What do sheep eat?
The best food for sheep comes in the form of high-quality pasture, especially mixed grasses and clover varieties.
Clean, freshwater is a daily necessity for sheep and lambs. Sheep will consume anything from a half to 5 gallons of water per day depending on their size.
Fun Fact: Sheep have good hearing and are sensitive to noise when handled.
Springtime is very busy for the farmer as ewes are lambing. A ewe is in lamb for five months and the newborn lamb usually weighs two to four kilograms at birth which is the weight of two to four bags of sugar! Most ewes usually have one or two lambs a year and they can feed two lambs at a time.
If they produce any more, the extra lambs will usually be adopted by a single lamb mother for milk. During spring, playful lambs can be seen frolicking through the grass fields. Fresh grass and mild conditions are important for the health and growth of young lambs.
In autumn, the ram (male sheep) is brought to graze with the ewes. The timing of their introduction is recorded by the farmer so that new lambs will be born the following spring. Good health of the flock is important so sheep are normally treated in autumn to prevent sickness and irritation. The main group of lambs are also sold by the farmer in autumn.
By law, sheep must be tagged before they leave the farm where they were born. Their unique tag number is recorded and registered with the state authority. This is important for traceability and farm management.
During the cold, long winter months, the farmer makes sure that all sheep have enough feed. He will also add hay, silage and meal to their diet if they need it. Ewes in lamb will also get extra concentrates. Sheep have a thick fleece, which is warm and waterproof, they can stay outdoors for most of the winter. However if the weather gets very bad, the farmer will bring them into sheds.
In early January, lambs begin to be born. Ewes are brought into warm, dry, comfortable sheds for about eight weeks before lambing to ensure the safety of both the mother and the lamb. Sheep Farming | Learn | Family Farm (thefamilyfarm.ie)
Breeds of Sheep
Can have a completely black face or a black and white face. They are low in size and bodyweight. They are hardy and well suited to uphill conditions. They are very good mothers and mostly single lambs. Their wool is very coarse and is most suited to carpet making.
Are the preferred breed in County Wicklow. They are medium in size and weight. They are most suited to fertile hills and produce good quality wool. They are known for their mothering abilities and mainly produce single lambs.
Are very distinct in appearance with a white body and ears that stand upright on their heads. They are a maternal breed of medium to large size. They mostly produce twins and are a good milk producing animal.
Are medium size breed. They are a newer breed first introduced to Irish farmers in 1982. Since then, a lot of work has gone into the breed and this has strengthen its lambing abilities. They produce fleshy lambs and are good mothers.
Are a medium size breed with very good body shape (conformation). They produce leaner lambs and have a moderate number of twins.
Are a maternal breed with very large size and bodyweight. They have distinctive wool growth on their head and legs. The breed was developed in the west of Ireland and is mostly used for meat. They mostly produce single lambs.
Other breeds of Sheep include; Bluefaced Leicester, Charollais, Beltex, Jacob, Oxford Down, Dorset Horn and Rouge de L’Quest.
Are very distinctive with black faces and legs and a predominantly white body. They are medium in size and are early maturing & early finishing. They have a good body shape (conformation) and are favoured for wool production. They usually have a moderate number of twins and occasional triplets.
Products from sheep
Sheep production is the fourth most important animal enterprise in Ireland. The most important product we get from sheep is meat, i.e. Lamb. Meat is an important component of our diets. Lamb and mutton supply us with many of the vital vitamins and proteins that we need to stay healthy. Lamb is the meat from sheep that is less than one year old while mutton is the meat from a sheep that is over one year of age.
Wool is another product that sheep are best known for. Wool is widely used in clothing from knitwear such as socks and jumpers to cloth used for suits and costumes. It is also used in the furniture trade both for making chair covers and for upholstery. Many of the better carpets produced traditionally and today are made from wool.
Sheep milk is used to make yogurts, butter and ice-cream. Sheep’s milk is significantly higher in milk solids, fats and protein and contains roughly double the amount of fat than milk from a cow or goat. Hence, why it is perfect for making cheese and yogurts products.
Fun Fact: Some of the world’s most famous cheeses were made from sheep’s milk such as Feta, Ricotta and Roquefort.
Anatomy of a Lamb
As part of a healthy balanced diet, lamb provides the body with essential nutrients.
An average portion of lamb contains 50% of the protein an adult needs in a day which helps you to grow, strengthen and maintain your muscles.
Lamb is high in Vitamin B3 and B12 which is needed for healthy metabolism and nerve functioning.
The iron in red meat such as lamb, is the most easily absorbed form of dietary iron which is an essential ingredient for healthy blood to carry oxygen around the body.
Lamb is high in zinc. Both zinc and iron have important roles in maintaining a strong immune system.