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When does a lamb become a sheep? A female lamb becomes a sheep at 12 months of age. While they are young, they are very gentle and easy to tend. Lambs do not mind being led by their shepherd. They stay together in a flock and are very susceptible to danger because of their relaxed nature and innocent behavior. They are easy prey unless there is a shepherd around to protect them or safeguards set up by the farmer.
As lambs grow, they soon turn into what is called a hogg. This is not the same thing as a pig; a lamb is called a hogg when it becomes weaned from its mother's milk. Farmers speed up this time by separating the lambs from their mothers. It usually takes 60 days or longer for a lamb to wean from its mother and turn into a hogg.
Next, the hogg becomes a shearling or gimmer at about two years of age. This means they have had their first shearing of their fur. The fur is shaved off and sold to be used in clothing and many other things.
Finally, the shearling or gimmer gives birth. Only after she has given birth to two sets of lambs does she earn the title of ewe. Some people call the ewe a yow instead. A female sheep usually gives birth to her first set of lambs at age two. So, the term ewe describes a three-year old female sheep.
Ewes give birth to two lambs at a time. Occasionally, they will produce one lamb too many. This is called a blackbelly or a bum. Whenever this occurs, it is the farmer's responsibility to raise the lamb, as the mother will kick one of the three lambs away. The reason she does this is because she cannot feed more than two lambs successfully.
A call will go out for someone willing to raise a baby lamb on a bottle. This is a very time-consuming task but a very rewarding one as well. With humans helping the process along, all of the lambs will usually survive.
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Understanding the World of Sheep
Sheep are typically raised for their wool and meat. There are always those who keep sheep for the novelty of having them as pets, and usually they enter them in contests at fairs for rewards and prizes.
The sheep that fill modern-day pastures are a domesticated breed. They differ significantly from their wild ancestors. A trait you probably notice when you look at sheep is that even the adults have traits like the baby lambs. There are no great differences between the lambs and the adults in their behavior and characteristics. This is called neoteny and is a result of breeding. Such meekness and lamb-like characteristics make sheep a favorite among all animals.
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The Importance of the Ram
The ram (the male) is probably the most important member of the flock and is often overlooked. A sheep farmer understands the importance of feeding and caring for the ram early on in his life. A poorly fed ram may not reach puberty until a year old. A well fed ram, however, would come to puberty between five to seven months.
There are many things a shepherd or sheep farmer has to learn and understand if he is going to have a successful mating season. The world of sheep is very complicated and there is a specific term for every phase in a sheep's life that has to be memorized by the farmer.
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Guardians to Replace the Shepherd
Livestock guardians came about after farmers, especially in the United States, were suffering severe losses from predators. They realized that if they put a guard dog, llama, or donkey in with the sheep, predatory animals would leave them alone. Nearly 45 percent of all the farms in the United States have a guardian protecting each flock.
Busy lifestyles do not allow for the historical shepherd, but there are many countries that still use this old historic practice of shepherding the sheep. There is no way to prevent any losses, but sheep need a shepherd; otherwise, they are easy prey for the predators of the wild.
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The Busy-Ness of Sheep Farming
Although there are many differences between sheep and cattle or other types of flocks or herds, they have many things in common as well. The farmer considers the same things and does his best to keep his flock of sheep free of parasites and diseases and safe from harm.
Sheep farmers have many things to keep track of to keep the flock safe. In this study guide, you have learned everything from when a lamb becomes a sheep, to which animals to put with the sheep to keep them safe from predators. The world of sheep farming is very exciting and quite different from any other herd or flock type animals.
- "Information about raising blackbellies", author unknown, http://www.awrittenword.com/barbados/info/articles/bummer_lamb.htm
- "Sheep 201 a beginners guide to raising sheep", author unknown, http://www.sheep101.info/201/predatorcontrol.html
- Photos: by Atlanta Page ©2011
- "adopt-a-sheep.com",author unknown, http://www.adopt-a-sheep.com/terminology.htm
- "Flock Record" by the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department,http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/149144/0039642.pdf