Tak­ing a look at sheep


This week, let’s look at sheep. If you travel around the Chatham-Kent area, you will see more sheep than in years past. First, a few terms we need to know.

Sheep are over one year of age and have usu­ally pro­duced off­spring. Lambs are less than one year of age and usu­ally have not pro­duced off­spring. Lamb is also the term for the flesh of a young do­mes­tic sheep eaten as food. The meat from a sheep that is older than 12 months is called mut­ton.

The fi­bre that most sheep grow is called wool. The wool from one sheep is called a fleece. Many fleeces from the same farm, wool pool or re­gion are called a clip.

A fe­male sheep is called a ewe. A young fe­male is called a ewe lamb. The process of giv­ing birth to lambs is called lamb­ing. A male sheep is called a ram. Buck is the slang term for a ram. A year­ling is an an­i­mal between 1 and 2 years of age that may or may not have pro­duced off­spring.

A group of sheep is called a flock. Larger groups of sheep are called bands or mobs. The most im­por­tant prod­uct we get from sheep is meat. While sheep meat only ac­counts for six per cent of the world’s meat con­sump­tion, it is the prin­ci­ple meat in re­gions of North Africa, the Mid­dle East, In­dia, and parts of Europe. The Euro­pean Union is the world’s largest lamb con­sumer and num­ber one im­porter of lamb. The vast ma­jor­ity (99 per cent) of the lamb im­ported orig­i­nates from Aus­tralia and New Zealand. Wool is the prod­uct for which sheep are best known.

Wool is widely used in cloth­ing from knitwear such as socks and jumpers to cloth used for suits and cos­tumes. It is used in the fur­ni­ture trade both for mak­ing chair cov­ers and for up­hol­stery. Many of the bet­ter car­pets pro­duced tra­di­tion­ally and to­day are made from wool.

Wool is used to fill mat­tresses. It is used in di­verse prod­ucts, such as ten­nis ball cov­ers, pool ta­ble cov­ers or baize, and hang­ing bas­ket lin­ers. Wool is also a very use­ful prod­uct when oil spills oc­cur. Pads made from wool can be used to soak up the oil. In 1999 when an oil spill oc­curred near Aus­tralia, the pen­guins were fit­ted with wool sweaters. The sweaters helped main­tain the tiny pen­guin’s body heat and pre­vented them from be­ing poi­soned by the oil.

There is a com­pany in the United King­dom that makes cas­kets out of wool. Sev­eral com­pa­nies are mak­ing in­su­la­tion from wool. Wool has a higher R value than many

tra­di­tional ma­te­ri­als. Mulch pads made from wool of­fer an en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly al­ter­na­tive to plas­tic mulches.

Sheep have been raised for milk for thou­sands of years and were milked be­fore cows. The world’s com­mer­cial dairy sheep in­dus­try is con­cen­trated in Europe and the coun­tries on or near the Mediter­ranean Sea. The dairy sheep in­dus­try is still in its in­fancy here in North Amer­ica.

The On­tario Sheep Mar­ket­ing Agency (OSMA) is a pro­ducer op­er­ated or­ga­ni­za­tion which rep­re­sents all as­pects of the sheep, lamb and wool in­dus­try in the Prov­ince of On­tario. It was es­tab­lished to en­cour­age, pro­mote and rep­re­sent the in­dus­try. The OSMA’s ac­tiv­i­ties work to im­prove the mar­ket­ing of sheep, lamb and wool through pro­ducer ed­u­ca­tion, pro­mo­tional cam­paigns, con­sumer ed­u­ca­tion and pub­lic aware­ness.

Thought for the week - God’s Word is the only sure foun­da­tion for life.

Re­mem­ber that here in Chatham-Kent ‘We Grow for the World’. Check out our com­mu­nity’s agri­cul­tural web­site at we­grow­forthe­world.com

Kim Cooper has been in­volved in the agribusi­ness sec­tor for over 45 years. He can be reached at: kim.e.cooper@gmail.com You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at ‘the AG guy’.

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