Here at BOTL Farm, we never intended to raise sheep. We wrote a 35-page business plan back when we were in the beginning stages of putting together our thoughts and money to buy a farm, and it had zero mentions of sheep. Luckily, the universe knew better and shortly after we’d established our farm, we got a call from our previous farming mentor to let us know that she was getting out of farming and she was going to deliver us three of her ewes (farmer jargon for breeding-female-sheep) and their six collective lambs.
So, now we raise sheep and they are a marvelous addition to our farm. We kept all three ewes, plus one of the young males, who grew into our first ram (farmer jargon for breeding-male-sheep). We’ve continued to slowly expand the herd, choosing sheep who showed signs of good parasite resistance and temperament (honestly, good temperament is a bonus, we’re mostly concerned about worms).
Our sheep are raised using intensively managed rotational grazing methods. They move around the farm paddocks with their buddy goats, who they live with for most of the year. They live outdoors all year long, on pasture and in wooded paddocks, and are never confined or kept indoors. They are Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World and also Certified Grass Fed by the same organization, meaning they are grass-fed, grass-finished, and never fed any grain.
Breed: Icelandic (mostly)
Our flock consists mostly of pure-bred Icelandic sheep. Originating from (wait-wait, don’t guess) Iceland, they are known to be one of the oldest breeds (over 1,100 years of documented history) and are truly a ‘triple-purpose’ breed. Triple-purpose means they have been bred for meat, fiber, and milk quality. They are a shaggy and majestic breed who grow prodigious amounts of wool, needing to be sheared twice as often as most sheep breeds. Our sheep are extremely cold-tolerant and seem to smile a little every time it starts to snow. They have prominent horns and although they’re a relatively small breed, they’re known for being curious and having unusually rich-tasting meat.
Icelandics are also known for the complexity of the genetic colors, patterns, and spots they exhibit. The sheep are seriously described with terms like Mouflon Badgerface, moorit (a color), white (the pattern, not the color). Or maybe it’s a series of spots. We have no idea, it’s bonkers out there in Icelandic color genetics and although many smart people have carefully tried to explain it to us, it falls out of the back of our brains the second it enters. Luckily, we are not breeding for color or fiber quality! We breed for parasite resistance on pasture and meat quality.
One of our matriarch sheep we inherited from our farming mentor has a small amount of Shetland breed as well. Shetland sheep originate from Scotland and have many similar characteristics to Icelandics, including cold-hardiness, tasty meat, and overall smaller stature.
What the Sheep Eat
Our sheep are certified Grass Fed by A Greener World, which means they are grass-fed and grass-finished, never supplemented with grain. They graze on grasses during the warmer months and eat locally sourced hay (which is dried grasses) during the colder months. We also give them Alfahay as a treat. Year-round they have access to a loose mineral mix that satisfies their drive for salt, but also contains minerals, probiotics, and Icelandic kelp.
What We Make
What We Don’t Sell
Whole and Half Lambs
Want a whole or half lamb? Because of limitations imposed at the slaughterhouse we use, we can’t offer whole or half lamb for purchase. For info on the closest we can get to bulk lamb, check out our Meat CSA page.
We don’t sell them. Due to our farm’s humane standards, we don’t sell live animals for any reason, unless you’re a farm with current Animal Welfare Approved certification for the species in question.
Lambs for Religious Slaughter or Ritual Slaughter
We don’t sell lambs for on-farm slaughter, religious slaughter, or ritual slaughter.
All the milk our sheep produce goes towards feeding their lambs. We don’t milk the sheep so we don’t make any dairy products.
Nutritional Benefits of Pasture Raised Sheep
This is a fact sheet from FACT (Food Animal Concerns Trust) and highlights some of the nutritional benefits of pasture-raised sheep (and goats) compared to conventionally-raised (aka in a barn or building or concrete slab or cage) sheep. We love a good FACT fact sheet!
Last Updated on 2024-01-23