Did you know sheep have great vision because of their rectangular pupils which allow them to see everywhere around them besides directly behind them or did you know that they have an excellent sense of smell since they have scent glands in front of their eyes and on their feet? Finally, did you know sheep are highly social animals with emotions that are almost as complex as humans?! Well, I did not know either until I started researching more about this interesting species of livestock.
Sheep were one of the first animals to be domesticated by humans around 10,000 B.C. About 12,000 years later sheep were introduced to the Grateful Graze ranch in July of 2018. The breed of sheep originally chosen was Katahdin, but presently we now raise 50 ewes and 100 lambs of Katahdin/Dorper crosses. We decided to choose Katahdins because they are a hardy breed of sheep known for producing lean meat that is both tasty and healthy while we later integrated Dorpers into our flock, who are also hardy, because they are recognized for their excellent milk production required for growth and thick skin needed for colder climates.
Both breeds of sheep are a kind of hair sheep, which require less maintenance because they have hair that falls out unlike wool sheep who have to be sheared. Another benefit of hair sheep is that their meat doesn’t have the funky flavor that the meat from wool sheep sometimes have since wool sheep produce extra oils called lanolin that can make their meat taste weird. Additionally, hair sheep grow better on grass versus wool sheep and breeds like Katahdins and Dorpers actually prefer grass and other forage instead of grain. Together the breeds make a sheep that is perfect for our mission: a hardy sheep who can withstand the winter weather of Illinois, grow well on grass, and produce tasty and healthy meat.
In the video above, our sheep are working as our "lawn mowers"
to get rid of any tall grass and/or unwanted weeds.
When the first Katahdins arrived back in 2018, they were put in a pasture separate from the other species and identified as a flock. Last spring, our sheep were integrated with our cattle to create what we proudly label as a “flerd” or a flock and herd mixed together. Both the sheep and cattle have been able to benefit from this sort of mutual symbiotic relationship. For instance, the cows will stamp down the tall grass and large weeds for the sheep and the sheep will follow them and take care of the grass and plants that are left over. Because both sheep and cows are classified as prey, they do not feel threatened by one another.
What makes our flerd here at Grateful Graze so special and actually benefits you as well, is that our sheep have never been treated with medication such as dewormers before. We believe that mother nature is the boss and natural selection is an important component of raising high quality meat that is in its most natural form. Similar to our other species, the sheep have access to additional nutrients like minerals. And exactly like our cows, they know when their body is lacking a nutrient and are able to “doctor” themselves by consuming the correct amount of the mineral they are lacking.
Check out the picture above of our guard dog Lucy protecting the flerd!
With that said, Easter is here and now would be a excelLAMB time for EWE to purchase our lamb, especially since it is on sale! Lamb has always been popular during Easter, because in the Christian faith, a lamb is a symbol representing Jesus. WETHER you are religious are not, I highly recommend purchasing our lamb because it is not only tasty and healthy but we all need something to celebrate and why not celebrate a time that emphasizes forgiveness and charity, which are both things we could all use a more of! I hope everyone has a very blessed Easter!