Conventional/commodity lamb is generally a crossbreed, whereas Merino is a specific breed of sheep cultivated for its premium wool and meat. In this respect it’s analogous to premium beef breeds (like Black Angus) and heritage pork (Kurobuta, Iberico, etc).
When compared to common lamb, Merino produce softer, leaner, finer textured & clean flavored meat prized by chefs and finer wool (used in high end apparel). They tend to be slaughtered at an older age than conventional lamb.
Conventional lambs are usually sheared only once, at 4-6 months, producing a coarse wool used in carpets and other similar applications.
Merino are sheared at 9-12 months, when their fleece has grown to its full length (75mm or longer). Depending on their wool growth, they may be sheared a second time before being processed for meat.
Each Merino produces approximately two kilograms (4.4lbs) or more of wool per shearing.
In between their full shearings, they may be brought in for a brief localized shear around the groin area (a practice referred to as “crutching”) to help them stay clean and healthy.
Habitat & Diet:
Conventional lamb is often raised in the lowlands, but Merino have thicker fleeces and prefer the cooler temperatures in high alpine ranges.
Merino lambs roam freely in massive pastures up in the mountains. They dine on alpine herbs and native grasses.