Herdwick Hogget and the culmination of our first years work

At some point over the coming weeks and months I will regale you with tales of how we got to this point, the escapes, the fencing challenges and then the utter joy that this little flock have given us.

why we do this

Being a smallholding and attempting to be self sufficient means difficult decisions and uncomfortable days when managing the flock. Keeping the best traits for what you are hoping to produce in the end, be that meat, milk or fibre.

I want to know that the meat that we eat has lived the best fulfilled life possible. That the animal hasn’t suffered or missed out just because it will be in the food chain. There is such a lack of respect for growers from the large chains. Thankfully we can avoid this by taking this opportunity to rear our own meat

We make a choice to love our flock no matter what purpose they are going to serve. Every sheep gets the attention it deserves, the best hay, the tastiest grass, the nicest hedges to nibble on, they are free to sheep all day long. Herdwicks are slow growing. Unlike commercial flocks they are not sent off at 4-7 months but at around 14 months or later. They will have felt all of the seasons, and in return they will supply us beautifully flavoured Herdwick Hogget meat.

The meat we produce is hogget (over 12 months under 24 months) rather than lamb. Hogget has all the softness of lamb with a fuller flavour usually expected from mutton (24 months plus).

Off they go

3 sheep went to slaughter. 2 wethers (boys with no bits) and 1 troublesome ewe who could potentially pass on poor behaviour to her lambs. I can’t flower it up that’s what happens. We kept stress minimal: chose an abattoir that deals with smallholders, the flock are used to the trailer. I booked first thing in the morning so that the deed is done quickly with no waiting and there were no other animals around to cause stress.

They trotted out of the trailer with their usual spring. I felt no concern that they were fearful. The stockman was kind to them, in spite of our terrible parking and the bit of baler twine that we forgot to remove from the door! We completed the necessary legal paperwork in triplicate. Knowing the next time we would see them they will be in a meat fridge as the Herdwick Hogget we have been waiting for excitedly yet, with great trepidation!

Our first home produced Herdwick Hogget

Herdwick Hogget shoulder ready for slow roasting.
Herdwick hogget shoulder with lemon, capers and rosemary ready for slow roasting

I was careful with which cuts I requested from the butcher. Avoiding the weird cuts that buyers can be unsure of and instead used those to produce some mince. This was then flavoured with fresh mint and spices making it suitable for kofte style kebabs. Another batch was mixed with foraged wild garlic and fresh oregano to make burger patties. The final batch has been left plain in order to experiment with our own sausage flavourings at a later date. Next year I would love to make merguez style spicy sausages to sell.

Financially speaking this is an expensive process. So we sold one whole hogget to various people who understand how precious this product is. By doing this we recouped the costs of the slaughter, transport and butcher. We then paid for the use of our field in lamb – you have to love a barter! And are now proud owners of a very full freezer.

So far we have had a quick cook rack and a very slow roasted shoulder both were utterly delicious.

We are so very proud of the Herdwick Hogget meat we have managed to produce in our first year. We have had wonderful compliments from the butcher and our customers.

Here’s to year 2!

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