I collected our lamb carcases today. They have hung in a friend's chiller for 8 days and were ready to break down for the freezer. I worried that I would get as upset as I did when I dropped them off to the abattoir, so to steel myself I took a valium. I expect real farmers don't self-medicate either.
I didn't want to show any weakness in front of Peggy, the local butcher who agreed to supervise while I processed my two lamb carcases. I needn't have worried. In truth, once I carried the first carcases into the butchery room, I didn't even associate it with my lambs. Now it was simply food.
And not healthy food - you want to see the layer of fat on those lambs! Mike admitted that, as their days were numbered, he was giving them extra rations. A kind of last supper for the condemned. But as I kept putting off the inevitable, their last supper turned into a month-long feast of rolled barley and sugar beet.
I started to cut my first half lamb at 11am. I finished cutting up, bagging and cleaning the butchery at 4.30pm. For 5 hours I stood at the block cutting, sawing, removing excess fat, de-boning, rolling, and cleaving. Peggy brought me a cup of tea that I drank while I worked.
By the last lamb half, I could finally remember the sequence of cuts for myself and I was getting into a rhythm, aided by being overtired and hungry ( I'd missed breakfast). I stopped overthinking and just cut. In a kind of Karate Kid 'wax-on-wax-off' epiphany I learned a few things:
1) When you're tired enough to finally give into the task, you relax - you don't try and force your knife into the meat and the whole process goes more smoothly. This also makes you less likely to slip and drive the blade into your own hand.
2) A fatty lamb is a waste, not only because it means you fed them more costly inputs than necessary but because it takes a bloody long time to remove all that fat from each joint.
3) Lamb fat is a miracle cure for chapped hands
I also learned some things from the carcases themselves. My feeding programme was too concentrate heavy; they would have thrived on more grass or haylage. Their glands were all clear, no infections so they were healthy. However, one lamb had its liver rejected at vet inspection due to liver fluke so I must include a flukicide in the ewes' worming programme.
Had I turned around and rescued my lambs from the abattoir, the lamb with liver fluke would have died relatively soon and none of that meat would have been fit for consumption. Fluke is usually associated with wet grazing; my lambs only grazed a dry paddock so I was unprepared for a fluke problem.