Sheep have been providing
meat and clothing to people for over 10,000 years.
Oklahoma is one of a
few states that has year round forage production.
Sheep usually live to be about eight years old.
are very gentle animals and are easily frightened. They flock
together for protection because they can't really protect
themselves. The sheep has many natural predators, animals that
hunt and kill sheep for food. They include coyotes, wolves
and domestic dogs. Sometimes larger animals, like mules or
llamas, are kept in the pastures with the sheep to scare off
The people that raise
and care for sheep are called shepherds. Sometimes, shepherds
have dogs to help take care of the sheep. The dog learns
to round up the sheep, and when one wanders from the
flock, the dog brings it back. When a lamb is born, the
shepherd makes sure it gets off to a good, healthy start
Sheep have a 270-degree
radius of view, almost 3/4 of a circle. Humans only see
170 degrees at best. This makes sheep very difficult to
sneak up on or surprise. Sheep have poor eyesight
but excellent hearing.
Each sheep has it's
own flight zone,
distance the sheep feels it needs to get away from danger.
A sheep will not allow anything
to come within it's flight zone.
Sheep use various
sounds to communicate different emotions and messages
among flock members. A farmer can easily tell when
a sheep is in pain or sick. A lamb can recognize
its mother by her bleat.
Each sheep is
individual and unique and can distinguish between
all other sheep. They can recognize fellow flock mates
even after years of separation.
Sheep would rather
walk up-hill than down and would rather drink running water.
Sheep have no front
teeth, but the roofs of their mouths are hard. This permits
sheep to eat vegetation close to the ground and prevents
them from pulling up plant roots. Sheep have a split in
their upper lip, with this they are able to pick the preferred
leaves off the plant.
There are many different breeds
of sheep. Some are raised mainly for meat, and others primarily
for their wool.
Sheep are valuable because they often graze
land that other livestock cannot. Sheep eat grass and hay.
Sheep usually give
birth once a year and have 1-3 lambs. Ewes typically
give birth to twins. Sheep grow two teeth a year until
they have eight.
Female sheep are called
ewes, baby sheep are called lambs, and male sheep are called
rams. A group of sheep is called a flock. A one-year old sheep
is called a hogget. A two-year old sheep is called a two-tooth.
Sheep are also raised
to provide meat. Lambs are ready for market when they weigh
somewhere between 90-120 pounds. Lamb as food is an outstanding
source of vitamins and minerals, and is one of the easiest
to digest. The meat from a grown sheep is called mutton
and that from a young sheep is called lamb.
Sheep can be milked
just like cows. Sheep milk is often used to make gourmet
- The fat from sheep,
also known as tallow, can be used to make both candles
and soap. The tallow is cooked to purify it and then molded
into candles or further prepared into blocks of soap.
The small intestines
from 11 sheep are needed to make one tennis racket.
When Woodrow Wilson
was President, the First Lady had sheep graze on the White
House lawn to keep it neat and well trimmed.
Sheep are usually
shorn once a year. The sheep shearer uses a machine that
is like the clippers used to trim a dog's fur.
One sheep produces
eight to ten pounds of wool per year, enough to make a
man's suit. One pound of wool can make ten miles of yarn.
Sheep are the only
source of lanolin - grease that comes from wool before
it has been washed. Lanolin is used in lotions and cosmetics.
Wool straight from the sheep is called raw wool. Raw
wool may go through more than 70 processing steps to
assure that fabrics made from the wool are of the highest
Spinning wool into thread began about 5,000 years ago.
One of the best things about wool fabrics is that
they are flame resistant, so they are safer to wear.
Wool also provides excellent protection from cold and wet
weather. Even if your wool sweater gets wet from snow or
rain, it will still keep you warm. Wool also wears well and
lasts for a long time.
The core of a baseball
is wrapped with 150 yards of wool yarn.
Race car drivers wear wool-lined suits to reduce their chances
of being burned in a firey crash.
Researchers in Pennsylvania
have developed a biopolishing method that makes scratchy
wool feel silky smooth. Not only does it remove the itch
factor, it also bleaches the wool to a high level of whiteness
and alters the surface of wool fibers to make them shrink-proof.
The US military is
interested in using biopolished wool, especially for manufacture
of underwear for our troops. Underwear garments currently
used contain synthetic fibers that can burn and melt into
wounds during combat situations. Wool produces a self-extinguishing
flame and dissipating ash when burned.
- Sponges made from wool
soak up oil from oil spills. That oil can then be squeezed
from the sponges and recycled; the sponges, too, can be
used over and over again.
and Wool Lessons
to Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom
Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom is a program of the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and the Oklahoma State Department of Education.