others with much better genetics than I have and their grazing skills are catching up with mine pretty quickly. In some cases, they've gotten to the point where the genetic potential of their lambs can compensate for relatively lax nutritional and parasite management.
Last edited by Bill Fosher on Fri Oct 03, 2008 2:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Island Shepherd » Fri Oct 03, 2008 1:59 pm

I am fourtunate to have inherited 200+ year old grass only genetics that were heavily influenced by natural selection. Then taking advantage of British importations (via Canada), and much more recently LAI. It is the only system that has ever been used here so I guess we have to be patient with others that are getting into it and welcome them. It was pretty lonely for many years.
Last edited by Island Shepherd on Fri Oct 03, 2008 2:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Bill Fosher » Fri Oct 03, 2008 2:04 pm

Dave,

You don't know how fortunate you are. I still have neighbors who think the only quality sheep are in the Midwest. No offense to Janet and others in the heartland, but for the most part if you get much west of Ohio, the sheep you're going to find are so reliant on concentrates that you might as well toss a sheepskin over a hog, but without the meat.
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Postby Muleflock » Fri Oct 03, 2008 2:06 pm

Island Shepherd wrote:The nations and continents of Britain, Ireland, much of continental Europe, Asia, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina (up until latley), and Chile. Who's sphere of knowledge is not confined to a feedlot would be amused with that person's assesment. He should have stayed in his seat, but evidently it was something new and unfamiliar to him. What arrogance or is it ignorance? Imagine the unmitigated gall of people to suggest that a ruminent could simply be raised on grass! In his limited experience it must of seemed like preposterous dogma promoted by religious zealots.


Hi Dave

Here I took the statement to have been made to point out the faith some people had in the early days of grass fed systems in the US. I guess you probably had to be there when the statement was made.. of course I wasn't :?

Hi Bill,

As you probably know, Dr. Ehrhardt has long been a proponent of grass based systems.
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Postby Island Shepherd » Fri Oct 03, 2008 3:18 pm

Yeah Bill and Mark I hear you. I reckon that some blame for wrecks and people being sour on it has to go to the periodicals, and individuals promoting it without ample warning that you couldn't just take the hog with the sheepskin out of the corn crib and turn it loose on grass, then stand back while the money comes pouring in. Or just get a fleet of Icelandics, or _______ fill in the new super grass breed. They exist on one small square bale a winter and so on. No offense to Icelandic breeders if that's what turns you on more power to you, that's not the point I'm trying to make. It was the unrealistic promoters that do a diservice to all when they don't fully explain the whole picture. Perhaps that's because they didn't know it either. Even Jo Robinson's book for all the good she has done features the skinny Suffolks on the cover standing in nice green grass. That is the beauty of Bill's forum and person's with credibility like Mark, Janet, and others in this group speaking publicly about proper animals and management. What an incredible resource that I wish I had years ago when we used witch medicine on them half the time. We did end up doing some things right though whether by accident or necessity and we had the old people's experience to benefit from.

As for me the lines on my face are getting deeper. I know I don't have even have a small % of the brain power you guys and gals obviously have, but I have had lanolin on my hands for quite some time now. I won't be on here long, I'm Looking at about three brutal weeks of gathering hundreds of these fattys and getting them in to where it is nice and lush on the mainland before the weather gets any worse. And simultaniously sending the prime finished stock on. I am tired but still hopeful that the sheep business in this country is not over yet. Some may just have to adapt some different ways than they are used to.

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Postby Darroll Grant » Fri Oct 03, 2008 4:20 pm

Since the range outfits are west of Ohio, I have always wondered how those herders managed to grain feed those mountain lambs since a goodly number are harvested as fats off the mountains and the herders travel on foot or horseback. Maybe the grain is flown in.
I have not seen lambs grain fed in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. The vast majority move from the grass fields directly to the packer. The tail enders may be grain fed or if the harvester requires it to fit their program.
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Postby Muleflock » Fri Oct 03, 2008 4:31 pm

Island Shepherd wrote:As for me the lines on my face are getting deeper. I know I don't have even have a small % of the brain power you guys and gals obviously have, but I have had lanolin on my hands for quite some time now.


Hey, wait a minute. You don't get off the hook that easy. It's what those lanolin covered hands have done and the reasons why that I(we) need to know. It doesn't come in books. There's gold in your flocks' genetics and it didn't get there by accident.

Best out and over the open waters

Mark
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Postby Travis Johnson » Fri Oct 03, 2008 5:06 pm

To be honest with you, I think that statement could be taken either way so I was not sure how to reply. I will say that over the past few weeks I have been dealing with the Maine Grass Farmers and I really like that organization. Nice people, generous with their time and emails, and just all around good proponents of grass finished lamb and beef.

But they are also very close minded. They generally do all the same things and when I mentioned winter grazing that was met with a quick..."it will never work. we..."

Now that has its place, but they preach what they do, but are not about to listen to other peoples views, views that Bill Fosher and Janet presented on here awhile ago on winter grazing. So in a sense I can understand what that person is saying, it can be a religion to some, and in a negative way.

On another front I come from a long line of graziers so I have some serious grazing background, but a guy at work does not. He is a city boy-turned homesteader who reads every peridical and then changes his plan on his homestead to whatever he reads. For 3 years he grass fed his cows never once giving them salt, minerals, supplements or anything. Just pasture and let them starve in the winter because he read it in "Grass fed beef." Now I read that book, and was impressed, but after some thought realized that Saskatchewan was quite different then Maine and some of his ideas just won't work.

I like to go to the common ground fair and other "progressive" farming places and get ideas, but then put them up against my past experience and knowledge of Maine's topography and climate. I still struggle with some old farming traditions of my father, grandfather and great-grandfather, but I would like to think I am more open to new ideas then they were. Maybe...just maybe...if I walk that fence enough, I can keep this farm for another 30 years or so.
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Postby Janet McNally » Fri Oct 03, 2008 7:01 pm

Mark, what is needed for the skeptics, is to put on a grassfed lamb BBQ while holding a field day on a farm that has lambs almost finished on pasture.

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Postby Island Shepherd » Fri Oct 03, 2008 8:33 pm

Based on your pictures from the other thread I'd say Hinckley MN might be a good place for that to happen.
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Postby Island Shepherd » Sat Oct 04, 2008 3:25 am

Mark,

It just dawned on me that I left out a whole segment of who we sell to. A white table cloth restraunt in that big population area 5 hours away takes an island full (100+) at so many a week. The owner uses all locally grown, and mostly organic food. He has been featured in some big chef or fine dining magazine, the food channel has been out there and filmed. He has an old brick smoker that he uses to smoke the shoulders. They are right into this "slow food" movement. They go to Italy to conferences about it etc. I am a hired shepherd in this operation I don't own them so I forgot about it when listing how we market GFL.

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Postby WayneG » Sat Oct 04, 2008 8:32 pm

That is the beauty of Bill's forum and person's with credibility like Mark, Janet, and others in this group speaking publicly about proper animals and management.


Dave, don't sell yourself short, your name should be included in your list.
Wayne G
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Postby Janet McNally » Sat Oct 04, 2008 9:57 pm

Perhaps the comment that 'grassfed is a religion' refers to the way some people have been selling the idea. While most those here have been using grass fed as simply a system that works, there have been plenty of preachers in recent years. One of them had been discussed here earlier this summer. Its when it gets around to putting other systems down that some people get a bit impatient.

Darroll, I think that comment was about the midwest corn fed pig with wool.... you know... the corn belt.....Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa... those west of the Missouri river have some of the most well established pasture/range based lamb production in the country. Sometimes those guys on the east coast think everything west of Ohio is still unsettled territory :lol:

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Postby newf » Sun Oct 05, 2008 6:01 am

'grassfed is a religion'

I would suggest this is simply a statement of how "grass fed" is a way of life for those practising it. i.e. it is something you are always thinking about and not something you would try one year and drop it then try again later. It is a daily routine that permeates your whole life when dealing with the management, nutrition and health of your flock. As appossed to the relative ease of tossing in a ration a couple of times a day.

Jon
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