Category Archives: Sheep basics

Club Lambs

Some sheep farms concentrate on the assembly and sale of club lambs. Club lambs are “feeder” lambs (ewes or wethers) that youth purchase to develop as market lamb projects to exhibit at county and state fairs, regional and national shows. Market lamb projects are sometimes “terminal,” which means they start with the acquisition of a lamb and finish with the sale of the lamb for slaughter.

While any lamb will be shown as a market lamb category, certain breeds will be a lot of competitive, unless lambs are shown by breed. Significant muscled lambs that end over one hundred twenty five lbs. are typically the most competitive within the show ring and in championship drives. Hampshires, Suffolks, and crosses between these 2 breeds are the foremost common type of club lamb, and the most competitive.

Dorsets,  South-downs, and Shropshire can also build good club lambs. Some shows separate lambs by weight increments, while others separate lambs by breed. Some shows collect carcass data on lambs and award additional prizes to youth participants. In live shows, judges don’t always decide the lambs that can droop the best carcasses.

Some practices typically utilized in the club lamb sector may be distasteful to some people, e.g. lack of forage within the diet, late castration, ultra-short tail docking, and made exercise. The important factor to remember about a club lamb project is that it’s a youth project meant to teach young folks valuable life skills. To put winning (in any respect prices) on top of youth development is sadly missing the purpose.

Seed Stock

Many sheep farms concentrate on the production and sale of seed-stock or breeding stock. Breeding stock may include ewes and rams, purebred registered animals and industrial cross-breds. Customers for breeding stock may be other seed-stock producers or business sheep producers.

In areas where there is a large business sheep trade, producers could be in a position to determine demand for commercial rams. One choice for selling rams is to participate in Central Ram Performance Testing Programs. During a ram take a look at, rams are evaluated for various traits as well as growth, feed potency, wool traits, parasite resistance, and breeding soundness. Rams that don’t meet performance standards don’t seem to be allowed to sell. Consignment sales, production sales, and personal treaty sales are different means that of selling breeding stock.

Record keeping is a crucial facet of seedstock production. The National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) is quantitative genetic evaluation program for little ruminant producers. It calculates EBVs (estimated breeding values) for numerous traits and permits the comparison of sheep from different flocks beneath different feeding and management systems. NSIP knowledge is processed by Australia’s LAMBPLAN. Producers will also do their own on-farm record keeping. There are numerous computer programs out there for this purpose. A spreadsheet can conjointly be used.

Nowadays, it is counseled that breeding rams, especially those sold to other seedstock producers, be blood tested for scrapie genotype. Rams with inclined genotypes (e.g. QQ) should probably not be sold for breeding, if progeny will be kept for breeding. QQ rams will be used to provide club lambs or as terminal sires in business flocks where all lambs will visit slaughter. Scrapie isn’t a genetic disease; but, a private’s genotype determines whether or not it will get scrapie if it’s exposed to the infective agent.

Producers of breeding stock could conjointly wish to enroll their flocks in the Voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Program (VSFCP). The VSFCP is a monitoring program for scrapie administered by USDA-APHIS. It is a requirement for export.

Sheep Dairying

Sheep have been milked for thousands of years and were milked long before the first cow was milked. The globe’s commercial dairy sheep trade is concentrated in Europe and therefore the countries on or near the Mediterranean Sea. The dairy sheep business is very tiny in the United States. Most sheep dairies are located in the Upper Midwest (Wisconsin and Minnesota), California, and also the New England states.

Sheep’s milk is usually created into gourmand cheeses. Some milk is made into yogurt and ice cream. Recent sheep’s milk is seldom consumed. Milk will be sold to a processor for conversion to cheese (or other products) or the milk will be processed on-farm by the producer and marketed as a price-added product.

Whereas any breed of sheep will be milked, there are specialized dairy sheep breeds, much like there are specialized breeds of cattle and goats for dairy production. The 2 dairy sheep breeds raised in the US are the East Friesian and Lacaune. The Awassi, a dairy breed from the Middle East, was recently introduced to the US via embryos and semen.

Non-dairy breeds that are best tailored to dairy production are Dorset and Polypay. They solely manufacture a hundred to two hundred pounds of milk per lactation, while crosses between domestic breeds and specialised dairy breeds average 250 to 650 pounds of milk per lactation. There’s some interest in making a dairy hair sheep by crossing the Katahdin with the Lacaune.

The nutritional needs of dairy ewes are considerably over for ewes being raised for meat and/or wool. Total feed necessities will rely genetics and length of lactation. It’s important to notice that some feeds will impart undesirable flavors to the milk (e.g. fish meal) and should not be fed in large quantities during lactation. Dairy ewes have the best water demand of any category of sheep at approximately 3 gallons per head per day.

While most non-dairy producers wean their lambs at sixty days old or later, dairy lambs are weaned at 30 days old or younger, therefore that the ewes can be milked when they are still producing vital amounts of milk. Milking facilities and equipment will be the most important expense in an exceedingly dairy sheep operation. The kind of milking parlor could vary consistent with the size of the operation. Producers milking but 50 ewes could utilize a platform for milking, whereas a “pit” parlor is desirable for larger operations.

When milk is cooled, it can be shipped to a processing plant or frozen for later use or cargo. Whereas recent milk could end in a product of slightly higher quality, frozen milk has been shown to provide very acceptable product. The ability to freeze milk on the farm and deliver giant quantities to the processor at infrequent intervals allows the establishment of sheep dairies nice distances from a processing plant.

Wool Production

Wool was the primary commodity to be traded internationally and is the merchandise the general public most ordinarily associates with sheep. But, the importance of wool (as a product) relative to meat has declined dramatically. In the first 190zero’s, the bulk of income from a sheep operation was from the sale of wool. Today, it is the other approach around. While wool is still necessary on several sheep farms, lambs almost continually contribute the majority of income to the farm. Fine wool brings the most money within the commodity market.

Selling wool in the industrial wool market has restricted profit potential for most producers, but niche selling wool can pay huge dividends. For example, while wool sold commercially may bring only 75 cents per pound, fleeces sold handy spinners may bring as much as $fifteen per pound. Several producers have their wool processed into yarn, roving, blankets, or crafts and market price-added products. There are many cooperative ventures within the US that can add price to a producer’s clip.

Fleeces sold to hand spinners need to be of top of the range. Feeding, housing, health care, handling, and harvesting are all vital to the assembly of top quality wool. It goes without saying that fleeces ought to be skirted. Skirting is when the undesirable elements of the fleece are removed: belly wool, top knots, leg clippings, tags, stained wool, cotted wool, and short wool.
Some producers put covers on their sheep to forestall the fleeces from getting dirty and guard against the sun’s ultraviolet rays, which may cause fading at the ideas of colored fleeces. Since wool grows more beneath covers, covers have to be changed repeatedly because the fleece grows.

Hair Sheep


Panchito Sheep – look at this sweet-boy

The declining value of wool relative to meat, along with the decreasing variety of sheep shearers, has contributed to an expansion of hair sheep, not solely within the United States, but alternative countries in addition. It is estimated that approximately ten percent of the planet’s sheep population is hair sheep. In keeping with a 2011 NAHMS study, twenty one.five percent of sheep operations within the U.S. raise hair sheep breeds.

Hair sheep naturally shed their coats (mixtures of hair and wool fibers) and do not need shearing, crutching, or tail docking. Hair sheep are additional proof against internal parasites (gastro-intestinal worms) and alternative pests than wooled sheep. Also, hair sheep breeds possess many fascinating reproductive characteristics, such as early puberty, out-of-season breeding, and prolificacy.

Hair sheep are typically promoted as an “straightforward-care” various to wooled sheep and ancient high-cost production systems. Hair sheep ewes are typically lambed on pasture. Lambs are commonly grass-finished. Hair sheep lambs are usually higher suited to the ethnic markets that the commodity markets which sometimes prefer a heavy lamb.

Because hair sheep production continues to grow, there may be a smart market for hair sheep breeding stock. Many hair sheep producers sell their ewe lambs as breeding stock and their male lambs for meat.

Sheep Feeding

Industrial lamb feeding is a traditional sheep enterprise in the US and is turning into a lot of common in alternative countries. In some components of the US, lamb feeding is a seasonal enterprise, occurring primarily in the fall and winter, once pastures have stopped growing and crop residues are out there for grazing. In other areas (e.g. Texas, Colorado, and therefore the Corn Belt), lamb feedlots operate year-round. Several farmers feed their own lambs out.
In a very lamb feeding enterprise, feeder lambs (fifty to 100 lbs.) are purchased and fed to finish weights of a hundred lbs. or additional. Besides the acquisition worth of the lambs, the main cost in finishing lambs is feed. Lambs will be finished on a selection of diets: complete pelleted rations, whole grain rations, or high-forage diets. Cheap gains will typically be place on lambs on pasture or crop aftermaths. Lambs can additionally be finished on various by-product feeds.

Meat Sheep

Within the United States, most sheep and lambs are meat-kind animals kept primarily for the assembly of lambs for meat or twin-purpose breeds kept for each meat and wool production. Meat production is also a important profit center in sheep dairying.

Meat sheep producers sell either slaughter lambs or feeder lambs. Slaughter lambs are sometimes purchased for immediate slaughter. Within the United States, the common slaughter weight for a lamb processed in an exceedingly federally-inspected plant is regarding 136 lbs. Lambs sold into ethnic markets have a tendency to be much lighter, sometimes less than 100 lbs. Increasingly, there’s a marketplace for slaughter lambs of any weight.

Feeder lambs are lambs that are typically fed to heavier weights before being harvested. Feeder lambs vary in weight, sometimes from 50 to a hundred lbs., with the demand typically being the highest for sixty-90 lb. lambs. Increasingly, lamb feeders are having to compete with the ethnic markets for light weight lambs.

In a very meat sheep enterprise, the first factors that verify profitability are % lamb crop, lamb growth rates, and market prices. Unless forage resources are abundant or feed costs are terribly low, it is tough to create a exploit a ewe that weans solely one lamb, particularly in areas where predation is high.

Feed Additives

A feed additive may be a compound added to the ration for a purpose other than to produce nutrients. Varied feed additives will be utilised to boost the health and performance of sheep and lambs.


As well as sub-therapeutic antibiotics (40 g/ton in feed) in lamb rations will help to stop enterotoxemia and respiratory disease in feedlot lambs. Antibiotics will be fed to ewes during the last six weeks of gestation to help prevent infectious abortion. Antibiotics are advocated throughout an “abortion storm” to forestall further losses.


Lasalocid (Bovatec®) and Monensin (Rumensin®) are ionophores that may be added to mineral mixes or complete rations. Ionophores improve feed utilization and gain in cattle by altering rumen fermentation. They are conjointly coccidiostats. They kill coccidia, primarily during the sporozoite stage. Lasalocid (Bovatec®) is labeled as a coccidiostat for confined sheep.

Rumensin® is approved to be used in goats and cattle. Its use in sheep should be approved by a veterinarian. Decoquinate (Deccox®) is additionally a coccidiostat. Deccox stops coccidia from growing. In distinction with Bovatec® and Rumensin®, Deccox may be a quinolone. It is safer to use than ionophores, however is more expensive. Bovatec® and Rumensin® will be toxic to equines.

Feeding Bovatec® or Deccox® to ewes prior to lambing might facilitate to reduce the extent of coccidia in the lambing surroundings. Rumensin® fed to ewes during late gestation could help to prevent abortions caused by toxoplasmosis. Alternative potential benefits to ionophores embrace reduced incidences of acidosis and feed heap bloat. Ionophores have additionally been shown to cut back livestock methane production (CH4) and nitrogen leaching.


Probiotics are simply the other of antibiotics. They are living organisms of beneficial bacteria. Probiotics could improve animal performance by keeping livestock healthy and improving their digestion. Several industrial feeds contain probiotics. Milk replacers typically contain probiotics.

Yeast is a probiotic and has been incorporated into livestock rations. Therefore way, there’s little printed knowledge to support an improvement in animal performance as a results of feeding probiotics or similar additives. More analysis is required before their advantages and economics can be validated.

Ammonium chloride is often added to lamb rations to stop urinary calculi (kidney stones). Ammonium chloride will facilitate to acidify the urine. It should be added to the ration at a rate of 0.five to 1.five percent. It can additionally be mixed as a drench and used to treat lambs with early signs of urinary calculi.

Protein Feeds

Proteinaceous concentrates or “protein feeds” contain high levels of protein (over fifteen %) and are sometimes plant-derived. Examples embody soybean meal, cottonseed meal, and fish meal. Ruminant-derived meat and bone meal cannot (by law) be fed to alternative ruminants, as well as sheep.

Protein amount is mostly a lot of important than protein quality (amino acid content) in ruminant livestock as a result of the microorganisms in the rumen manufacture their own body protein. Livestock do not store excess protein; it’s burned as energy or eliminated (as nitrogen) by the kidneys. Overfeeding protein can not typically increase productivity or carcass quality.

Since parasites usually cause blood loss in sheep and lambs, higher levels of protein within the diet enable the animal to mount a greater immune response to parasites, particularly the blood-sucking barber pole worm.


Urea is not a protein supplement, however is a source of nonprotein nitrogen (NPN) that rumen bacteria will use to synthesize protein. NPN should be used solely together with high-energy feeds like corn. Urea, that is forty five p.c nitrogen and has a crude protein equivalent of 281 percent, ought to not provide over one-third of the whole nitrogen in a diet.
Protein feeds

Feedstuff Percent CP
Urea 281*
Fish meal 62
Soybean meal 48
Whole soybeans 42
Cottonseed meal 41
Linseed meal 34
Commercial protein supplement 36-40
Corn gluten feed 26
Poultry litter 26
Distiller’s grains 25
Brewer’s grains 24
Whole cottonseed 21
Alfalfa pellets 17
Lick tubs 16-24

Vitamins and minerals

Choosing the proper mineral supplement for sheep will be terribly tricky. Sheep require macro and micro (trace) minerals and you would like to grasp what minerals are deficient (or excess) in your area and in your feedstuffs. Mineral supplements vary from trace mineralized salt (TMS) fortified with selenium to finish mineral mixes containing all of the macro and micro minerals needed by sheep.

In general, TMS fortified with selenium is all that’s needed during the spring and summer when sheep are grazing high quality pastures containing a lot of than 20 p.c clover. Complete mineral mixes are recommended when grazing low quality roughages, beginning four weeks before breeding, during breeding, and during late gestation and early lactation.

Studies have clearly shown that selenium supplementation for pregnant ewes via a mineral mix is superior to selenium injections in late gestation. When high grain diets, sure various feeds, or silage are fed to sheep, further calcium is required within the diet.

The most important minerals are calcium, phosphorus, salt (NaCl), and selenium.

Sources of calcium and phosphorus

Source % Calcium % Phosphorus
 Bonemeal 24 12
 Dicalcium Phosphate 25 18.5
 Limestone 38 0
 Sodium Phosphate 0 22
 Alfalfa leaf meal 2.88 0.34
 Dried kelp 2.72 0.31
 Trace mineral mix 14-18 8-10

It has been scientifically proven that animals are unable to work out the proper balance and amount of minerals required when fed free selection. Some animals might consume additional of what they are doing not want, whereas others might not consume enough (or any), even if they are required. It’s thus counseled, that minerals be thoroughly blended with the ration wherever possible to ensure proper supplementation. But if this is not doable, minerals will be mixed with loose salt.

Granular or “loose” styles of minerals are most well-liked to blocks. Blocks are onerous on the teeth and consumption could be less. Mineral feeders ought to be stuffed with contemporary mineral, placed in readily available areas and shielded from the weather. Sporadic feeding of minerals could cause animals to “binge”. Coccidiostats and antibiotics will be incorporated into mineral mixes.

Sheep ought to not be fed commercial feeds and mineral mixes that have been formulated for different animal species as a result of these product contain copper. Sheep cannot tolerate excess copper in their diets. Excess copper is stored in the liver and can cause a toxic reaction, ensuing within the death of the sheep.

Copper nutrition is difficult, involving interactions with alternative minerals. Producers should not provide supplemental copper to their sheep unless a deficiency has been documented via laboratory tests.