Monday, 12 October 2015

Breast is best

We have had a couple of cases of mastitis recently, and so have had to bottle feed two or three lambs. In some cases this is complete substitution (the mother had no milk) and in others it has been an addition to their diet.

I compared the live weight of lambs with the meat weight - i.e. the carcass processed by the butcher. The carcass includes just the bone and muscle structure, not the internal organs, skin or contents of the body cavity.

Here is the result:


Date Live Weight at Slaughter (kg) Meat weight (kg) % Meat /Live Bottle Fed
31/10/2015 23.5 9.2 39.15% Yes
03/05/2015 21.1 9.8 46.45% Yes
31/03/2015 27 15.1 55.93% No
17/08/2015 19.2 8.8 45.83% No
17/08/2015 21 10.99 52.33% No

The ratio of meat to live weight seems - this is a very, very small sample - to be higher in the lambs that fed naturally. Naturally feeding lambs had an average 51.4% meat:live weight ratio, while bottle fed lambs had an average 42.8%.

There are some published papers on this, for example this paper on milk source and body weight [1] but none, that I know of, on Ripollesa sheep.

Time for more research, methinks!

Joaquim Casellas at the Autonomous University of Barcelona has confirmed that there are no studies of this issue in Ripollesas. He has pointed me to this useful study on goats which shows that maternal milk vs milk powder does cause differences in fatty acid composition. 

This leads me to think that one possible explanation of the differences in meat weight:live weight is that bottle fed lambs may build up more body cavity fat (which is discarded in the butchering process) than ewe-fed.

1 Hernández-Castellano, L. E., I. Moreno-Indias, A. Morales-delaNuez, D. Sánchez-Macías, A. Torres, J. Capote, A. Argüello, and N. Castro. ‘The Effect of Milk Source on Body Weight and Immune Status of Lambs’. Livestock Science 175 (May 2015): 70–76. doi:10.1016/j.livsci.2015.02.011.

Micro Mammal Murder Mystery

I just found this wee chap dead on a leaf.

Leafing life

It is an Etruscan Shrew (Suncus etruscus), the world's smallest mammal.

A mystery, Mr Holmes?
 But what happened to her? Her neck has been opened by something, but who would do that and then not eat her? She was lying on a melon- plant leaf about 60cm from ground level, so was she caught, killed and then dropped? It's a mystery...

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Tender moment

"Just nipping down to the butcher to get a bit of meat."

"Get something tender, dear. A nice but of lamb, maybe?"

Millions of households, millions of Saturday mornings. It's the butcher, or it's the supermarket, but the story is the same; a bit of meat for lunch or supper.

We said goodbye to Fat Face the lamb, yesterday, off to the butcher's too...but from the opposite direction.

It's a difficult moment, even when you have been doing it for years. You know that the lamb has had a good life, probably better than millions of other animals, with care and affection and, in the case of Fat Face, a visit to the village to be blessed by the priest on St Anthony's day this February.

You know all of that. And yet it hurts to hand him over to the butcher.

And it should hurt. Because meat production is not some distant, automated, faceless process. The meat you bought this morning in the supermarket used to walk around enjoying the fresh grass and hay. We should treasure it, not just fry it. For those like me who do not want to be vegetarian, we should remember the animal before.

Keeping sheep makes you tender.