This article is sponsored by Shepherd Song Farm.
Have you ever wondered where all the pumpkins go after Halloween? The lambs, sheep, and goats at Shepherd Song Farm welcome leftover pumpkins; big, small, or broken. They do not like to share and will shoulder or head bump to maintain ownership of the full pumpkin. Opening a pumpkin without hands or tools is a learned behavior and passes on through the flock as members become skilled pumpkin eaters. A particularly stubborn pumpkin may require a toss by the stem several times or a front footed pounce. Sheep only have teeth on their lower gum, and grasping a pumpkin that may weigh 10 or 15 lbs by its stem and throwing it is a skill that becomes as finely tuned as that of a “Scottish Hammer Thrower” and looks just as silly. The pulp, seeds, skin, and a few stems are all devoured with the pleasure of competitive eaters. Is there anything more delicious than a scrumptious pumpkin?
There are many delicious options in the fall that we all enjoy. A fresh, crisp apple picked off the tree is a delight after stored, out-of season choices. During a storm an apple tree trunk split and part of it fell into our rented pasture to the delight of the sheep. The ewes first began reaching into the lower branches to grasp an apple, then progressed higher and even higher. Their bulky, 140 lb bodies balanced as they gingerly began progressing towards the sweetest apples always just out of reach. Sheep in trees, even broken, low branches of trees, is not a good plan. More than one took a tumble before giving up. However, their taste for apples appeared to be addictive and an alternative plan was soon hatched. Buckets of windfalls gathered for cider were temporarily stored along their fence line. First one ewe began wiggling an apple from the bucket through the fence. When after many attempts she succeeded her peers began to take notice and soon decided this was much easier than picking their own. The pails of fallen apples became easier to carry to the cider press later that day.
This year Shepherd Song Farm has 14 acres of purple topped turnips (brassicas) planted just for the lambs. The luscious turnip greens are eaten first in late summer. The bulbs are rather an oddity for the lambs that have never experienced anything similar and are nuzzled and played with but not eaten. After the first hard frost, the sugars in the bulb are enhanced and become sweeter. The remaining greens begin to wilt and disappear displaying the purple tops of the turnips. It takes a few days of tentative nibbles before the lambs begin eating in earnest. By the time the snow falls they are expert on digging out any turnip that is partially buried. The snow is no deterrent. They will continue to track through the snow to dig up remaining turnips. Some varieties of grazing turnips will keep their leaves green and tender even under snow cover, providing a highly nutritious green salad as a reward for discovery when everything else on the pasture has become dry, dead, or low in food value.
Are 100% grass-fed lambs allowed pumpkins, apples, and turnips? Actually, there are a number of fall fruits (a pumpkin is a fruit), vegetables, tubers, and roots that are great alternative foods for grass fed lambs. By grass fed standards (USDA Grassfed or American Grassfed Association) a variety of forages are allowed. These include grasses (native, annual, perennial), forbs (legumes and brassicas such as turnips), herbaceous plants (pumpkins), browse (wooded growth), or cereal grains in the vegetative (pre-grain) stage. These alternatives to native grass are especially important during autumn when the frosts drive the sugars from grass, causing low nutrition and poor or no growth for young ruminants that need higher energy food choices.
Shepherd Song lamb is on the menu at many metro restaurants including: Zelo, Bacio, Barbette, In Season, Mona, Merlins, Bradstreet, Common Roots, Nightingale, Solera, and the Birdhouse. Shepherd Song Farm meat can also be found at Speciality Meats in Hudson. Or order online at www.shepherdsongfarm.com. Use discount code grassfed1 for 10% discount and free local delivery.