Raising Sheep - the beginning!
You may be thinking that you would like to raise some sheep or are starting into sheep through a 4-H project for yourself or your kids.
So where do you start?
First - decide why you really want the sheep and what purpose they are to play in your adventure.
Is this animal going to be with you for a short time - 4-H project, raise it to eat, just have it to eat your pasture during the summer and then sell in the fall?
Are you looking to start a flock and want to have them around for awhile?
Either way - the basics are about the same.
When you are buying your animals there are a few things to keep in mind. They really aren't hard to comprehend but you just have to remember to think with your head first and then your emotions.
Let's start with the animal body!
When you first walk up to the animal keep this in mind -
does it look bright eyed?
is it alert?
are the ears drooping?
is it just laying in the pen and not wanting to get up?
when it walks does it look normal - no limping!?
does it look skinny?
After determining these things and the animal looks good on all points - start a little more investigation.
You want to actually put your hands on the lamb. Look for things as you move down the body. So let's start at the mouth and work from there.
Are the jaws aligned correctly? Meaning - just like your bite, the upper & lower jaws align correctly.
Are the eyes bright? Is there water running down the face from the eyes or are the eyes cloudy?
Look at the membranes around the eye. Just pull the lower lid down a little - it should be a pretty red color. This can tell you the worm load that the lamb is carrying. If you are using for a breeding program this is a big deal.
Next is the neck & shoulders. The shoulders are normally a little smaller than the hind quarters. In a breeding program, too wide shoulder may mean hard lambing. In a 4-H project where the animal is going to slaughter the wide shoulder is good-it provides more meat.
Back - this needs to be wide and flat. This is the stability of the animal. Check the length of the loin after the last rib to the hip bone. This is the prime cut of the animal - the longer the better.
Rump - you are looking for a well rounded leg. Here is another prime cut. No matter if the animal is for breeding or market this is a noticeable area. For market it provides a meaty cut and for breeding it helps provide the stability of the animal.
Legs - legs need to be strong and straight. They don't have to be the biggest around but they shouldn't be pencil thin either. You want them to be walking on their feet correctly, not like they're walking on their heels or ankles. Look at the legs from the front and back - you want them to come down straight - no knock-knees!
If you keep these things in mind you are off to a great start with your project!
If you have any questions please let me know! I love sheep and am here to help any way I can!