Why not a lamb roast at the end of July?

People sometimes ask us, “Why not add lamb to the pig roast for Glen Flora Days the last weekend in July?” The main reason is, they are still too young, too small to make enough carcass weight to compensate for the cost of slaughtering, and too young to evaluate for slaughter. Although we are potentially able to slaughter them ourselves, we have no time, limited cooling space this time of year, and we are too busy organizing and working for our community event, Glen Flora Days. We need to keep lambs longer–6 months to a year to properly evaluate potential for each lamb to be retained or sold as breeding stock. Although the Shetland breed has recovered from “Threatened” status according to the Livestock Conservancy, It is still on “Watch” status, and we cannot afford to be slaughtering potential quality breeding stock–our gene pool at this point is limited to North America due to the stringency of USDA import laws for sheep and semen from the E.U. and the U.K. Artificial Insemenation (AI) has become a lengthy, very expensive, process. Quarantine periods and the multiple genetic and disease tests required are too long to accommodate the fall breeding season and sperm productivity of rams. In Great Britain we need to travel to the ram shows in August, buy rams, find a trusted shepherd and pay them to board, isolate, test, and collect semen from rams in the UK, pass all the tests and quarantine requirements, collect and import the semen, and do ferilization surgery (laporatomy) on our selected ewes at when they are fertile. (AI on sheep is a complicated business due to the spiral structure of ewe’s fallopian tubes.) In short, turkey basters don’t work–hormal synchronization, travel to meet an expert AI technician at a U.S. AI clinic, and surgery is required. We must very carefully conserve our genetic pool here in North America, which is limited to about 16 rams total, that is only 16 different Y chromosomes for the entire North American Flock.

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