Description and Features
Sheep - one of the most common agricultural animal species. Sheep breeding is practiced in almost all countries of the world, but the largest livestock is in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the Middle East. The main product of this livestock industry is wool, but sheep are also bred for meat, milk and skin.
The process of domestication of sheep began about 8-9 thousand years ago with their closest relative - the mouflon, who lives in the mountains of Central Asia and Southern Europe. Sheep and goats were domesticated before cattle, as they are more unpretentious in the maintenance and quality of pasture. Around the same time, a man tamed a dog, which expanded the scale of sheep breeding and helped herd animals.
Over the entire history of sheep breeding, more than 100 breeds have been bred for various purposes, and they all have their own characteristics, but in general terms, sheep are medium-sized cloven-hoofed animals with curly-curled hair. The height at the withers is up to a meter, the weight can vary greatly between different breeds, on average, females weigh 50-100 kg, males are slightly larger - 70-150 kg.
Sheep in the photo on the Internet most often has a white color, but there are breeds of sheep with brown or even black hair. Both sexes have horns, but in sheep they are very weakly expressed. The horns of rams are twisted in a spiral and can reach a length of one meter.
Depending on the target dilution product, it is generally accepted that the following types of sheep: wool, meat and dairy. The most interesting sheep breeds:
1. Merino Sheep - Woolen fine-wool sheep, traditionally bred in Australia. Each year, one animal gives up to 10 kg of fine soft wool, and at the moment this fleece is one of the highest quality in the world. Sheeps are unpretentious in keeping and feed, but can hardly tolerate humid weather, which is why Australia's vast arid deserts are more suitable for them than the vastness of Russia. Plus, thick bulk hair covers the sheep almost completely and often becomes a breeding ground for larvae of flies, fleas and other parasites.
2. Romanovsk sheep - The most unpretentious and widespread breed in Russia. The main direction of breeding is meat, on average weigh from 70 to 100 kg. Sheep meat - a specific, not an amateur, unaccustomed person may notice an unpleasant odor, but connoisseurs say that properly cooked high-quality mutton is much tastier than beef or pork. The coat is coarse, cut about 3 kg.
3. East Friesian Sheep - dairy breed of sheep. During lactation, milk yield can reach 500-600 liters of milk, about 5 liters per day. Sheep's milk fat and rich in protein, but this breed requires an appropriate attitude; animals are very whimsical about the quality of pastures and conditions of keeping.
Lifestyle & Habitat
For domestic sheep, the most important climatic factor is not temperature, but air humidity. Any breeds can hardly tolerate moist air, but in dry weather they do not care at all in severe frosts and heat. A dense coat delays solar radiation and allows the sheep not to overheat, and in winter warms from the cold.
A common stereotype is that domestic sheep - stupid animals. Indeed, one should not try to justify all animals and try to find the beginnings of rational behavior in them. The brain size of sheep does not allow them to show a high level of intelligence even compared to their ancestors (wild sheep had a more developed brain).
They make very poor contact with humans and other animals, paying attention only to their flock, are weakly interested in everything happening around, and the only ones from all domestic animals never even protect their lambs.
At the same time, sheep are very shy and cowardly animals. The sound of a sheep called bleating - with the help of it the animal communicates with its relatives, but can also show anxiety and discontent.
Sheep are animals in which the herd instinct has reached a maximum peak. They are literally in everything guided by the behavior of their herd, and the more it is, the more comfortable they feel in it. Often they do not even need to be grazed - it is enough to tie a ram, leave a dog with the sheep, and they will not run away.
There are many proverbs emphasizing the flocking and stupidity of sheep, for example, “looks like a ram at a new gate” (cannot cope with a new, unfamiliar situation) or “like a flock of sheep” (together, together). At the same time, the sheep is a symbol of gentleness and humility, which found its symbolic meaning in the Christian religion, where God is represented as a pastor (shepherd), and people are his humble herd.
Sheep, unlike goats or cows, are less whimsical about their food and pastures. Their incisors are located at an angle to the jaw, as if protruding forward; Such a tooth structure allows sheep to eat plants almost at the root, which increases the efficiency of pastures and makes it possible to linger on them longer.
The main amount of nutrients in the warm season, sheep receive during grazing. Avoid wetlands, or vice versa, too dry pasture areas. A forest glade or a small meadow is perfect, sheep on it can eat not only grass, but also young shoots, branches and leaves.
Do not forbid sheep to eat weed grasses (wheat grass, burdock), they are in no way inferior in nutritional value to cultivated meadow grasses. But it’s better not to bring them to the areas where belene, celandine, datura and other poisonous grasses of sheep grow.
Even if everything is normal with animals, toxic substances can change the taste of milk, make it bitter and unpleasant. Grazing should be carried away from the gardens and the club, because some ornamental plants, such as lily of the valley, are poisonous, and should not be included in the diet of animals.
The flock cannot be taken out to pasture after rain, since wet grass is poorly processed in the sheep’s rumen, and can cause thympatia. During this disease, the animal suffers due to the accumulation of gases in the stomach, and as a result, bloating.
The reason is that grass irrigated with dew or doge begins to ferment in the digestive tract. Without treatment, tympathy can lead to the death of the animal. Therefore, in early spring, when the grass is still young and juicy, it is recommended that the sheep be given hay or straw to balance the humidity of the diet.
Sometimes the flock is grazed until mid-winter, but the amount of food in the pasture is gradually reduced, and the sheep are transferred to additional feeding. First of all, it is harvested hay, especially clover, which contains the most protein and trace elements, but it is rather the recommended food for meat sheep.
You can also give sheep silage, beet and carrot tops, fodder crops, such as corn, pumpkins and zucchini (it’s expensive to grow vegetables for animal feed, but sheep love them very much). All year, regardless of temperature, animals need mineral fertilizing.
Feed chalk and bone meal are recommended. Sometimes the sheep begin to show unusual attention to their master, licking his hands. This behavior indicates that the animals are lacking in salt and that it needs to be added to the diet.
Reproduction and longevity
The average life span of a sheep is 12 years. The oldest sheep in the world, nicknamed Lucky, which means lucky, died in Australia at the age of 23, having given birth to 35 lambs in their lifetime. The economic suitability of an ordinary sheep ends around the age of 8–9, when the animal's teeth grind and can no longer eat, gain weight and give a lot of milk. To get meat and sheepskin sheep can be slaughtered at the age of 2-3 years or even earlier.
Sheep breeding for beginners it is better to start with the Romanovskaya breed: they are quite fertile (the female brings up to 4 lambs at a time) and unpretentious in nutrition, and coarse wool makes it easy to tolerate severe frosts.
By the year the males weigh about 80 kg, which makes the Romanovsk sheep a very productive meat breed. The only drawback is the too low volume of wool and the level of its quality (not more than 4 kg per year from one sheep). For comparison, fine-wool merino bring up to 8 kg of more valuable and high-quality wool per year.
Sheep and lamb puberty occurs already by the age of 5-6 months, but at this age they should not be allowed to reach each other, because this can lead to problems with pregnancy and childbirth in such a young female, therefore, sheep begin to breed one and a half.
The breeding period in sheep lasts from mid-summer to mid-winter. In animals, sexual hunting begins, which lasts 15-16 days. At this time, the sheep usually eats poorly, eagerly drinks, behaves uneasily and shows readiness for mating (does not run away from rams).
If during these few days, pregnancy did not occur, a break of 2-3 weeks is observed, after which the sexual hunt is repeated. Sheep mating not controlled by humans, a ram and several sheep are enough to just keep together for a month.
Sheep pregnancy lasts 5 months. A few days before the proposed lambing, the farmer needs to prepare the uterus for a separate place in the shepherd, covering it with clean straw bedding, and trim the coat around the udder. Before birth, the sheep begins to behave uneasily, get up and lie down.
Usually, she gives birth to a female herself, and she rarely needs human intervention, but the farmer must monitor the process so that in case of complications in time contact the veterinarian.
The whole process of childbirth lasts about 3 hours, a person needs to check only that there are no mucus or films in the airways of the lambs, otherwise the cubs may suffocate. If the sheep has more than two lambs, the weaker ones will need to be fed additionally.
Goat milk is perfectly absorbed by lambs, but ready-made mixtures are also suitable. From a month on, cubs can be given mineral dressing and fodder mixtures, and from four months they can eat like adult sheep, so they are removed from the uterus and placed to their relatives. After that, the uterus must be vaccinated, and the next mating can be done at least two months after the lambs are disconnected from the sheep.
The room for keeping sheep is called a shepherd. For animals, temperature is very important, which in winter should not fall below 5 degrees. The optimum temperature is 10-15 degrees. If the winters in the area where the farm is located are severe, the shepherd will need to be additionally insulated to maintain this temperature.
Siberian sheep can easily graze during frosts up to 40 degrees, but then they need to be kept in a caton (half-open pen). The fact is that if you flock a herd at night in a heated shepherd, in the morning grazing in the frost the moistened coat will freeze and the sheep may catch a cold.
In a caton, lying sheep heat the earth with their heat, and the temperature in it does not rise above 5 degrees below zero. Sheep is comfortable in such a pen, and when they enter the pasture, they don’t feel such a sharp temperature fluctuation between the shepherd and the street.
Each member of the flock has its own norms for the occupied area in the shepherd. For a female with lambs, this area norm is 3.5 meters, so as not to hamper the occupied offspring animal. Sheep from the herd should have about two meters of free space.
Feed can be stored in a separate room in the shepherd. The feeders are installed throughout the entire internal fence so that the sheep can come up and eat at any moment, but this option is only suitable for hay that will not spill out of the limits of the feeder. For silage feed and root crops you can put the usual troughs for sheep.