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LEAF Speak Out: Difficult Questions - Sheep

Why are those sheep lame, can’t you do any­thing to help them?

Lame­ness in sheep can be a prob­lem, just as aches, pains and infec­tions can be in humans or pets.

In sheep, it can be from bac­te­r­i­al or fun­gal infec­tions, from old age, or an old injury.

We treat all of our sheep for lame­ness by keep­ing their feet well-trimmed (like cut­ting your toe­nails) and treat­ing them if they do become infect­ed. It can take them a long time to recov­er, unfor­tu­nate­ly, some don’t, and we need to put them to sleep.

Why are those young lambs out in the fields, in this cold/​awful weather?

Sheep are out­door ani­mals and they belong out­side. The main part of what they eat is grass, so they need to be in fields for this. Sheep have lano­lin in their wool, which is greasy and pro­tects their skin from get­ting too wet. Their wool­ly fleeces keep them warm. Lambs can feel the cold, so will seek shel­ter behind hedges or walls.

Why do you cas­trate lambs with cas­tra­tion rings and no anaes­thet­ic, isn’t that cruel?

The cas­tra­tion rings can only be used in the first week after the lamb is born. They work by cut­ting off the blood sup­ply to the tes­ti­cles. The lambs will feel the pres­sure of the ring ini­tial­ly, but very quick­ly the area becomes numb. With­out a blood sup­ply, the tes­ti­cles will shrink and then drop off.

Won’t those sheep get cold after they’re shorn?

Sheep have lano­lin in their wool, which is greasy and pro­tects their skin from get­ting too wet, even after they are shorn. If we don’t shear them, they over­heat in the summer.

These lambs have a very short life, isn’t it cru­el to keep them for meat?

We look after the lambs very well while they are with us, and give them lots of space and free­dom to roam, and we make the next stage of the process as stress-free as pos­si­ble. Lamb tends to be a more pop­u­lar meat than mut­ton, which comes from old­er sheep.

Why is lamb [meat] so expensive?

Ear­ly lamb, i.e. lamb for East­er, is expen­sive because the lambs are reared dur­ing the win­ter, when the costs of feed­ing and hous­ing them is more expen­sive. Lamb is also expen­sive because there is a com­par­a­tive­ly small amount of edi­ble meat – there is typ­i­cal­ly 50% waste’, com­pared to just 25% waste from a pork carcass.

Why do sheep have that colour on their backs?

When the male sheep are out in the fields with the female sheep, they wear one of these rad­dles [show them]. When they mate with the female sheep, they leave a colour on their backs. We change the colour of the rad­dle every 17 – 18 days to tie in with the egg pro­duc­tion cycle of the female sheep. This way we know when the tup has performed!

How long is the preg­nan­cy of a sheep?

147 days, or 5 months.

You ear-tag sheep, why and isn’t it cruel?

Ear tags are very impor­tant in all live­stock. They iden­ti­fy each indi­vid­ual, so that we can track their move­ment from one farm to anoth­er all through its life. This is actu­al­ly a gov­ern­ment require­ment. Ear-tags are good as they are easy to read and secure so that they don’t fall out or off (though they do occa­sion­al­ly!). It is a bit like hav­ing your ears pierced, a quick nip and ini­tial dis­com­fort when it’s done and then it recov­ers quickly.

Know­ing an animal’s iden­ti­ty is impor­tant for every­one in the food chain – for exam­ple, as con­sumers, we like to know where our egg came from; a butch­er likes to know what breed and farm an ani­mal comes from, and how it is reared and for a super­mar­ket or take­away, it’s impor­tant for them to know where the meat, egg or dairy prod­uct comes from if there are any food safe­ty issues that need to be traced back through the sup­ply chain.

Sup­port­ed by the Crop Pro­tec­tion Association

Dif­fi­cult ques­tion topics:

Gen­er­al Q&A









Why do you shear your sheep – don’t they get cold?

Why are those sheep lame?

Why do you tag your ewes and lambs, is that not cruel?

Why do your sheep have dif­fer­ent colours on their backs?

Sup­port­ed by:

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