Bruce and Donna Fournier sell natural lamb
right at the farm—whole lambs, halves, roasters and by the cut. All the
lamb is humanely raised, USDA inspected, cryo-vac packed, with custom
orders always welcomed.
Bruce Fournier has tasted humble pie and he didn't mind the flavor at
all. With help from his wife Donna, Fournier raises Dorset lambs for the
retail and wholesale market at their Meadowsweet Lamb and Herb Farm near
But that's not what the Fourniers were doing with their flock some
"We used to go to the fairs with 50 to 60 of these nice, great big
long-legged show sheep that were not really producing animals," Bruce
says. "We used to go to fairs all over New England. There were times
that I'd be gone three weeks straight. That doesn't do much for your home
It proved not to be very profitable either.
"The club lambs that we were selling back at that time just didn't
bring in enough money to sustain our farming," Bruce said. "When
we first started selling them back in the late '80s and early '90s you
were getting $50 to $75 per lamb."
good comparison of the differences between American-type Dorsets and
production Dorset sheep with English bloodlines. Notice by the coloration
on her rump that the front ewe is already bred in June! She has shorter
legs; wider body.
"At that time we also played the Easter market. Some years you get
burned because prices are so low. Other years you do pretty well but it
still wasn't a consistent market."
Then one day Bruce woke up and told Donna he'd had enough. He'd had
enough shows to last him a lifetime.
"I told her I wasn't going any more," Bruce said.
It was at around this time that Donna made a suggestion to Bruce.
"One fall, Donna said that we ought to try going to the farmers'
market," Bruce recalls. "I said you've got to be kidding me. But
I committed to her that we would try one year. We worked together and we
did a lot of cooking of not only kabobs but ground lamb and two or three
other different things."
"We built the business up and it was amazing, I will now eat
humble pie and admit there are people out there who will eat lamb if you
present a good product."
Bruce Fournier with a production Dorset
ewe. He increases the amount of protein in the diets of ewes he wants
bred. He says increased protein makes for a better chance of a ewe
producing two to three ova. Soybean meal is used for increasing the
From Fickle-Price Easter Lamb
To Faithful-Profit All-Year Demand
So Bruce and Donna set out to transform their farm to assure that they
had a consistently excellent product that would dependably bring prices
that beat the unpredictable Easter market.
"It has been quite a transformation," Donna said. "We
have gone from breeding Oxfords and Corriedales that looked pretty in the
show ring to focusing on Dorsets that produce and satisfy the increasing
year-round demand for local meat in our area."
The Dorset breed of sheep is indeed the secret to the success of the
production and marketing program at Meadowsweet Lamb and Herb Farm. But
these Dorsets are different.
"We've gone away from the show Dorsets, which are the ones that
stand 34 to 36 inches to the top of their back, to what are called
production lambs," Bruce said. "The genetics are primarily from
K Bar K Farm in Pennsylvania. They are using an English blood line that
they artificially inseminated."
A key to success is not being afraid to
move to something new, in Meadowsweet's case it's the move to
"early-ripening" meat lambs, bred to be ready for the butcher in
any season of the year.
"We've got a fall ewe that is out with our ram now that is 24
inches to the top of her back, but you ought to see the width and the
depth to her. These production Dorsets have twice the depth when you're
looking from the backside than the show animals have. For example, you
take this fall girl that's out there now and I cannot even get my hands
around her back leg!"
The Fourniers went with the production Dorsets for other reasons as
well: For the past two years they have averaged two, or slightly better,
lambs per ewe. The ewes have big udders with plentiful milk. Bruce says
they are the best mothers he's ever seen. Additionally, the lambs are
"We have lambs that are just a little over four and a half months
old that will be going to the butcher shop in two to three weeks," he
said. "You can get the Dorsets up to weight more quickly than the
Oxfords that we used to raise."
It is possible that Bruce and Donna could have found another breed with
all these excellent characteristics. But, although Bruce is careful not to
criticize other breeds, there was one final characteristic that convinced
the Fourniers that production type Dorsets were for them.
Location can also aid in lamb production. Situated in
western Maine's beautiful Lakes Region, Meadowsweet Lamb and Herb Farm is
sheltered by Pleasant Mountain.
Four-Seasons Of Freshness
"The number one reason for choosing Dorsets was their
out-of-season breeding," Bruce said. "Because of that we can
promote the fact that we have lamb year around. The Easter lamb market has
been as low as a $1.05/lb. and as high as $3.00 but production costs
aren't coming down."
Plenty of people are willing to buy lamb year-round at good prices.
Donna says that their prices range from $8.50/lb. for stew meat to
$17.50/lb. for rib and loin chops.
"When we have people come to the farm in March or April and they
want a roast for Easter and you say, 'I just brought it home from the
butcher shop two weeks ago,' it just boggles their mind," Bruce said.
"They don't have to have something that's been in the freezer for six
months. Actually, our lamb sells so fast that we can't even keep it in our
freezer for as long as six weeks!"
The public's growing interest in locally produced food, along with a
top quality product, is inspiring the Fourniers to increase their flock of
Dorsets. And, after many years of working farmers' markets, they've built
up their customer base so that most of their sales are made directly from
Those sales are supplemented by some sales to another nearby farm, that
doesn't have lamb, and to an online farm market called Jordansfarm.com.
Now Bruce doesn't have to travel—even to farmers' markets.
"We're able to stay home and work with our animals and with the
garden," Bruce said. "That's where we want to be. It's a great
Anyone interested in learning more about production Dorsets can join
the Yahoo internet discussion group Production Dorset Breeders at ProductionDorsetBreedersemail@example.com.