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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

Arable

Beef

Dairy

Environment

Pigs

Poultry

Sheep

Sporting/hunting

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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