Sheep, Lambs and Goats with Images
is an excerpt
from a great homesteading book on home butchering of every description.
It is called "The
Complete Book of Butchering, Smoking, Curing and Sausage Making" by
Philip Hasheider, published by Voyageur Press. We
have a book
review of this book, and it comes highly recommended for
those of you
homesteading and wanting information on home butchering. Below is an
excerpt from the book on slaughtering sheep, lamb and goats.
Home Butchering and Choosing your Animal
you raised your own sheep or goats, you should be able to determine the
healthiest one in your flock as a good candidate for butchering at
should also be one with the most muscling and least fat.
you are purchasing a live sheep, goat or a lamb, be sure to examine it
first. The eyes, nose, and mouth should be clean with no watering or
discharge. It should move about easily without exhibiting any lameness
or limping. The presence of either may indicate an injury or other
physical illness that will lower the carcass and muscle quality.
Observe the animal's breathing pattern. If it is labored or fast, it
may indicate lung problems or a fever. Refuse to purchase any animal
home butchering l if
the physical signs you see do not appear as normal or you sense
something might be wrong.
You may want to consider purchasing a
female for home butchering to avoid removing the male sex organs.
believe there is a distinct difference in meat flavors between a female
and an intact male.
Lambs are typically marketed when they reach
between 90 to 140 pounds live weight. After slaughter, the resulting
carcass will weight roughly 50 % of this amount. Depending on your
storage capacity, you may be able to purchase a whole or half carcass
Home Butchering and Handling
Proper handling of sheep and
goats at all times is good husbandry and minimizes damages or injury to
the live animal. It is particularly important during the time leading
up to the slaughter to reduce the changes of damaging or bruising the
muscles. Bruised muscles yield a lower quality carcass and, if severe
enough, may require the bruises to be cut out of the meat, lowering
your total yield. To prevent bruising, provide sufficient room for the
sheep to move about and still be caught without injury.
it by its fleece or hair, as this will also cause bruises to the
carcass. When moving your animal to the confinement area, place one
hand under its jaw and the other at the dock (tail) and lead it.
careful of the sheep and goat if it has horns, which can be used in
defense if they perceive to be in imminent danger. Sheep or goat horns
have pointed tips, which can cause serious injury to anyone handling
The process to harvest a sheep or goat is essentially identical, so the
following descriptions apply to each.
Home Butchering Equipment and Tools
minimum equipment you should have available include a sharp skinning
knife for removing the pelt, a table or platform on which to lay the
eviscerated carcass, or a hoist to lift the sheep by the hind legs to
eye or chest level. If available, you can use a cradle, which is a
trough about 6 inches wide at the bottom with sloping sides 6 inches
high to be used for skinning. A dripping pan to catch the blood after
sticking will keep the area below the carcass from becoming messy.
Using a chain-mail glove on your free hand will prevent accidental cuts.
Home Butchering and Stunning and Sticking
methods can be used to either stun or quickly dispatch a sheep.
Inexpensive electrical stunners can be used for only one or two
animals. These use an electrical current to initiate cardiac
arrest to kill the sheep. The animal can then be placed on a table,
cradle or hoist to begin the butchering process.
method to kill the sheep is to stick the jugular vein with your
knife to create blood flow. This can be done by placing the sheep on
its side, wrapping the front feet and rear feet together so that the
hooves cannot cause you injury, and then placing it on a table or
platform with its head draped over the edge.
If you choose to
hoist the sheep by its hind legs, tie its front legs together with a
rope or cord and then pull it tight towards its hind legs. This will
hold the front legs steady, restrain the sheep, and allow you to make a
swift, clean kill.
To cut the jugular veins, grasp the jaw or
ear with one hand and insert the knife behind the jaw while drawing it
blade edge outward and out through the pelt. This will sever the
jugular veins and carotid arteries.
One advantage of sticking a
sheep versus stunning it is that you achieve a more compete bleed from
the body because the heart is still beating. If the sheep is suspended
by its hind legs, the flow of blood is downward and will continue while
the heart works. Gravity will assist in making as complete a bleed as
possible. For lambs, the blood yield may be as much as 3 percent of
their live weight.
Bleeding out the Sheep
Home Butchering and Skinning
When the blood has finished
flowing from the carcass, you can place the sheep on its back in the
cradle or on a table. To begin skinning the carcass, grasp a foreleg
and slice the skin open with the point of you knife down towards the
chest. Do the same with the other foreleg, having the two cuts meet at
the front of the breastbone. Then finish skinning out both front legs.
skin the hind legs. Begin by holding one leg and open it down the
backside from the hoof to the rectum by holding your knife fairly flat
as you slice down. Holding it in this way will help avoid cutting the
tendon and the colorless connective tissue membrane just under the skin
that separates it from the meat in the carcass. All four legs should
now be skinless. You can start removing the feet at either the front or
Remove the front feet by cutting through either the
breaking joint or spool joint, depending on the age of the animal. In
young lambs, the break joint will be a swelling in the long canon bone
just above the foot. Break joints in yearlings and older sheep are
denser and harder to cut. For these, you should remove the foot at the
first joint above the hoof.
To remove the hind feet, begin by
removing the foot at the joint closest to the hoof. By not cutting it
higher, you will leave the backside tendon anchored, which you can use
to suspend the carcass. Carefully slice along the leg bone for about 3
inches, separating tissue holding the tendon to the leg bone. These
slits will allow you to insert hooks that will hold the carcass for
evisceration. Do the same with the opposite hind leg.
separate the skin and fleece from the body, grasp the pelt at the cut,
make a fist with your free hand, and slide it forward separating the
skin from the body. Push your fist against the pelt and not the carcass
as you are loosening it. By repeating this motion, you will loosen the
skin without needing to use a knife. This will eliminate cuts and
bruises to the body of the carcass. Always have clean hands when
loosening the pelt to avoid
Fisting the Pelt
contaminating the carcass with wool and
dirt from the fleece.
With most of the skin now loosened from
the body, you can attach hooks to the hind leg tendons and raise the
sheep to a level that allows you to comfortably work with the carcass.
Once suspended, you can remove the head by cutting behind the jaw and
separating it at the base of the skull.
The trachea and
esophagus are still attached to the internal organs and must now be
separated so that you can remove those organs during evisceration.
You will then be able to pull them out when you remove the
internal organs. If this separation is not done, you will need to split
the brisket prior to evisceration to remove the abdominal and thoracic
organs at the same time.
With the carcass suspended, cut open
the center of the loosened pelt. Pull the fleece towards you as you
slice down the belly being careful not to cut into the abdomen.
all the skin by moving your fist around the entire carcass and up the
Avoid pulling or stripping the pelt off the carcass as this
may damage the connective tissue membrane by tearing and
Sever the anus by cutting across it where it is
attached to the pelt. Then use your fist to loosen it. Finish loosening
the pelt at the shoulders. Once the pelt is completely loose it should
easily slide off the carcass.
Rinse the carcass with clean,
lukewarm water before opening the body cavity. This will remove any
Removing the Anus
dirt, wool, or other foreign materials they may have attached to it.
Home Butchering and Evisceration
of sheep is very much like that of cattle and pigs, except they are
smaller. Avoid cutting into the intestinal and digestive tract while
opening the body cavity so that it is not contaminated by fecal
Place a bucket under the carcass to catch the
intestines and blood. Begin by cutting around the anus, loosening it
from the pelvis. Cut as close around the pelvic and tail
you can until it is free to pull out. You should tie the anus shut with
string or a light cord so that any fecal contents do not spill out.
Once securely tied, you can let it slide down into the body cavity.
open the belly, start your knife top at a point just below the junction
where the outer skin of the two hind legs intersects. Pull the skin
toward you as you make a cut long enough to insert your first and
second fingers to help guide the knife point. Or you can insert the
handle into the abdomen cavity the same way as in cattle or pigs to
After the body cavity is open, grasp the tied end of
the anus that you let slide into the cavity earlier with your free hand
and slowly pull the intestines and organs towards you. Gravity will
help pull these from the body, and the bladder and kidneys will also
of the Sheep
as you sever the ureters.
When all the viscera have been
removed, split the breastbone with a saw or sturdy knife.
both the inside and the outside of the carcass with cool water and
remove any traces of blood, dirt, tissue, and other foreign matter. You
can also trim any scraggly ends or pieces from around the neck or other
areas. The carcass is now ready to cool. Chilling the carcass makes it
easier to cut up the various parts as the fat within in the meat and
the muscles become firm.
you want to see more pictures
from this home butchering excerpt? How much meat can you expect to get
from your lamb?
What are the prime
cuts and how do you go about home butchering your lamb to get those
delicious leg roasts and crown roasts? Should
you split your lamb
longitudinally or laterally? Where is the foresaddle and the hindsaddle
and what do you do with the leftovers? So many questions on home
butchering, but do you have the answers?
Do you have other animals
you need to slaughter for home butchering? Pigs perhaps, beef ,
chickens, rabbits or even venison?
Purchase this excellent
book on home butchering for all your slaughtering needs for the
homesteading livestock owner.
Complete Book of Butchering, Smoking, Curing and Sausage Making" by
Philip Hasheider, published by Voyageur Press.
Still not convinced? If
you are interested in home smoking and have wondered about smokehouses
how you could build one, see what else Philip Hasheider has to say on
the subject from another excerpt of this brilliant little book on home
butchering, smoking, curing and sausage making.
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