12/10/2013 at 1:30 p.m.
With Christmas so soon after Thanksgiving, many Americans are looking for a different centerpiece for their holiday meal. Consider lamb, suggests Dr. David Fernandez, Cooperative Extension Program livestock specialist at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
“Lamb has long been a tradition at Christmas, but it seems to have been forgotten in the homes of many Americans,” he says. “Lamb is delicious and nutritious, but it may be difficult to find because some grocery stores rarely carry it. If you ask for it at the meat counter, sales associates will be happy to order it for you.”
In general, lamb has a higher and heart-healthy polyunsaturated to saturated fat ratio than beef. Also, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids is lower and healthier in lamb, says Dr. Makuba Lihono, associate professor and nutritionist, UAPB Department of Human Sciences. Lamb is an excellent source of protein, vitamin B12, zinc, selenium, iron and riboflavin. A 3-ounce serving contains only 175 calories, adds Dr. Lihono.
Most lambs have been sold by July, and few are available in December so the Christmas market is a real opportunity, says Dr. Fernandez.
Milk-fed Christmas lambs should weigh between 40 to 60 pounds. Assuming a 7 pound birth weight and an average growth rate of one-half pound per day, producers need to lamb in mid-September for this market. Ewes should be bred in early to mid-April, which can be a difficult time to do so.
Some breeds of sheep, such as Dorset, Rambouillet, Dorpers and Katahdins, are easier to breed out of season than others. Ewes should be in good body condition to improve pregnancy rates.
Producers may be interested in two Cooperative Extension fact sheets: FSA 9611 “Feeding Ewes to Maximize Reproductive Success”
and FSA 9610 “Body Condition Scoring of Sheep.”
For more information, contact Dr. Fernandez at 870-575-7214.