The sheep herder: An Eastaboga farmer raises grass fed lamb
by Sherry Kughn
skughn@annistonstar.com
Apr 25, 2012 | 2867 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Henry Dorough, owner of HD Farm in Eastaboga, leases part of his land out for crops. Dorough hopes to enlarge his flock of ewes to about 100 over the next several years, possibly selling meat to stores and restaurants in the future. Photo: Sherry Kughn/The Anniston Star
Henry Dorough, owner of HD Farm in Eastaboga, leases part of his land out for crops. Dorough hopes to enlarge his flock of ewes to about 100 over the next several years, possibly selling meat to stores and restaurants in the future. Photo: Sherry Kughn/The Anniston Star
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EASTABOGA — On a recent cloudless and dewy spring morning, Henry Dorough, owner of HD Farm in Eastaboga, sat in a lawn chair and talked about his 11 girls and 18 babies.

He was speaking of sheep, which he raises for meat.

The 48-year-old farmer sat between the back of his house and the sheep pastures. Blanco, the flock’s guard dog, stared at him from the pasture where the dark-faced, three-month-old lambs frolicked.

“Blanco thinks she’s a lamb, too,” Dorough said. “She eats with them, sleeps with them and stays with them all day.”

Wherever Dorough goes, whether he is walking along the fences that separate the pastures or sitting in the yard, Blanco and the lambs watch him — Blanco because she adores her master, the lambs because they hope Dorough will give them a handful of grain.

Meanwhile, the girls — aka the ewes — keep to themselves, moving along together in their separate pasture, their heads moving together like baby kittens in a basket. The ewes produced the 18 lambs and will stay on the farm to give birth to another flock.

The ewes and lambs baa, a nearby rooster crows and a cat meows — kind of like the personable animals in the movie “Babe.” The scent of fragrant green wheat rides on a breeze, and even the airborne smell of sheep manure is not unpleasant. For Dorough, his 95-acre farm is almost paradise and ties him to his mother’s and father’s people, who were also farmers.

“I call this my peace on earth,” he said.

Dorough, who is a regional extension agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, lived for many years in Oxford. Seven years ago, he bought the farm, which was one of several affiliated with the Turner families, which once operated dairy farms in the Oxford-Eastaboga area.

When Dorough first bought the farm, he had no plans to raise lamb. The idea grew gradually.

Dorough has a son at Auburn University, who, while in high school, raised show lambs for his 4-H club. Then, Dorough raised another sheep or two for other students. As the next few years went by, he and his son accumulated a few more sheep. By then, friends had asked him to raise one for them, too, for meat.

Now, Dorough takes orders from individual customers. He has 18 lambs for sale this year. They will be ready for harvest in July and August.

Dorough hopes to enlarge his flock of ewes to about 100 over the next several years, possibly selling meat to stores and restaurants in the future.

That many ewes should produce about 200 lambs each year, as they are often born as twins. Triplets are common.

Dorough’s lambs are a cross between the ewes — the Katahdin breed — and the ram, which was of the Suffolk breed. Their meat is mild but uniquely flavored, he said.

“Some people say they do not like sheep meat, but the taste depends on the variety of the sheep and their age,” Dorough said. Mutton (the meat from an adult sheep) has a stronger flavor.

The sheep primarily eat grass, and Dorough provides grain as a treat. A bucketful in Dorough’s hand motivates the animals to follow him. Otherwise, they would skitter away whenever he tried to move them from pasture to pasture, give them shots or check their health.

When he walks among them, the lambs dash away after they realize he has no feed for them — except for one lamb that is smaller than the others. It is a “bottle baby,” which was handfed by Dorough from infancy.

“We have one or two bottle babies each year,” Dorough said, as he scratched the lamb between the ears while it rubbed against his legs.

The farmer and his animals have a special bond, out here on their pleasant farm.

Cooking lamb

Henry Dorough’s favorite way of preparing lamb meat is grilled chops. He sprinkles them with salt, then grills them over high heat until they’re medium rare. And that’s all.

“If it’s good meat, it doesn’t need anything else,” he said. “I have yet to serve anybody lamb — not just mine, but lamb from the grocery store — where people don’t say it’s the best lamb they’ve ever had. A lot of it is cooking method — and spices.”

Just, please, no mint. “I love mint — just not with lamb,” Dorough said. “Good lamb is wonderful without it. Using mint to cover up the flavor of lamb is like ordering a nice steak and smothering it in ketchup.”

Irish Lamb Stew

2 pounds lamb stew meat, cut in 1 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, white parts only, sliced
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1 pound carrots, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 pound parsnips, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 quart vegetable broth
3 bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 1/2 pound (24 ounces) new potatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Season the lamb with salt and pepper.

In a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pan over medium-high, heat the oil. Working in batches, add the lamb to the pan and sear on all sides, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. As each batch is browned, use a slotted spoon or tongs to transfer it to a plate.

When all the lamb has been seared, add it all back to the pan. Add the leeks, onions, carrots, parsnips, broth, bay leaves and thyme. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then cover and cook for 1 hour. After 1 hour, add the potatoes and continue to cook until the potatoes and the lamb are tender when pierced with a fork, about another 30 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves and thyme stems. Stir in the parsley and season with additional salt and black pepper, if needed.

— Associated Press
HD Farm

• Specializing in all-natural, pasture-raised lamb

• HD Farm on Facebook

• Owner Henry Dorough has 18 lambs for sale this year. They will be ready for harvest in July-August.

• Each lamb sells for $200, plus a separate processing fee. The lambs are custom-processed by Thompson’s Meat Processing in Alexandria. Customers will receive about two to three paper grocery sacks full of meat.

• To reserve a lamb: (256) 239-0500, hdfarm@hughes.net
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