Posts tagged #2020eucongresssheep
LAMB CHARCUTERIE – is there such a thing? 

LAMB CHARCUTERIE – is there such a thing?

It’s easy to think of lamb in terms of legs and chops (and for me kidneys – yum!), but as already discussed lamb is an incredibly versatile meat that has been used throughout history.  And in ‘history’ we didn’t have access to fridges and freezers or freezer bags which meant that people had to get clever when it came to preserving lamb.  Here we’ll look at that side of this delicious meat – charcuterie. 

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Why is Lamb such a glorious food? Sheep have an important economic and environmental role in ‘less favoured areas’ providing employment and income, food from otherwise unusable land and acting as a positive environmental impact - fertilising and improving soil structure through their faeces and wool, keeping down brush and weeds and thus maintaining plant, insect and animal biodiversity.  Traditional sheep farming is therefore highly sustainable and for this reason from Ireland to Greece the hilly areas of Europe are dotted with sheep.  There are currently 85 million sheep on 830,000 farms across the EU – more than in Australia and New Zealand.  Despite this, Europe is a net importer of sheep providing only 85% of its needs. The largest producers of Lamb in Europe are the UK, Spain, France, Romania, Ireland and Italy. Ireland is the largest net exporter of sheep meat. This points to incredible potential for this sector. (Statistics from  In 2018 Ireland’s sheep meat sector was valued at €315m up 15% on 2017 (

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“Behind every cheese there is a pasture of a different green under a different sky: meadows caked with salt that the tides of Normandy deposit every evening; meadows scented with aromas in the windy sunlight of Provence…” - Italo Calvino 

Every cheese has a story. It represents a culture, a land, a climate, a history of its own. The process of using sheep’s milk to produce cheese has been a tradition for thousands of years. It’s sweet, yet tangy complex flavour and nutritional benefits have been savoured for generations. Not only can sheep’s milk be used for cheese it can also be used for yogurt, ice cream and even butter. 

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WOOL Tapestry Weaving


Tapestry is different from all other forms of patterned weaving in that no weft threads are taken the full width of the fabric web. Each unit of the pattern is woven with a weft, or thread, of the required colour, that is carried back and forth only over the section where that specific colour appears in the design or cartoon. Like in the weaving of ordinary cloth, the weft threads pass over and under the warp threads alternately, and on the return go under where before it was over and vice versa. Each passage is called a pick, and when finished the wefts are pushed tightly together by a variety of methods or devices (awl, reed, batten, comb, serrated or finger nails). TIMELINES collaborative piece 2018 Exhibiting Artists: Catherine Ryan, Frances Crowe, Frances Leach, Heather Underwood, Joan Baxter, Lorna Donlon, Muriel Beckett, Pascale de Coninck, Terry Dunne and Trish Canniffe.

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WOOL Aran Jumper

The Aran knit jumper (Irish: Geansaí Árann) has undeniably given weight to the beauty and history of these enchanting islands and even for Ireland as a whole. The world over has fallen in love with the Aran Sweater and it’s easy to see why. {Photo Credit: Irish Times, Colin Burke Knitwear Designer | Hand-crochet coat with rib and wave stitch, handknitted asymmetric Aran jumper with hand-crochet trim in ivory Donegal yarn.}

“Aran jumpers have long been a highly recognisable symbol abroad of the romanticism of Irish rural life and Irish folk art. The jumpers became particularly popular from the 1950s onwards when they began to be exported in their thousands from Ireland to shops in America, Europe and Japan.”

Clodagh Doyle, curator at the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life

The idea of every stitch having a story is said to have began from a combination of a book written in 1967 by Kiewe ‘The Sacred History of Knitting’, which was more of a fictional story than an actual historical document and J.M. Synge’s play ‘Riders to the Sea’, in which the body of a dead islander is identified by the hand-knitted stitches on one of his garments. (also a fictional story)

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WOOL What is it used for?

What is Wool used for?

Wool is one of the most versatile materials at our disposal.  Its used in beds and sofas, woven into fabric for suits, coats, upholstery, carpets and rugs, felted to make hats and decorative items, knitted into jumpers, crocheted into bedspreads and turned into sound and heat insulation.  The question is, what can’t wool be used for?   

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WHY WOOL you might ask …

This month, October 2019, Campaign for Wool is highlighting the benefits of wool to us.

Make A Difference – Choose Wool. Every year sheep produce a new fleece; making wool a natural, renewable fibre source. Wool has inherent natural biodegradable properties in the land and ocean to benefit the planet which is choking from waste plastic, man-made and micro-fibres. We can all make a difference by choosing wool to help safeguard the planet for future generations.

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The Hampshire sheep were primarily bred to keep the thin soil of various downlands in Britain fertile. They are a medium to large sized breed that are excellent producers of meat, wool and good with landscape management.

The Bleu du Maine sheep is a breed of domestic sheep from France. It is a meat sheep breed and raised mainly for meat production. The breed was actually originated from the western France, in the region common to the departments of Maine-et-Loire, Mayenne and Sarthe around the 1800s. These animals were developed from a cross between Leicester Longwool and Wensleydale sheep which were imported during that time. The breed is also known by some other names such as Maynne Blue, Maine à tête bleue, Maine-Anjou, Blue-headed Maine, Bluefaced Maine, Bazougers and Blauköpfiges Fleischschaf (German).

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LEAN & ADAPTABLE SHEEP BREEDS Charollais, Lleyn, Vendeen

Here are more adaptable sheep. Farming sheep serves many purposes. Some sheep breeds lend themselves to provide the whole range of products, wool, meat and milk. In Ireland most are bred for meat. However we have identified breeds for you that are good for milk and wool. Obviously, sheep produce wool and there are different grades. We will cover this topic and meat and milk products in seperate blogs. With all the breeds of sheep available, knowing your purpose for raising sheep is extremely important. Choosing from all the sheep breeds for your farm should start with your primary purpose in mind. Are you raising sheep primarily for fiber, meat or breeding stock? Additionally, some breeders enjoy showing their sheep in breed shows, for conformation, and type.

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The Zwartbles name means Black with a White Blaze. A very noble yet elegant black sheep with a distinctive white blaze from poll to surround the muzzle, two to four white socks up to but not beyond the knees or hocks and undocked tails with a white tip. Like a short horn cow these sheep serve the dual purpose for meat and milk but have the addtion of a very fine thick fleece with plenty of crimp. The Zwartbles sheep are considered to have a superior conformation that can be passed down to the next generation, it has many characteristics considered desirable for cross breeding, its large frame, prolific nature, milky ewes, and fast growth rate. Commercial sheep farmers have become aware of the Zwartbles reputation for rapid growth, a low fat carcase and are successfully using the rams as maternal sires. The ewe lambs produced are retained for breeding and crossed with any of the main terminal sires.

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There are a few dairy sheep breeds that you could add to your farm. Two of the commonest dairy sheep breeds used in Ireland are the East Fresian and the Lacaune. Their milk is usually described as pure and wholesome with high butterfat and protein content and excellent milk flavor. It is well suited to making a wide array of cheeses. In Ireland sheeps milk is being used by producers for milk, cheese, icecream and yoghurt ! Details of some of these are below…

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The Blackface Breed


There are many different breeds of sheep in Ireland. The most common is the blackface mountain breed on upland farms. They are very hardy and can put up with cold, wind and rain. They are very nimble and roam about looking for grass. Several strains of Scotch Blackface have evolved down through the years in Scotland and Northern Ireland there are three types namely Perth, Newton Stewart and Lanark. In Ireland there are the Mayo/Connemara type, Kerry Blackface and the Waterford and Donegal types which are very similar to the Perth strain in Scotland. There has also been a lot of crossing and merging of the types in recent years especially in Scotland where the Newton Stewart and Lanark are almost totally merged.

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Suffolk sheep are a black-faced, open-faced breed of domestic sheep raised primarily for meat. They are polled and have black open faces along with black legs and white woolled bodies. Suffolks are considered a large breed of sheep, their large frame and muscular bodies make them an ideal breed for meat production, however; they are also good for wool production as well. These strong and hardy animals are good mothers.

The Suffolk evolved from the mating of Norfolk Horn ewes with Southdown rams in the Bury St Edmunds area of the UK. These sheep were known as Southdown Norfolks, or locally, as “Black faces.” The first recording is in 1797 when in his “General view of agriculture in the county of Suffolk” Arthur Young stated: “These ought to be called the Suffolk breed, the mutton has superior texture, flavour, quantity and colour of gravy.”


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Over the next two months we will introduce you to different sheep breeds in Ireland. The National Sheep Breeders Association is a good source of information on sheep breeds and events throughout the year if you are interested in seeing these breeds. You will also find information on breeds and breeders on the individual breed society social media sites. This week we start with the Galway Sheep.

The Galway Sheep Breeders Association was established in 1923. The Association was founded to encourage the breeding and conservation of Galway Sheep and to maintain the Sheep as a pure breed.

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