Country Smallholding - - Ask the Experts -

QIs it true that you can age sheep by their teeth, or is it just a myth?


Kings­ley says: It is per­fectly true that sheep are aged by their teeth. The av­er­age life ex­pectancy of a sheep is 10 to 12 years, al­though some sheep may live as long as 20 years, but I haven’t come across any that have reached this ad­mirable mile­stone. Sheep have mo­lars along the sides of their jaw, top and bot­tom, but they only have incisors at the front bot­tom of their mouths — they have no top front teeth. It is these incisors that en­able you to tell the age.

When a lamb is born, it al­ready has teeth emerg­ing through its gums, and one or two tem­po­rary incisors can be felt or will be vis­i­ble. By the time the lamb is six weeks old it will have eight milk incisors. From a year to around 18 months of age the two cen­tral incisors fall out and are re­placed with larger per­ma­nent teeth and the sheep is known as two-tooth. From ap­prox­i­mately 18 months to two years the next two baby teeth will fall out and the sheep will have four large incisors, and is known as a four tooth. From two to three years the sheep will have six large incisors and is a six tooth. By the time a sheep is four years of age all its baby teeth will be eight large incisors and it is full-mouthed. Over time a sheep is likely to lose some incisors and it is called bro­ken mouthed. Buy­ing bro­ken mouthed sheep can be a cheap op­tion for small­hold­ers who may get one or two crops of lambs from them, but be sure that they are in good body con­di­tion and are able to eat prop­erly to get enough nu­tri­tion for them­selves and their lambs.

Sheep incisors are at the front of the mouth

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